This week, Americans sit down in their sturdy chairs to enjoy a national feast. Businesses are shut down. Congress is adjourned. For one day at least, citizens can enjoy their peace.
In every hamlet, urban ghetto and rank suburb they gather, sacrificing turkeys to their deities, whoever they might be. Before they tuck in, they bow their heads and give thanks. But for what?
There have always been two parts to the Thanksgiving holiday – one sincere and personal, the other national, fraudulent and delusional.
One of the first Thanksgivings took place in 1623. The colony at Plymouth Rock had barely survived. The supply ships from England had not brought enough food. Harvests were poor. People died of hunger, cold, disease and malnutrition. Like all central planners, Governor William Bradford blamed it on the weather. Then, when communal farming was abandoned, what luck, the weather improved:
“The Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest…for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular [private] planting was well seen, for all had…pretty well…so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day.”
Thanksgiving wasn’t made a national holiday until 1863. Then, it celebrated not the success of the American experiment, but the end of it.
Imagine a battle today in which 500,000 American soldiers died – almost as many as died in WWI and WWII combined. As a percentage of population that was the death toll at Gettysburg. That was what Lincoln chose to follow with a day of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for what?
“…peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere [EXCEPT IN THE THEATRE OF MILITARY CONFLICT].” Emphasis added…. [And we] “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”
Lincoln should have proclaimed a day of mourning. The battle and the War Between the States were not glorious achievements. They were national disasters. The fondest hope of the founders – that people could decide for themselves what kind of government they would have – died on the battlefield. But the nation’s course was set.
America may be in the New World, but it has one of the oldest governments on the planet. France, Italy, Germany, India, China – all have newer, fresher governments, as much as 200 years younger. Newer economies bustle with more energy and money too. America appears near exhaustion by comparison. China and India eagerly court the future; America seems desperate to hold onto the past. Her armies are stretched over the globe, trying to prevent anything really new from coming about. At home, her politicians and economists try to prevent anything old from going away. At great cost, banks and businesses, as well as the old timers themselves, are propped up…supported…and sustained.
Still, the typical American has much reason for gratitude. His house is bigger and gaudier than ever before. His car is a plush monster. He has more than enough to eat. He has gadgets and gizmos galore – including a machine that blows the autumn leaves off his asphalted driveway. And behind him is still the mightiest government the world has ever seen – ready to protect his vital interests in the Hindu Kush as well as Wall Street.
Yet, all his blessings seem to come with fuses attached. If the winter is severe, he may not be able to heat his palace. If the price of gasoline rises, driving his land barge could ruin him. If he looks in the bathroom mirror, he might get depressed. Our own polling tells us that 1 in 10 households will give thanks for their government this week. They should reconsider. Didn’t the federal government tempt them to buy a house by giving him tax breaks and subsidizing mortgage rates? Didn’t it egg them on to spend money by reducing the value of the dollar by 97% over the last 97 years? Didn’t the feds stymie every attempt to correct their over-consumption by cheapening credit and stimulating consumption even more? And isn’t it the government that has run up a net national “finance gap” of more than $200 trillion…so that each newborn American faces a burden of $700,000 in debt even before his first diaper has been changed?
And now, the government practically mocks him in an outrageous way. Ever since an amateur terrorist set his underwear on fire, the airport polizei are determined that a man should have his genitals checked before he boards an airplane. Thank god the would-be terrorist didn’t tuck his explosives into a body cavity!
It is fascinating from an ethnological point of view; the poor American has been led along, put upon and knocked around so much. Foreigners must look on in amazement, wondering how much abuse he’ll take. And now, his head bent over…the “butterball” turkey waiting for him…the American must feel the weight of his blessings. He is broke. He may lose his job. His country is in decline, headed for bankruptcy and his leaders are incompetents and scoundrels. To make matters worse, his central bank is keen to commit a new act of sabotage – intentionally trying to undermine his savings…his labor…and his standard of living.
Like Lincoln, he can say to himself…except for that…everything is okay…
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