A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 240

Harry S and feathered pal.

Thursday, November 25

Thanksgiving is a holiday more or less created during the administrations of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as a way to stimulate American consumer spending. In the 1940s, economists worried that, with the end of World War II, the economy could slide back into the Great Depression. 

(Abraham Lincoln had declared a day of Thanksgiving in 1863, hoping to foster reconciliation of the Civil War antagonists. But Lincoln’s proclamation never mentioned the Pilgrims, the Indians, turkey, pumpkin pie, etc. of today’s myth.)

Midwestern and Southern agribusiness benefitted from the sale of turkeys, suddenly heralded as the national bird in place of the warlike American eagle. The New England economy, still flat since the collapse of the region’s textile industry, got a boost from the sale of the previously unheralded and profoundly sour cranberry. Batista’s Cuban sugar industry got a gift as well, as every kind of sticky treat joined the new feast’s menu.

All the stuff about the Pilgrims and the Indians—that’s just pablum for school children. Every holiday requires  dramatis personae, whether Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, or the Halloween ghost.

In fact the Wampanoag Indians did save the starving Pilgrims, who had little notion of how to cultivate the sandy Plymouth plantation soil. Such English staples as sweet peas and barley were hardly suited for the area. The Indians’ reward for their dietary gifts: smallpox, years of a slow, unfolding genocide, and the theft of their lands.

Within 50 years, the English colonists would come to outnumber the Native Americans and friction led to the devastating King Philip’s War. The head of one chieftain, Metacomet, better known as King Philip, was mounted on a pike outside Plymouth Colony as a warning.

The Indians had their own revenge, though they may not have appreciated it: the obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that plague the food-obsessed Americans today.

Our Thanksgiving treat: We’re now out at our house, discovering that a number of large oak trees were apparently decapitated while we were away during a November 14 windstorm. The damage is quite startling…and has been waiting for us while we were in the city enduring days of dentistry and other bits of medicinal displeasure. Now, we’ll have to find somebody to come and cut down at least two trees and trim the injured limbs off of a couple of others. Always something.

Dinner: a slimmed-down Thanksgiving meal consisting of packaged ham, microwaved Kabocha squash, salad, and cookies.

Entertainment: episodes of Britbox’ Shetland.