I thought everyone knew this story, but it seems I’m wrong. Most of us are products of the public school system, after all, so it’s not surprising that it isn’t better known. So let’s have a little history lesson, shall we?
Thanksgiving, we’ve all been taught, came about because the Pilgrims had a bumper harvest after a couple of bad years. Overcome with gratitude toward “the universe” (to use the politically correct non-Deistic term), they participated in “diversity” by inviting the Native Americans to share several days of feasting.
This is all most of us learned about the origins of Thanksgiving. But that, to paraphrase Paul Harvey, is nowhere near the rest of the story.
What was the reason behind the disastrous harvests that nearly wiped out the fledgling Plymouth colony? It was nothing short of communism.
Disillusioned by the greed and materialistic lifestyles of the English upper class, as well as persecuted unmercifully for their religious convictions, a group of puritans departed England for Holland and spent 12 years in that gentle and welcoming land. But the younger generation of puritan children began drifting away from the strict ideals of their elders toward the more worldly and relaxed Dutch lifestyle. Fearful for the state of their children’s souls and desperate to escape the contaminating influence of anyone who wasn’t puritan, once more they packed up and left. This time they aimed to colonize the New World.
After weeks at sea, they arrived at a bad time of year – December – so all they could do was brace themselves and hunker down. It was a winter of great hardship and hunger, but also a time to dream about the possibilities incumbent in this new land. When spring came, they had a chance to put into practice the pure ideals they envisioned while in England and Holland.
“Their vision of the New World,” notes Matthew Burke, “was to build a society constructed on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their aim was based on the communism of Plato’s ‘Republic,’ in which there would be no private property, and all work, and the harvest thereof, would be shared in common.”
As Gov. William Bradford noted in his diary, the result was famine and starvation “both physically and spiritually.”
But why? What could interfere with such lofty and idealistic goals? After all, the Pilgrims were striving “to move to a point where people can work in common for the common good and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings,” to quote Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA.
The answer is simple: human nature.
The young and healthy men resented working uncompensated for other people. The strong reaped nothing from any extra work they did, and so had the exact same amount as those less fit for work; “this was thought injustice,” noted Bradford. The women, called upon to provide “service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. … deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could their husbands brook it.”
In other words, this happy little experiment in communism failed miserably.
It did more than fail: it led the colony toward horrible starvation in a land that should have been one of plenty.
So the Pilgrims scrapped the whole communal shebang and started from scratch. Everyone was issued a parcel of land. It was up to each family to work that land. They were not responsible for their neighbor’s failures; nor could they claim any of their neighbor’s successes. In other words, they quite literally reaped what they sowed. “The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would [allege] weakness, and inability,” noted Bradford’s diary.
The harsh lesson was that communism is “antithetical with the human nature and spirit. It results in shortages, poverty, resentment and slavery,” notes Burke. It also results in laziness, an entitlement mentality and an unwillingness to get off one’s butt. After all, what’s the motivation to work harder if the fruits of your own labor are forcibly removed and given to someone who will not work?
The result of this practical expression of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 was an unprecedented harvest and a spiritual swelling of gratitude. The Pilgrims were moved by compassion to voluntarily share with those less fortunate. Thus everyone prospered.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the foundation for our modern Thanksgiving: an utter rejection of communism and embracing the natural desire to keep what you’ve worked for.
Why is this so hard for the progressives to understand?
You see, no matter how many times communism has been tried and has failed – over and over and over again – there are elements in our modern society who are sure this time it will be different. This time people will give up their evil, selfish, materialistic ways and embrace each other in love and harmony. We’ll sing Kumbaya while holding hands around a communal fire. What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. Golly, that sounds swell.
But humans are not like that. Those who believe “hope and change” will transform us into mindless happy Kumbaya-singing drones cannot understand that people aren’t interested in being eternally “caring” and “compassionate” if it’s done without freedom, liberty, or choice. Only by giving people the chance to succeed or fail on their own – and to keep the fruits of their labor – will prosperity and generosity occur.
Recently, our older daughter asked what it would take to turn our nation around and become prosperous and free once again. I said that we must return to our roots, both our spiritual roots and the roots of the Constitution. Unless the government gets out of the way and stays within the restraints outlined in the founding documents, we will never again be free.
The first Thanksgiving happened because people were allowed to be “selfish.” The irony today is our government is regulating or even making illegal the very things that pulled the Pilgrims out of their desolate, starving mess: individual initiative, selfish behavior and a strong faith in God.
Thanksgiving is not just about giving thanks for our bounty. It’s also about celebrating the fact that only by embracing individual freedom did that bounty come about.
A happy and “selfish” Thanksgiving to you all.