Today is Thanksgiving Day, to celebrate the day that a bunch of British settlers sat down with a bunch of Indians, aka Native Americans, and ate together. Turkeys are the traditional Thanksgiving meat, but no one really knows what was eaten on that first Thanksgiving day of November 26, 1621. It could have been ducks. The settlers had founded Plymouth Colony, arriving at Plymouth Harbor in 1620. After surviving starvation and disease, those who lived through the first year and the fall harvest of 1621, shared a harvest meal with the local indigenous people. This was the first Thanksgiving dinner. I celebrate Thanksgiving each year because if those people had never come here, I wouldn’t be here. Thomas Rogers and his son Joseph were on the Mayflower and I’m one of their many descendants.
I’ve always been grateful just to be alive, and after seeing much of how the rest of the world lives during my hitch in the U.S. Navy, I became very grateful to be born an American, and not a Greek or Ethiopian or Italian or any other sort of nationality. Some of them were better off than others, back then, but that’s just a nice way of saying that some were a lot worse than others. Being an American is a privilege that most of us here never seem to comprehend and it’s not one that we earned. Those who came before us, earned it for us.
I’ve seen the tradition of Thanksgiving fade a great deal since the first Thanksgiving I remember as a small boy. Back then we were all very aware of the historical significance of this holiday, and we expressed our thanks to each other at the table before we ate. I doubt anyone does that anymore or is even aware of the reason for the holiday, and the day may come when even the name is lost to time. Today is commonly called Turkey Day now by many of us. People have a hard time relating to the idea of spending 2 or 3 months aboard a primitive wooden sailing ship, with no toilets or fresh vegetables, water in barrels that got more stagnant as time went by, none at all to wash with, and supplies running out except for a few hard biscuits weeks before making landfall at a place with no buildings for shelter or amenities of any kind. Where you have to get out and kill game and build shelters as quickly as you can because the weather is growing cold.
That was serious hardship, the people were beset with diseases and many died, it was wintertime, they weren’t prepared. Today you see these reality shows like Naked And Afraid, and in almost every case, they only manage to get through their 21 day adventures by starving for 3 weeks. These so-called “trained survivalists” find themselves unable to feed themselves. None of them would have survived the first year at Plymouth Harbor.
We need to be revitalized, re-wound, every few centuries or so. We need to tear down our civilizations, let the weakest die off, and start new civilizations from scratch, just to keep us fresh and strong as a species. Each time we’ve done this through the millennia, our civilizations have been more technically advanced and robust. Our old traditions and days of celebration are fading away, and have lost their meaning. I’m thinking it’s time to create new ones.