So Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and perhaps you will be seated next to a garrulous and somewhat combative uncle, a man who drinks in his opinions at MoveOn.org, and who has voted for Bernie more than once. He lives in Massachusetts and really likes the way things are going out there. Thanksgivings in Arkansas are rough on him, and so he starts up various wrangles with his troglodyte relatives simply as a way of coming up for air. We should have more sympathy for him than we do.
We live in a time when people are trying to rewind all kinds of history. Columbus Day is now Indigenous Peoples Day in many places, and this obviously has ramifications for the mythic account of our Thanksgiving holiday. That origin actually happened though, as Lewis taught us that mythic need not be false. The Pilgrims held a three day feast after they brought in their first harvest in 1621, and it was attended by almost one hundred members of the Wampanoag tribe and about half that number of Englishmen.
But it is also mythic origin story because it didn’t start to turn into what we know as our Thanksgiving until over two centuries later when Abraham Lincoln made his declaration, and subsequently a lot of meaning was retroactively projected back onto the first Thanksgiving. And even the official declaration in 1863 cannot be considered as a voice of unanimity because Lincoln was expressing gratitude for the Union victory at Gettysburg a few months before, and there was still two more years of fratricidal conflict to come. We were spang in the middle of a war over the meaning of these United States.
It slowly evolved until it reached its apotheosis in Norman Rockwell’s version of the Thanksgiving dinner. And since that time our self-anointed debunkers and deconstructionists have been busy drawing mustaches on everyone in that painting, starting with the ladies. There was more to that move than we supposed at the time, and we should freely confess that we should have been more alert.
Nevertheless, the tumultuous history of Thanksgiving has left the door open for many postmodern wielders of corrosive acids to step in with their view that Thanksgiving really ought to be renamed something like Genocide Awareness Day. But as is the fashion of debunkers, our modern naysayers often cannot be troubled with understanding what actually happened throughout our actual history, and so they resort to the simple expedient of putting a different film into the retrospective projector.
So frankly, I do not recommend all-out combat with your uncle, for that would distress your grandmother. But perhaps, as you listen to him vent, you can interject some sensible observations at strategic places, and demur just a little bit. But mind your manners and don’t throw any stuffing.
Narratives, New and Old
Here’s the new narrative. White people landed in New England, and after one year held a feast at which Native Americans were in attendance, and the white people eerily set the stage for all the infamy to follow, and they did this by hogging the mashed potatoes.
Now the way for you to avoid a woke Thanksgiving is by paying close attention to the names of the two groups in my second paragraph at the beginning—Wampanoag and Englishmen—and the names of the two groups in the paragraph just before this one—white people and Native Americans. There is way more to this than you might suppose.
It is the difference between history as photographed by Ansel Adams and history as painted by a purblind impressionist. I am talking about the importance of detail.
Tribes, Not Vibes
So let us begin with this part of it with a plain assertion. Anybody who talks about the settling of North America as though it were a cohesive group called “white people” doing the settling and a group of indigenous flower children being displaced by the disembarking whites is someone who probably ought to stay out of the conversation. Except for your uncle, who started it.
The inhabitants of North America when Columbus landed were divided into many tribes, multiple tribes, and these tribes had different languages, customs, histories, and characteristics. Quite a number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another. And to make the whole situation even more festive, the newcomers were also divided into different tribes, and they had different languages, customs, histories and characteristics. A number of these tribes were mortal enemies, one to another.
White tribes would war with each other, like the French and English did. Red tribes would war with each other, like the Comanche and Apache. Red tribes would go to war with white tribes, like the Wampanoag in King Philip’s War, with the Mohawk fighting on the side of the English. And white tribes would grievously mistreat oppress red tribes, as happened to the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee), culminating in the Trail of Tears. And I use white and red above, not as my categories, but rather as a way of illustrating that when you zoom out that far, such that those are the two identifying characteristics that you see, then by that point you understand almost nothing.
Correction. You do understand one thing, and that is the line of propaganda you are being fed.
The phenomenon of Caucasoid peoples running around is certainly an item of interest to biologists, but has nothing relevant whatever to do with political history, military history, or the history of immigration, expansion, or trade. There is not, and never has been, a Parliament of White People. There is no covenant binding white people together, and they have never made any collective decision whatever. This means that if guilt can be assigned to malevolent decisions only, and white people considered as such have never made any decisions, then we need to be done talking about what whites did to reds. Whites have done nothing to reds for the simple reason that whites have never done anything.
There is such a thing as collective responsibility or guilt, but this only takes shape as tribes, nations, or states make their decisions and act accordingly. And red-heads have never made one decision together, in the history of the world, and I think we should stop blaming them for it.
Of course, there is a superficial appearance to the contrary that can be misleading to some. For example, when Gen. Sherman attacked the peace-loving Sioux and burned their great city Atlan-ta to the ground . . . excuse me? I am informed by my researchers that Atlan-ta was a Celtic settlement, inhabited largely by a white tribe called the Jorjawns. Blog and Mablog regrets the error.
So the Comanche were not Quakers, and were about as bloodthirsty and appalling as one might be able to imagine. And all thing considered, the Cherokee were a decent folk, and made a good faith effort to assimilate to the new situation. The Cherokee got ripped off. And further south, the Aztecs deserved everything they got, good and hard. I have shed about as many tears for the Aztecs as I have for the Amorites—which is to say, not very many.
Power and Envy
Armed with the basic facts, you will be enabled to avoid getting woke in between the turkey and the pie.
But there is one more weapon you will need in your arsenal. You will need to understand what is going on now, and not just what happened back in the day, over the last four centuries or so. Not only so, but you will need to understand why it is going on.
Critical Race Theory reduces everything to power differentials, and then looks at those differentials through the grimy lens of envy. According to these folks, everything back then was a power play, and the people running the power play, by definition, were the ones who wound up with the power. And since America in its thriving mid-twentieth century heyday was populated at the top with white-skinned people with Anglo Saxon names, then they must have been the ones running the power play.
The fact that the victors may well have been greedy does not prevent those who lost to them from being envious. And because envy is a wasting disease, a wasting disease that seeks to deck itself out in the language of virtue, it blurs all historical distinction, and talks a great deal about social justice. We, on the other hand, like to talk about a little thing we call justice justice.
So I am far more interested in recognizing who is hungry for power now. Who is running the current power plays? Who wants to take all our money in order to appease their capricious weather god? Who wants to regulate the education of my grandchildren? Who wants to dictate to me what pronouns I may and may not use? Who wants the federal government to grow up into swollen shapes that border on the macabre?
Right. Everybody who is currently running for the Democratic nomination for president. And you are talking to someone who voted for Bernie more than once.
Today’s Giveaway Deal
Today we are giving away Angels in the Architecture.