Tea Party Believes Thanksgiving Pilgrims Were Socialists

'The First Thanksgiving' by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

'The First Thanksgiving' by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

This ought to get conversation at your dinner table fired up! Kate Zernike fuels that fire in the New York Times:

Ah, Thanksgiving. A celebration regardless of creed; a time for all Americans to come together after a divisive election year.

But why take a holiday from argument? In these fractious times, even the meaning of Thanksgiving is subject to political debate.

Forget what you learned about the first Thanksgiving being a celebration of a bountiful harvest, or an expression of gratitude to the Indians who helped the Pilgrims through those harsh first months in an unfamiliar land. In the Tea Party view of the holiday, the first settlers were actually early socialists. They realized the error of their collectivist ways and embraced capitalism, producing a bumper year, upon which they decided that it was only right to celebrate the glory of the free market and private property.

Historians quibble with this interpretation. But the story, related by libertarians and conservatives for years, has taken on new life over the last year among Tea Party audiences, who revere early American history, and hunger for any argument against what they believe is the big-government takeover of the United States.

It has made Thanksgiving another proxy in the debate over health care and entitlement spending, and placed it alongside the New Deal and the Constitution on the platter of historical items picked apart by competing narratives.

There are other debates about Thanksgiving — whether the first was in Jamestown, Va., or Plymouth, Mass.; whether it was intended as a religious holiday or not. But broadly, the version passed on to generations of American schoolchildren holds that the settlers who had arrived in the New World on the Mayflower in 1620 were celebrating the next year’s good harvest, sharing in the bounty with Squanto and their other Indian friends, who had taught them how to hunt and farm on new terrain.

All very kumbaya, say Tea Party historians, but missing the economics lesson within.

In one common telling, the pilgrims who came to Plymouth established a communal system, where all had to pool whatever they hunted or grew on their lands. Because they could not reap the fruits of their labors, no one had any incentive to work, and the system failed — confusion, thievery and famine ensued.

Finally, the governor of the colony, William Bradford, abolished this system and gave each household a parcel of land. With private property to call their own, the Pilgrims were suddenly very industrious and found themselves with more corn than they knew what to do with. So they invited the Indians over to celebrate. (In some other versions, the first Thanksgiving is not a feast but a brief respite from famine. But the moral is always the same: socialism doesn’t work.) The same commune-to-capitalism, famine-to-feast story is told of Jamestown, the first English settlement, in 1607. Dick Armey, the former House majority leader and Texas congressman who has become a Tea Party promoter, related it as a cautionary tale in a speech to the National Press Club earlier this year.

Rush Limbaugh repeats the Thanksgiving story of Plymouth every year…

[continues in the New York Times]

, , , ,

  • Andrew

    There’s nothing wrong with a little socialism, just as there’s nothing wrong with a little capitalism.

    Everybody should have some private property. And some things shouldn’t be owned by individuals.

  • Andrew

    There’s nothing wrong with a little socialism, just as there’s nothing wrong with a little capitalism.

    Everybody should have some private property. And some things shouldn’t be owned by individuals.

    • robertpinkerton

      I concur fully. Collectivism is like some chemical elements that are physiologically tonic in trace amounts but toxic in larger amounts. Likewise, reciprocal restricted altruism builds social bonds in the groups that practice it, where the unconditional universal altruism, that seems to be the object of both christianity and American leftism, is a short, straight route to destitution.

      • Andrew

        And of course individualism is likewise toxic in larger amounts.

  • DeepCough

    How is one of the biggest capitalist holidays socialist again? Does that make Santa communist, because that
    “Red” suit always made me wonder.

  • DeepCough

    How is one of the biggest capitalist holidays socialist again? Does that make Santa communist, because that
    “Red” suit always made me wonder.

  • Tchoutoye

    Jesus was a proto-socialist, and so were the early Christians until the Roman emperors hijacked Christianity and subjected it to mythic inversion.

  • Anonymous

    Jesus was a proto-socialist, and so were the early Christians until the Roman emperors hijacked Christianity and subjected it to mythic inversion.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    If you have ever shared your stuff, you are a socialist. Horrors!

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      I know…the Tea Party gangsters wouldn’t have gotten along well a hundred years ago or 200 years ago…despite the repeated babbling about the virtues and values of yesteryear. In those days you helped your neighbor build his house and barn…because their kids would help build your kids house and barn someday. The asshole who said “Screw you all! I’m staying home!” received no help from anyone in a crisis and died alone and in misery. It wasn’t ‘socialism’ that made people work together…it was survival, a sense of community, and basic human decency…all of which is absent in the spoiled rotten whimpering brats of the present day TP movement.

  • Anonymous

    If you have ever shared your stuff, you are a socialist. Horrors!

  • Anonymous

    I concur fully. Collectivism is like some chemical elements that are physiologically tonic in trace amounts but toxic in larger amounts. Likewise, reciprocal restricted altruism builds social bonds in the groups that practice it, where the unconditional universal altruism, that seems to be the object of both christianity and American leftism, is a short, straight route to destitution.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I know…the Tea Party gangsters wouldn’t have gotten along well a hundred years ago or 200 years ago…despite the repeated babbling about the virtues and values of yesteryear. In those days you helped your neighbor build his house and barn…because their kids would help build your kids house and barn someday. The asshole who said “Screw you all! I’m staying home!” received no help from anyone in a crisis and died alone and in misery. It wasn’t ‘socialism’ that made people work together…it was survival, a sense of community, and basic human decency…all of which is absent in the spoiled rotten whimpering brats of the present day TP movement.

  • Andrew

    And of course individualism is likewise toxic in larger amounts.

  • Kali23Yuga

    Sohshulism evrywhure!!

  • Kali23Yuga

    Sohshulism evrywhure!!

  • Haystack

    They’re re-writing history to make it sound like capitalism was one of the founding principles of America, but it’s just not true.

  • Haystack

    They’re re-writing history to make it sound like capitalism was one of the founding principles of America, but it’s just not true.

21