Today’s Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite among American traditions. The story goes that it started exactly 400 years ago — in the fall of 1621. The wiki says that it —
“… is traced to the Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s. They brought their previous tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1621 Plymouth, Massachusetts thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated this with the Wampanoags, a tribe of Native Americans who, along with the last surviving Patuxet, had helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food in that time of scarcity, in exchange for an alliance and protection against the rival Narragansett tribe.”
By all accounts it appears that Thanksgiving was a happy occasion. They were giving thanks for a bountiful harvest that year; in the previous years many had died of starvation. Previously, they had tried to go the socialist way — from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. They thought that it would be all milk and honey but it did not work out that way. They starved. Then they decided to take the capitalism route.
There’s more to the story than this simple, and simplistic, account. In the US, Thanksgiving is the biggest family event, second only to Christmas.
The first Thanksgiving I celebrated was in 1982 in New Haven, Connecticut. It was truly wonderful. I have much to be thankful for. Several times every day, I pause whatever I am doing and silently meditate to remind myself that I am lucky to be who I am, and lucky to have what I have. The thought is simply, “Isn’t this good?” and I thank the universe.
 For a bit more on the socialist-to-capitalist story, read this excellent piece by Prof Richard Ebeling. Quote:
The desire to “spread the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s Republic. The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together in society.
They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and those of his family. And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit.
In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom.
This is the lesson of the First Thanksgiving. This year, when we sit around our dining table with our family and friends, let us also remember that what we are really celebrating is the birth of free men and free enterprise in that New World of America.
The real meaning of Thanksgiving, in other words, is the triumph of capitalism over the failure of collectivism in all its forms.
3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving”
Here are the comments of the BBC correspondent John Sopel who is leaving the US after 8 years:
What I’ll miss (not in any order)
National parks and the great outdoors
Skiing in America – so much better organised
Fabulous geographical diversity
Weather reports – so much weather here
Paved cycle trails through stunning countryside
College sport – particularly March Madness basketball competition
Being able to watch all the Premier League football matches you can – even the 3pm kick offs (which you can’t in the UK)
The singing of the national anthem
Burgers and fries
Can do attitudes/innovation
Washington museums and memorials
The device on petrol pump nozzle where it automatically clicks off when tank is full, so you don’t need to keep hand on it (not significant I know)
Epic complexity of Washington politics
Friendliness and kindness
What I won’t miss
Guns – worst bit of my seven years has been going to all the mass shootings
Endless TV ads for prescription drugs promising miracles for first 20 seconds and warning of – in rare cases – catastrophic death in last 20 seconds
Endless political ads during election season that just make you want to live on a desert island
A terrible health system that only works if you have money
Hearing people in front of me at the pharmacy saying they can’t afford the drugs they’ve been prescribed
Seeming lack of interest in what happens in the rest of the world
Restaurants (this is a whole subsection)
Food that is often too salty or too sweet
You feel you have to tip 20% cos staff are so badly paid
Ludicrous hierarchy where you can only talk to waiter/waitress allocated to your table, and not get service from anyone else
Also why is the person who pours your water never able to take your food order
Surf and turf – do one, but not the other
Being asked my opinion endlessly about Charles and Diana/William and Kate/Harry and Meghan – the royal family is an obsession
Thanks for the list from John Sopel from the BBC. I agree with many of his items — particularly, the great national parks and the outdoors; the can do attitude/innovation; friendliness and kindness; the work ethic; museums and memorials. I would add the public libraries; they are awesome.
I would add the Bill of Rights — specifically the 1st Amendment (the separation clause, and the right to free speech), and the 2nd Amendment — the right to bear arms. Guns protect people. The health care system is messed up because of the government.
I think that will all its faults, the US is the best country on earth. Not that it can’t do better but so far there’s no country that is as good as the US of A.
I have to agree. If one had to choose a superpower from all the countries in the world, one could do far worse by not choosing the USA….
I say this as a realist….
For all its faults, it is still a great country for most of its lucky citizens…