William Loren Katz
As family excitement builds over Thanksgiving, you would never know November was Native American History Month. President Barack Obama publicly announced the month, but many more Americans will be paying much greater attention to his annual declaration of thanksgiving with the ceremonial pardoning of a turkey.
Thanksgiving has a treasured place in the hearts of Americans, established as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to rouse Northern patriotism for a war that was not going well. Since then, Thanksgiving has often served other political ends.
In 2003, in the age of U.S. Middle East invasions, President George W. Bush flew to Baghdad, Iraq, to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with U.S. troops. He sought to rally the public behind an invasion based on lies by having a host of photographers snap pictures of him carrying a glazed turkey to eager soldiers. Three hours later, Bush flew home, and TV brought his act of solidarity and generosity to millions of U.S. living rooms. But the turkey the President carried to Baghdad was never eaten. It was cardboard, a stage prop.
Thus, as an example of hypocrisy and insincerity, Thanksgiving 2003 had a lot in common with the first Thanksgiving Day celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. A year earlier, 149 English Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower landed at Plymouth and survived their first New England winter when Wampanoug people brought the newcomers corn, meat and other gifts, and taught the Pilgrims survival skills.
In 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving — not for his Wampanoug saviors but in honor of his brave Pilgrims. Through resourcefulness and devotion to God, his Christians had defeated hunger.