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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Happy Thanksgiving from the Turkeys at Newsmakers

Because it's 2020, we can't claim to be surprised that Thanksgiving's prime time NFL match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens abruptly has been postponed, cuz: Covid.

In the spirit of this year of pandemic, however, we'll just be thankful for what we have, and stoutheartedly somehow make do with only two holiday games, even if the four teams still playing have a combined record of, ugh, 13-and-27 (give the points, take the Texans and the Cowboys and bet the under twice).

Feeling truly blessed that the nation's voters firmly rejected the specter of an autocratic authoritarian government, Newsmakers also sincerely thanks all the readers, viewers and listeners who have honored us by availing themselves of our "Journal of the Plague Year" content via the blog, online video, podcast or TV and radio, the latter thanks to our friends at TVSB, Channel 17 and KCSB-FM 91.9.

Special thanks to those who subscribe to our email newsletter. It's a time-honored rule of the internet that garnering "1000 true fans" is a key benchmark of success for any digital enterprise and we're proud to say we broke through that barrier in 2020.

And finally a grateful salute to all the folks who toil and battle in politics and media, from Santa Barbara and beyond.As citizen journalists, Newsmakers strives to be a watchdog for voters, consumers and taxpayers; clearly we don't always applaud, endorse or agree with what you say, do or publish, but please know that we always appreciate the energy, courage and purposefulness it takes to put yourself out there and into the arena.

Why we celebrate. While serving as California's 38th governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger once was asked for his reflections on Thanksgiving and thoughtfully replied: "I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

The Terminator's pre-Twitter musings, for which he'd doubtless be canceled today, reflect the extent to which our national holiday long ago was transformed from a sober-minded occasion for counting one's blessings into a gluttonous excuse for stuffing your piehole.

As every school child knows, or at least used to, President Abraham Lincoln jumpstarted America's annual feast, when he issued a "Proclamation of Thanksgiving" on Oct. 3, 1863, filled with sacred pieties and references to the Christian Creator. In the midst of the nation's bloody Civil War, Lincoln praised God for "the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies."

Lincoln declared that "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," which actually seems like kind of a big exception, but nonetheless called on all citizens "to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Newsmakers of a certain age no doubt recall Thanksgiving week school days of decades past, when Miss Joslin demonstrated how to fold black construction paper into a "Pilgrim hat" that inevitably oozed gooey globs of white paste at the seams, and the smart girl in the front row who always had her hand up, and who's most likely these days ensconced in a Montecito villa, played Pocahontas in the afternoon pageant in the gym.

From Longfellow to Twain. Those tropes owed much to the literary stylings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose 19th Century narrative poems, including "The Courtship of Miles Standish," helped imbue American history with myths about brave and noble Pilgrims chowing down with their Native American neighbors in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual respect.

It was left to Mark Twain, even more celebrated an American writer than Longfellow, to scoff at the specious fable of the first Thanksgiving and point to the genocidal underpinnings of the holiday:

"Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

"Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments."

Actual Facts. Now comes the Cape Cod Times, in a series of stories commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's arrival in what is now Provincetown Harbor, with a comprehensive historic account of Thanksgiving, replete with true tales of epidemic, racism and violence, a feat of journalism that seems altogether appropriate as part of America's great racial reckoning of 2020:

"Don't believe everything you learned in school about the Pilgrims and the Native people who met them.

"From the landing on Plymouth Rock to the harmonious feast with the native Wampanoags, the story about the Pilgrims — and by extension, the story of Thanksgiving — is rife with myth and inaccuracy...

"Edward Winslow, in his writing about the first few years in Plymouth...does mention a celebration marking the settlement’s first successful harvest, probably held around October 1621. Given the context, it certainly wasn’t a huge deal but it would later become one in modern America.

"According to Winslow, despite the fact that the Wampanoags had allowed the Pilgrims to live on their land, provided them with aid and taught them how to successfully grow native crops, the Wampanoags were not invited to this celebration. They arrived only after the Pilgrims started shooting their guns into the air.

"Believing themselves to be under attack, the Wampanoags head sachem, Massasoit, showed up at the settlement with about 90 warriors expecting war. Instead, they found a celebration and they decided to stay, with their hunters bringing in five deer as a contribution.

"Rather than a happy celebration of camaraderie and partnership, the feast that would serve as the basis of the traditional Thanksgiving myth was actually quite a tense affair, fraught with political implications.

"Tense" and "fraught with political implications" sounds about right for Thanksgiving 2020.

Stay safe.


Images: Who is that masked man? (; Peter Kuper, The New Yorker.

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