Thanksgiving

Discussion in 'Off-topic Discussion' started by Meshuga, Nov 25, 2021.

  1. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    A US holiday, embroiled in controversy, I just wanted to clarify what it is with an oversimplified historical observation.

    In the late 1600's, the area of North America that would become the US was settled by three distinct groups of Englishmen. There were the ones who immigrated looking for gold, they established Jamestown in what would become Virginia. Initially, all the settlers were adventurous men, looking to build a fortune. These are the ones with John Smith, who had some kind of confrontation with the natives that may or may not have involved a twelve year old Chief's daughter named Pocahontas, but Smith was a notorious liar and Pocahontas never confirmed his version of events so we'll never know what happened. Jamestown eventually struck it rich by growing and selling tobacco and cotton, labor intensive crops they thought were more efficient to raise if they didn't have to pay the workers, so they bought slaves. They lied to and exploited the natives, occasionally fighting them when they found it convenient.

    There were the English families who immigrated for religious autonomy. Religion and politics were strongly entangled in England at the time, and the government basically governed the church, making them say and do things a lot of people thought were in direct contradiction to the actual religion. There was a dispute about how to handle this. The conservative majority said they needed to stick with the church and be the best Christians they could, "purifying" the church from within. They were called "Puritans," and nobody liked them. There was a radical minority that believed the church was too corrupt, it was basically screwed, and they needed to get the hell out. These were called Separatists, later, Pilgrims. Eventually they founded Plymouth Colony, in what would become Massachusetts. Deciding they needed some form of government, but discovering they had no noblemen to be in charge, they wrote the Mayflower Compact which would model American political documents for centuries to come, establishing the democratic process we all obsess about today.

    The third group was the Puritans, who eventually came around to the Pilgrim's way of thinking. They settled in Maryland and other places. These are the dour looking ones who wore all black, with the fancy buckles on their hats & shoes. They're the ones who would start the Salem Witch Trials, and the ones who ended them. They are the ones we see represented around the holiday of Thanksgiving, even though they weren't the ones who started it. It was the Separatists, or Pilgrims.

    When they first arrived in the then-wilds of future Massachusetts, the Separatists were friendly to the few natives they met, and generally eager to get along with everyone, including one another. Their first idea for government was an early model of Communism, where the entire community would work a farm and share everything. However, they could tell early on that it was going to fail because nobody wanted to work without a guarantee they'd get the results. They switched to individual farming, but it was late in the season and an English speaking native named Squanto watched them scrambling around, trying to grow food in depleted soils when they didn't even know the first thing about farming, and said to himself "these poor bastards are going to die." So he checked with his Chief, got the go-ahead, and went down to teach those poor bastards how to grow food. He taught them to grown beans, corn, and squash, "the three sisters," in the same plot, and how to plant it with a fish so the immediate soil would regain some nutrients. Without his help the Separatists would undoubtedly have all starved to death, and we probably would have a very different history to learn in school. However, thanks to his help (and the Separatists not being jerks to the natives when they landed), they brought in a decent harvest. In gratitude, they invited Squanto and some of his native friends to share in a banquet, and everybody reportedly had a good time.
    Much later, when the US was in desperate trouble and we needed something to reinforce a national identity, this footnote in history was dredged up and Thanksgiving, so-called because the Separatists gave thanks to God and their native friends for the gift of not starving to death, was made into a national holiday. It's kind of poignant because the desperate occasion was the Civil War, being fought over the legality of slavery, the inheritance of Jamestown. When the Union side made Thanksgiving into a holiday, in a sort of political move they were affiliating themselves with the legacy of Plymouth Rock instead.

    If you thought the original Thanksgiving was some kind of native massacre akin to the Red Wedding, thank ignorant morons who hate the US and don't bother to read.
     
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  2. FirefromAbove

    FirefromAbove Fapstronaut

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    Very good post @Meshuga.

    I do have some issues with your version of history.

    I am from New England and my paternal side came over on the May Flower. The Puritans who came over were Calvinists and not a part of the church of England.

    I don't if you meant the third paragraph about the pilgrims too, but I do not know much about the settlers in Maryland. I do know however these settlers were in New England as the Salem Witch Trials took place in Mass. Actually, the first witch trials took place in Hartford Connecticut, but that is unrelated. But these are who we think of when we think of the puritans and pilgrims. The fancy clothes and tall hats, if you drive around southern New England you'll see that hat on road signs pointing to different landmarks.

    I also believe if I remember a history class I took on the pilgrims and colonization of later areas. That Maryland was colonized later (it could've have been the Carolinas I have to recheck), but this tradition along with the puritanisms is strongly New England.

    Great post though!
     
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  3. Interesting post. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like the name and the idea of it.
     
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  4. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    Thanks @FirefromAbove for the perspective. In my defense, I did say it was oversimplified, and I understand how my terminology could be confusing.
    Right, as were the Pilgrims. Any Calvinist was disenfranchised and discriminated against, which was the controversy among those Calvinists; should I stay or should I go? The Pilgrims first opted to go to Holland, which was Calvinist friendly, but awfully casual about it. The Pilgrims stayed there for twelve years, but found their kids rapidly integrating into Dutch culture. They thought this was a problem because the Dutch were a little, shall we say, lax with their morals, and continued to enjoy that reputation all the way to today (Amsterdam, anyone?). When I say the Puritans opted to stay in England to "purify the church from within," I'm using the broader sense of the word "church," to include all Christians. I'd say the Catholic church, but that's also a loaded, confusing term as the Catholic denomination claims authority over all people claiming to be Christian, and the entire point of Calvinism & other Protestant movements was to remove themselves from that corrupt authority for various theological/philosophical reasons, that quickly turned political.
    The history of Christianity really does seem to be a constant struggle to keep politics from interfering with the culturally influential power bloc of religion.
    I threw in Maryland as an example, mostly because that's where my own ancestor landed, and he had dealings with Puritans. Those Puritans, though, came in waves and they settled all over New England. They provided the vast majority of the morally motivated settlers in North America. The Pilgrims were influential because they were the first religious immigrants and drew up the Mayflower Compact, but in terms of population and covering a geographical footprint, they were startlingly small. It's surprising and very cool that you are from that family tree, it's a rare thing to find. Just knowing your own ancestors got drunk with William Bradford, not to mention had the balls to move to such a hostile place because of moral convictions, that's amazing and inspiring.

    The bit about the Witch Trials is another interesting portion of history I think most people are intensely selective about when they study. Yes, multiple Witch Trials were held, and they did all occur in Puritan settlements. However, these were conducted by laymen. There was a traveling preacher named Cotton Mather who was considered something of a moral authority over all the Puritan settlements, a sort of Pauline figure to the early North American church (there I go using church as a general term again). When he discovered the Witch Trials, he rushed to put an end to them and roundly rebuked all those involved. I don't have the highest opinion of Puritans, but I really don't think the secular driven narrative of our nation's founding gives them the credit they do deserve. Like all people, they were imperfect in their attempt to do what they said they were trying to do, but they were mostly genuine and earnest about it. Whatever the real cause of the Trials, from moral panic to greed to misogyny to a form of fungus in the grain that caused paranoia and hallucinations, Puritans identified their own sin and put an end to it.
     
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  5. Akbarmagnus

    Akbarmagnus Fapstronaut

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    Yes but what happened to the natives after that?
     
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  6. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    As far as we can tell, no indigenous people were harmed or taken advantage of by anyone from Plymouth Colony. Any harm that came to them, such as exposure to European pathogens, was purely accidental. The record from Jamestown is very different, as I mentioned before, and from Puritans, well, that was mixed. I think as a general rule, the most hardcore Puritans were as fair to the locals as they could be. However, that arrogant and greedy attitude from Jamestown bled into our national character and took over as far as native peoples were, and even now are, concerned. George Washington was a very committed Christian man, but as a young officer was a bit contemptuous of his native guides, and recent evidence suggests he may have personally fired the first shot in the French and Indian War against their advice. The history of native peoples and colonists is a long and sad one, filled with bad faith trade deals and peace treaties, rape, murder, and vengeance on both sides. However, Europeans had the tech, the numbers, and the centralized leadership to come out on top. It's not a "victory" to be proud of, honestly.
     
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  7. Akbarmagnus

    Akbarmagnus Fapstronaut

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    I'v actually read a book that is somewhat recent but maybe it conflict with the recent evidence you speak of, the book in question is Crucible of war by Fred Anderson, according to his researches the very first act of aggression leading up to the seven years war was in fact engineered by an indian named tanacharison(who was the one truly in command of the war party not georgie) in a complex act aimed at launching the french and british at each other's throat and in the process regaining his territories. The most surprising things about the book is how much influence indians had back then, with hindsight one can see that their greatest mistake was abandon their policy of aggressive neutrality which enabled them to manipulate both French and British imperial authorities and instead helping a side to win decisively against the other.
    Also it was somewhat funny to see how much contempt british officier had for americans in their endless letter to the crown, one described their soldiers as "the dirtiest most contemptible cowardly dogs that you can conceive”.
     
  8. FirefromAbove

    FirefromAbove Fapstronaut

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    Hmm...

    Ironic.

    They don't have sovereignty over the country.
     
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