The usual dissenters come out of the woodwork every October to denounce Christopher Columbus and November to attack Thanksgiving. Here’s one from 2020:
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is being called “a racist piece of trash” and a “white supremacist” after defending the legacy of the Mayflower Compact and criticizing an article in the New York Times that called the story of the Pilgrims a “myth” and re-examined the “cruel history” of Thanksgiving.
The latest example comes from actor John Leguizamo who used Twitter on Sunday (11/21/22) to proclaim, “Happy indigenous survivor’s day! F*ck thanksgiving!” Leguizamo was born in from Bogotá, Colombia, in 1962. Here’s some history from his country of origin:
But the pre-Columbians weren’t living in paradise either: the continent had head-chopping Aztecs who sacrificed 80,000 folks in just four days to inaugurate one pyramid. The Maya had similar bloody death cults, while further south the humourless Incas founded an empire nominally on trade but backed by ruthless might. Any detractors were killed along with family, friends, pets, plants and the back garden sprinkled with salt.
A case could be made that Leguizamo would never have been born had the Conquistadors had not arrived to rescue Columbians from the bloodthirsty pagans. And get this, “Going further back in time, it was determined that Leguizamo’s maternal lineage includes the 16th-century Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar….”
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We are told that the Thanksgiving celebrations that were practiced in the early years of America’s founding were about “racist genocide.” Smallpox had decimated many native peoples since there was no acquired immunity. There was no known cure. Europe had suffered for many years from outbreaks of smallpox. It was inevitable that Europeans and anyone else who had made their way to the New World would have brought smallpox and other communicable diseases with them. Between 1702 and 1703, nearly a quarter of the population of Quebec City in Canada died during a smallpox epidemic:
Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. Earlier deaths included six monarchs. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year….
U.S. Presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all contracted and recovered from the disease. Washington became infected with smallpox on a visit to Barbados in 1751. Jackson developed the illness after being taken prisoner by the British during the American Revolution, and though he recovered, his brother Robert did not. Lincoln contracted the disease during his presidency, possibly from his son Tad, and was quarantined shortly after giving the Gettysburg address in 1863. Famous theologian Jonathan Edwards died of smallpox in 1758 following an inoculation.
Global eradication of smallpox did not happen until 1979.
Back to the racism charge. The Plymouth colony served as a sanctuary for blacks. There’s speculation that “[s]ome blacks may have come from Virginia or from English colonies in the Caribbean.”
From 1623 to 1640, Colonists of black ancestry arrived in Plymouth Colony…. Although they did not have full equal rights with the English Pilgrims, they were accepted as members of the Plymouth community.
Black Pilgrims served in the Plymouth militia by the 1640s. The white English Pilgrims trusted the black Pilgrims enough to arm them with guns and weapons. These Pilgrims of black heritage would have been given military training including best usage of their weapons and marching in formation. The integrated Plymouth Pilgrim Militia included English, African Americans and Native Americans.
The Pilgrims in 17th-century Plymouth accepted the concept that blacks had God-given rights. One of these was their right to attend the Pilgrim Congregational Church. People of black heritage had the right to learn the Pilgrim [Geneva] Bible. Pilgrims taught their children to read in order to understand the teachings in the Bible. This was an accepted method of education for all colonists. All Pilgrims of black heritage would have been included — even freemen, blacks who were indentured servants and those who were slaves. (Cape Cod Times)
Of course, I do not want to dismiss the fact that in early America the slave trade flourished, and Native peoples were treated ruthlessly, but these can’t be blamed on the first thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
As Mary Grabar, author of “Debunking Howard Zinn,” wrote for The Federalist in 2019, [Howard] Zinn deconstructs the Pilgrims’ “first” Thanksgiving to advance his Marxist ideas of oppressors versus oppressed.
In these simplistic narratives, the Pilgrims are portrayed as wicked oppressors and the native people as angelic, oppressed victims. This is the narrative now being peddled in elementary schools around the country.
In her critique of Zinn-inspired literature used in Portland, Oregon, public schools, Grabar wrote: “It makes a cartoonish presentation of myriad people groups from the Bahamas and South America to New Mexico and New England. They are falsely oversimplified as universally peace-loving, Mother Earth-respecting, generous, and welcoming. All Indian tribes are lumped together as a mass of childlike people oppressed by the greedy capitalist explorers and settlers.” (National Interest)
What’s missing among the Thanksgiving critics is the inability to evaluate anything as being good or bad, moral or immoral.
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