This year is the 400th anniversary of the 1620 landing of the Pilgrims in America on the good ship Mayflower. We celebrate the experience of those Pilgrims as Thanksgiving and it’s a holiday I have always loved. Yes, my mother was an excellent cook and I always enjoyed the amazing spread of food she would prepare. Maybe even more, having extended family join in, with all the old stories of times gone by, was simple fun.
Thanksgiving always seemed all about family, and the celebratory part of it was pretty limited to its name – giving thanks to God for the blessings of the year. That’s something pretty good for all of us to remember, as individuals, families and as a country. These days it seems our culture rushes headlong into Christmas’s commercialism and we miss the snug coziness Thanksgiving can deliver. I can’t help but wonder if that’s just happened by accident – or if there are those who’d rather we do away with Thanksgiving, and they’re winning.
Older folks may remember growing up learning the dramatic story of the English families who worshipped as Separatists, a religious group who broke away from the Church of England, and how they went to Holland to avoid persecution. They found toleration there among the Dutch but wanted to raise their children with English customs and ultimately decided to venture to the New World to accomplish that goal.
I’m not sure the story reaches our children today because of political correctness in our schools, but the rich stories of soldier Myles Standish, John Alden, their leader William Bradford and others captured my imagination as a young boy. Their relationship with the Native American Squanto and the ultimate Thanksgiving feast was a model of friendship and kindness.
The Pilgrim’s experience gave us one of the most important first elements that established American democratic self-government on the road to our Constitution with the signing of the Mayflower Compact. When the Pilgrims landed off the coast of Massachusetts, before they left the ship, there was discord between the Separatist families who had paid to travel to the New World, and the crew, workers, merchants, and craftsmen who had accompanied them, whom they called “Strangers.”
Before the group left the ship, to allay their concerns and reduce the probability of an “every man for himself” environment, they drafted an agreement called the Mayflower Compact, where they would “covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick.” They committed to live by “laws, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, and offices” that would ensure “the general good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” The Pilgrims were wise enough to realize that to survive in this new wilderness existence they had to have some sort of understood order of governance, even if it meant living in accord with others who were members of the Church of England and didn’t believe the same way they did.
41 people signed the Mayflower Compact and established this agreement, written by and agreed to by the consent of the governed. It was a monumental moment in our history and that alone should be remembered and be something we are thankful for.
Oh, you hadn’t heard that part of it lately? Or have you tried to find any old movies about the traditional Thanksgiving story on TV lately, like Plymouth Adventure with Spencer Tracy? No, well, it could be because the media moguls have accepted the replacement of our cultural heritage with the new history favored by the radical Left, intent on rewriting our history. We watch daily as the common customs and beliefs that hold us together are being swept away.
We watch idly by as the New York Times decries the Thanksgiving Myth. But one must wonder if it’s not only the big city newspapers that think that way. Liberals have long played on historical guilt to erode our heritage. It would be interesting to investigate the curriculum of our schools to see if the “new history” is winning there as well – in a place where the Left can have great influence and the biggest long-term impact. It’s something to consider as we see the same process in other areas of life, producing constant attacks on free enterprise, the rise of acceptance of socialism among many, and an erosion in the Rule of Law in our society.
So have a nice, warm Thanksgiving as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth Rock. It has been a trying year with the COVID pandemic’s devastating impact on so many. But there have been blessings as well. And make sure and ask a young person if they know the Thanksgiving story and about the Mayflower Compact. It might be an educational experience for both of you.