No, Thanksgiving Is Not A Celebration Of Triumph Over Socialism: Your Tofurkey Warblog

  And What About All Those Red Indians?

Puritans UnitedIt’s Thanksgiving Day, so as we gather together with (or hide from) our families, however functional or dysfunctional they may be, let us remember the true meaning of any American holiday: It’s an opportunity to pound home a political lesson about why We Are Good and They Are Bad. It’s a revered grim tradition: You serve Susan Stamberg’s socialist NPR cranberry relish, and your Teabagger brother-in-law recites how the settlers of Plymouth Plantation nearly starved because they had socialism forced upon them, but finally prospered after they became capitalists. Here’s a fairly typical version of the story that was emailed to our Wonkette tip line; other versions are promoted by ugly bag of mostly lipids Rush Limbaugh and by the now-departing Rep. Todd Akin (R-Shut Down).

Happily, there are a couple of good debunkings of this idiocy, although they probably won’t carry much weight with teahadis, since they come from the radical communist New York Times and the Marxist-Trotskyist-Muslim-Gangnam-Style Right Wing Watch. Should culture war break out around the dinner table, you may just want to say you got your rebuttals from Paul Harvey. Then when they go to look it up on their smartphone, you can spill gravy on it. Be sure to apologize. (We got that tactic from Saul Alinsky.)

According to one revisionist version of Plymouth Colony, the Pilgrims’ basic error was in trying to live like the original Apostles:

The original colony at Plymouth Bay had been founded by Puritans who hoped to emulate the early Christians by keeping all their worldly goods in common. They forgot St. Paul’s admonition that only those who worked should be fed from the common store.

Other versions leave out any mention of Biblical sharing (which might raise uncomfortable questions about that Gallilean redistributionist anyway) and present the Pilgrims as victims of “a short-lived form of agricultural communism” imposed upon them by their sponsors back in England (BOOO!); in inay case, the scheme soon failed because under socialism, nobody had an incentive to work:

 
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This system quickly failed. The women described the communal chores as a form of slavery, men rapidly lost motivation, and the able-bodied feigned illness to avoid work.

And there are even some selective quotes from Governor William Bradford’s journal that say so!

“For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.”

Finally, after everyone nearly starved, Bradford threw out communism and gave each family their own parcel of land to work, and then even Nature rejoiced by bringing forth a bountiful harvest, YAY individual initiative!

Oh, and there were some Indians. Let’s not get into that. (OK, maybe a little. In our emailed narrative, here’s the sole mention that the Wampanoag lived nearby: “It was so bleak that some Pilgrims sold themselves as workers to the Indians for a few cups of food.” Happily, the baggers stop short of suggesting that this example was where slavery came from.)

Except, maybe that’s all a lot of hooey? For one thing, the first three-day Thanksgiving feast occurred in 1621, while what Bradford called the “common course” was still very much in effect. The actual division of land into family-owned plots came in 1623, a detail that some versions of the wingnut story find it useful to lie about; John Stossel actually moves the year of the first Thanksgiving to 1623. In any case, the original motivation for pooling resources had nothing to do with socialist ideology:

the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.

Oh, and the whole famine thing? Conditions were definitely hard, especially for settlers unaccustomed to decidedly non-English climate and growing conditions:

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”

The competing versions of the story note Bradford’s writings about “confusion and discontent” and accusations of “laziness” among the colonists. But Mr. Pickering said this grumbling had more to do with the fact that the Plymouth colony was bringing together settlers from all over England, at a time when most people never moved more than 10 miles from home. They spoke different dialects and had different methods of farming, and looked upon each other with great wariness.

“One man’s laziness is another man’s industry, based on the agricultural methods they’ve learned as young people,” he said.

Stupid historians, with their “context.” Can’t they just recognize socialism causes laziness? People never help each other unless you pay them to! Oh, hey, what was that about getting paid? As one happy anarcho-socialist points out, the division of land into private family plots (which, had been part of the plan all along, not a reaction to the failure of socialism) wasn’t even actual capitalism:

Everyone had their own parcel of land – they were self-employed! They kept the product of their own labour. If it were capitalism, they would have given the land to a few landlords and turned everyone else into wage-workers. The landlord would have kept the product of the workers’ labour and the actual workers, well, they would get just a fraction of what they produced.

Even the notion that individual plots increased harvests is pretty dubious; as that egghead Plimoth Plantation director notes:

The real reason agriculture became more profitable over the years, Mr. Pickering said, is that the Pilgrims were getting better at farming crops like corn that had been unknown to them in England.

That is obviously just socialist nonsense, as the real magic was the magic of the marketplace, which, uhhh… hadn’t quite really become a booming hive of capital yet. It was subsistence farming all the way, but why let that get in the way.

So, to wrap up: Not surprisingly, wingnuts know as much about history as they do about how the U.S. Constitution works. And if you want a good read about the Massachussetts Bay colony’s early days — the guys who came a bit after the Pilgrims — go read Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates. Good luck at dinner, and may you and your teabagger relatives enjoy the warm embrace of family, if not a shared understanding of reality.

Embrace Your Teabagger Family Members (but not their worldview)

(You didn’t really think we’d get through this without Ponies, did you? Silly.)

[NYT / RightWingWatch]

Check out Wonkette on Facebook and Twitter, and, if you’re thankful for snark and Ponies, Doktor Zoom is on Twitter too.

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About the author

Doktor Zoom lives in Boise, Idaho. He acquired his pseudonym after being differently punctual to too many meetings. He is not a medical doctor, although he has a real PhD (in Rhetoric and Composition).

View all articles by Doktor Zoom

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152 comments

  1. Texan_Bulldog

    I love ya, Dr. Zoom, but there's no way I'm going to be able to get through this entire post. Happy [Drunken] Thanksgiving!

  2. nounverb911

    If the Indians only knew what they were getting into, they should have had their casinos up and running and taken the Pilgrims for all they were worth.

    1. Doktor Zoom

      Hey, Dewey, while I was looking at last year's Burroughs post, I re-read your Thanksgiving note, and I just wanted to let you know how glad I am that you and Owls and everyone else who chimed in on that thread are still keeping on keeping on. Huzzah!

      1. not that Dewey

        The 2nd such Thanksgiving in a row, thanks in no small part to you and the many much-appreciated well-wishers and fellow travelers in that thread — something to be thankful for indeed.

        I got a little teary-eyed, though, reading the Names of the Dead: Owls (who is also still keeping on), flamingpdog (now known as "deleted2609889"), and even Neilist (The Asshole with the Heart of Gold), that lousy fucker. They were a big part of it, too. Let us remember them, and Extemporanus, for he was also a kind soul, and be thankful for all the times they made us laugh.

        1. Doktor Zoom

          Pours out a 40 on the ground.

          Wonders if that was supposed to be 40 ounces of something other than marinara sauce.

      1. LionHeartSoyDog

        Italics are Italians from the post-Mussolini era. Also, Socialist.

        ( god bless them, everyone).
        - too early?

  3. noodlesalad

    Would read this whole thing, but too busy enjoying Kid Rock's "Detroit, Michigan" performance at the Lions game, complete with 300 white kids bussed in from Cranbrook dancing on the field.

    This staged performance is why the Romney folks thought they had a shot at the rust belt.

  4. Joshua Norton

    Nice try wingnuts. A lot of the people on the Mayflower were plain Anglicans – not Puritan Separatists. The Puritans were a minority and the two factions were always getting on each others nerves.

    Those recruits were not Puritans or Separatists. They were Anglicans. But mostly, they were people who didn’t really think about religion too much, who just wanted a chance to go to America. The Separatists, then, were in the minority as the Mayflower set sail. Fights between the two groups broke out almost immediately. The Separatists got on the others’ nerves with their religion, which permeated all aspects of their lives, and the Anglicans got on the Separatists’ nerves with their deliberate sacrilege and mockery of religion. When they landed in America, the Separatists had a hard time keeping control of the colony from the majority.

    http://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/2008/05/1

    The first real Puritan colony was Boston, founded in 1630.

    Are they trying to tell us all the people in Plimouth Plantation became staunch members of the USofA Republican Party because of capitalism? I think they are.

    Obviously they feel no need to connect worldviews with any observable reality or fact other than “deep faith” or “strong personal convictions”.

    1. sbj1964

      So your saying they lied to me? WTF can't even trust your 3rd grade Thanksgiving play?Damn you Miss Carpenter!

  5. ManchuCandidate

    Thanksgiving is the perfect wingnut celebration.

    You get to gorge on waaaay too much food that was, um, borrowed from Native US Amercians and celebrate that greed won out over generosity as the same starving Pilgrims took the land of the nearby natives.

    1. Negropolis

      Hey, so long as I can haz some pumpkinz pies, I don't care what the hell they believe about the holiday. lol

    2. sbj1964

      You forgot the pilgrims nice house gifts of plague infected blankets.Within 80 years of landing the native people were all but extinct.

  6. SexySmurf

    For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.

    How did that comment get past the journal's administrators?

  7. nounverb911

    Your comment must be approved by the site admins before it will appear publicly.

    This one seemed to.

  8. BigSkullF*ckingDog

    The pilgrims were dirty, lazy hippies until the Indians gave them the gift of capitalism. Or something like that.

  9. Mittens Howell, III

    Just pulled into a self-serve gas station on the way to my parents and a nice old man named Mitt filled my car up and cleaned my windscreen with bitter, bitter tears.

    1. Doktor Zoom

      (holds flashlight under chin) And then, a few miles down the road, he heard growls and whimpering… and it was coming from the roof of the car!

  10. smokefilledroommate

    Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage. They could do with it whatever they wanted. He essentially turned loose the free market on 'em.

    …after giving them land to begin with.

  11. Loch_Nessosaur

    1621, 1623, what 's difference in wingnut land. As long as it fits your narrative, why let facts get in the way of a good piece of propaganda.

  12. nounverb911

    The following words may have been banned by the automatic comment killer.

    Native American
    Indian
    Casino
    Pilgrim

    1. sbj1964

      Conservative will have to be dragged into the 21st century.Of course after you have them bussed in from the 18th.They hate bussing.How does it make a conservative smarter having them sit next to a normal person?They should be with they're own kind.

  13. ChillBill

    Spending Thanksgiving with my wingnuts-in-law. They started with the whole "Barry is Santa" meme and now moving onto gay marriage. Kid Rock is on TV. Somebody fucking help me…

        1. glamourdammerung

          Leave. Or ask them to, depending on if you are at your place or theirs. They are the ones going out of their way to be unpleasant, so why put up with it?

    1. GeneralLerong

      Try the Tom Wolfe Gaze:

      Imagine that the person speaking to you has eyebrows crawling with lice.

      Also staring directly at the person's nose, instead of watching their eyes, results in an unwavering gaze that unnerves the speaker. Brought to you courtesy of FBI interrogation training.

      I'm such a hit at parties, needless to say.

    2. PsycWench

      Maybe next year we should have a Thanksgiving dinner version of the drinky thing for people who would otherwise have to eat with wingnut relatives. I'll bring mashed potatoes.

      1. finallyhappy

        Could be – although next year I won't have to be with anyone but my small immediate family. No dinner yet but a fair amt of insensivity towards a few guests

    3. sbj1964

      Your on your own kid.My Right wing nut uncle's are talking about boycotting Minute Rice in opposition to Susan Rice's appointment.They are Bat-Shit crazy!

  14. Blueb4sinrise

    ..spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.”……

    Ohhhhhh, I'll bet there was some recompensing going on there, baaaby.

  15. Arkoday

    So in other words, I would've fit right in as a Pilgrim.

    (…and the able-bodied feigned illness to avoid work.)

  16. GeneralLerong

    You had me riveted at spilling gravy on the smartphone. Almost lost some of my sip [ok, large gulping swill] of champagne.

    Forget The Republican Brain, The Reactionary Mind… wingers basically live on 'shrooms and worship Cornholio, amirite? I mean, JFC on a cracker, how else do they hallucinate this "history"?

    Oh. It's a parallel universe. Too parallel.

  17. Callyson

    Then when they go to look it up on their smartphone, you can spill gravy on it. Be sure to apologize. (We got that tactic from Saul Alinsky.)

    Which one–spilling the gravy, apologizing, or the duo?

  18. HistoriCat

    Dok – maybe you should find a girlfriend. I mean, I greatly appreciate the Thanksgiving day posts – don't get me wrong! But … there's more to life than politics, snark, and My Little Pony. Just sayin'.

    Maybe you can lead the way when Rebecca rolls out the Wonkette Personals?

    1. Doktor Zoom

      there's more to life than politics, snark, and My Little Pony

      Of course there is. There's crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women. With votes.

      (Actually, I was just over at a friend's, helping to set up for the feast, and used that line to illustrate "schadenfreude," which one of the other guests helping out had not heard of.)

      1. GeneralLerong

        I'm with Dok. I'm also with a case of champagne. And alone with a border collie. So alone. It's snowing. The wind is blowing 35 knots. But the turkey still has two hours to go before I can load it into the pickup and meet the relatives. Hopefully the snow won't get higher than 3 inches, I can handle that on 4WD.

        Alaska. Why do you ask?

      2. Stevola

        There's crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women = Politics

        With votes = Snark

        So, not much more

  19. mavenmaven

    I think the proximity of this story to the palin turkey grinder story is a perfect metaphor for the tea baggers relationship with 'history'.

  20. gurukalehuru

    It sounds a bit like the history of Israel, where idealistic, young socialists emigrated from Czarist Russia to band together in Kibbutzim and drain the swamps and irrigate the desert and plant lots of date orchards and such, until they discovered they could make more money smuggling diamonds from South Africa and money laundering for the U.S. arms industry.
    Yay, capitalism!

    1. Negropolis

      Well, that, and before they were swamped by a lot of European Jews who took secular Zionism and injected it with a heaping of "Promised Land" religious bullshit.

  21. TribecaMike

    Mmmmm, this month-old caviar and moldy yogurt is exquisite. Don't you wish you were me, libtardos?

    Your's in cash, Mr. Donald Trump

  22. vulpes82

    I must second the recommendation of Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. I read it every year at Thanksgiving. (Yes, yes, Puritans aren't Pilgrims, etc. but they were all spoilsports with buckles on their hats, so it still FEELS appropriate.)

  23. TribecaMike

    The mention of Paul Harvey brings back fond memories of listening to his radio show in the car and how after the obligatory "Good day," my liberal dad would invariably respond with "And fuck you."

  24. Fox n Fiends

    If only those pilgrims had gone to Mexico to start a polygamous commune…we'd all be speaking Bain right now.

  25. SaintRond

    I'm thankful thinking about the bleakness on this turkey day for the Republicans who lost and their families. I'm going to pretend I'm drinking their tears in my egg nog. Mmm… Yummy.

  26. TribecaMike

    As the libertarian asshats are fond of saying, what doesn't gobble gobble gobble makes you stronger.

  27. PsycWench

    Through artful filtering of Facebook posting and emails I had avoided even knowing that such a story existed. But I'm not surprised.
    OT: for entertainment, watch this. But be careful. My teenaged daughter and I walk around the house singing the song.

  28. Both Sides Do It

    As a special holiday treat, one of the free market nihilists at the Volokh Conspiracy (home of the Dark Lord of Nutty Obamacare Legal Arguments, Randy Barnett) posted a link to some Townhall mouthbreather going off on Bradford's journal. Par for the course.

    Except he had posted the same link in 2010, and the commenters over there tore him a new one at the time with analysis like what Doktor Zoom provides here (minus the ponies). The new post, of course, just reposts the same link without bothering to even mention the problems that were brought up at the time.

    And the new post contained a link to the old post.

    Mendacious readings of history to vaguely justify an abstract ideal that doesn't inform current economic or public policy debates, warmed-over, without bothering to even mention the objections that were brought up the first time it was served, all nice and linked together as if there isn't a problem. And these are the intellectuals.

    Truly a bountiful wingnutty feast.

      1. Both Sides Do It

        Ah, sorry. The Volokh Conspiracy is a group blog of some of the leading lights of libertarian/conservative legal theory. The liberal equivalent would probably be Balkinization which has people like Jack Balkin and Bruce Ackerman.

        Fer instance Randy Barnett posts at VC, and he wrote the "Obamacare gives the federal government unlimited police power which is reserved for the states it's unconstitutional QED suck it libtards" argument that melted Anthony Kennedy's panties. The Thanksgiving posts are by Ilya Somin, who is trying to become the Ollie Reeder to Barnett's Malcolm Tucker in the conservative legal ecosystem.

        So one of the most prominent conservative/libertarian legal theory blogs is putting out this "link to Townhall and get its shite argument taken apart then do it again because fuckit" stuff.

  29. Fukui-sanYesOta

    2 Thessalonians 3:10

    "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." "

    1964 soviet constitution

    article 12:

    Work in the U.S.S.R. is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied
    citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither
    shall he eat." The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism:
    "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."

  30. teapartynyc2011

    A way to show thanks.

    It says a lot about the evolved character of Americans. These recent wars are anything but popular, but we never ever, even for a second, thought to take it out on American servicemen and women. 60's radicalism forever tainted itself with the disrespect it showed returning service men and women simply because it did not like the war. We The People decide where and when to go to war, not the soldier who's duty is to simply answer the call — right or wrong, we make the call, they carry the burden. http://youtu.be/2tgm33OrO3k

    1. deanbooth

      fyi, That vet disrespect story is as much a myth as Pilgrim socialism.

      Also, too:
      Vet: Jimi Hendrix
      Not a Vet: Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, and many of the other Republican chicken hawks

      1. teapartynyc2011

        "At first, rather than giving returning veterans of the war welcoming parades, Americans seemed to shun, if not denigrate, the 2 million-plus Americans who went to Vietnam, the 1.6 million who served in combat, the 300,000 physically wounded, the many more who bore psychological scars, the 2,387 listed as "missing in action," and the more than 58,000 who died. Virtually nothing was done to aid veterans and their loved ones who needed assistance in adjusting. Then a torrent of fiction, films, and television programs depicted Vietnam vets as drug-crazed psychotic killers, as vicious executioners in Vietnam and equally vicious menaces at home. Not until after the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., did American culture acknowledge their sacrifice and suffering, and concede that most had been good soldiers in a bad war."

        From The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Ed. John Whiteclay Chambers II. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Companion-American-M

  31. TootsStansbury

    I wrote my senior Gov't final on the US utopians. It really was an excuse ro write about Marxism and get away with it.

  32. NellCote71

    Bradford . . . gave each family their own parcel of land to work.

    Is this the 17th Century equivalent of asking your parents for $20,000 to start your own business?

  33. DahBoner

    Are these the same pilgrims who having their crops failed and turned to cannabalism, were bailed out by the collective socialist Indian corn and dried deer jerkey?

  34. teapartynyc2011

    True, they were not socialist — hell, it hadn't even been invented yet. But — they lived a terrific imitation of it.

    "Yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompense….And for men's wives to be commanded to doe service for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brooke it." http://youtu.be/66QdQErc8JQ

  35. Negropolis

    The good thing about Blah Thanksgiving is that the wingnuts are very few and very far between. Oh, and yams and greens of every kind and baked macaroni and cheese and…

    1. BerkeleyBear

      But, but, but Thanksgiving is a white food holiday. White meat, white potatoes, white bread, with canned cranberry slop as the only major blotch of color. Even the green beans get a coating of pale mushroom soup.

      I'm kidding/weeping for my lost youth. Personally, I would love nothing more than an invite to a Thanksgiving with flavor that I didn't have to cook (or at least reheat). If it is anything like a blah wedding reception, it would be a technicolor starburst of awesomeness compared to my upbringing.

    2. mayor_quimby

      The gf and I laughed about that today. I said that Sarah Benincasa asked for bigoted tweets from her fans, and the gf said "let's face it, repubs are few and far between at any black turkey day" .
      Then we joined our family around the campfire to tell Whitey stories.

      1. Negropolis

        Every conversation I've had with extended family since the election has consisted of small talk and then someone works in how glad we are Obama won, and then we talk for another half-hour about how fucked up Romney's campaign was. lol

  36. decentcitizen

    The hard thing about history is it has so many facts in it. That can really get it the way of a good narrative I learned when I was defending an almost certainly guilty defendant.

  37. SubhumanVarmint

    From the NY Times link, above:

    "Rush Limbaugh repeats the Thanksgiving story of Plymouth every year, reading it from a chapter in one of his books titled 'Dead White Guys, or What Your History Books Never Told You.' "

    Yeah, cuz you hardly ever hear about rich dead Protestant white guys in American history. It's all about those Native Americans that stood in the way of white progress. /snark off

    I think I'm gonna go throw up now.

  38. ttommyunger

    Missed the part about head lice, shitting outdoors in the dead of winter and infant mortality. Such a festive time!

  39. Noah_Hegemon

    Was this after they robbed the socialist Indians' grave sites and found the corn and grains that "God provided" them in order to survive their first year, or after the Indians taught them what would grow in their collective plots to save them from starving long term?

  40. Midway117

    No mention of how all these undocumented aliens snuck over here and took real Americans' jobs? Build the danged fence!

Comments are closed.