We’re all about to take a day or two off to stuff ourselves silly as a way of giving thanks for …. well, it’s not exactly a thankful moment, is it? … and making our contribution to obesity in America. In the meantime, along comes James Carroll of the Boston Globe, to remind us that our great national holiday was built on a graveyard; that “settlement,” as we think of it, was everywhere an early form of bio-war. By the time that the Pilgrims had “settled” in their New Jerusalem, European germs had preceded them, in certain cases wiping out up to 95% of some New England tribes and leaving already developed lands open to be settled upon. (In those days before germ theory, this seemed to the settlers an omen, a sign that God had favored them.) Carroll’s essential question, “Can one culture meet another without destroying it,” still unfortunately remains with us. Something to ponder as we down the stuffing. Tom
The unkept promise of our holiday
By James Carroll, November 26, 2002, The Boston Globe
It is odd that the national holiday set aside for the benign purpose of expressing gratitude should also celebrate a primal encounter between European settlers and the native peoples who preceded them.
In the American memory, Miles Standish, in his Pilgrim hat and broad collar, is forever shaking hands with Massasoit, who saved the settlement from hunger with instructions about growing corn and catching turkeys. It was 1621 when the settlers and the natives sat down together to celebrate ”good increase,” and their harvest banquet became the paradigm of neighborliness, the good feelings we all indulge this week.
One needn’t attribute base motives to those English separatists to acknowledge that their arrival was anything but an occasion for thanksgiving to those who greeted them.