CSotD: Holiday Distractions

Dave Granlund points out that Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, was not about Pilgrims. It would be nice to say that it was instituted to give thanks that the Civil War was over, but, in fact, it was declared in the midst of the conflict.

Note that Sarah Josepha Hale, when she asked the president to make the traditional celebration a national holiday, specified “a National and fixed Union Festival.”

Lincoln and other presidents had called for various days of gratitude and/or prayer in the past, but Thanksgiving became a formal Union holiday the last Thursday of November, 1863.

The surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox was April 9, 1865, and John Wilkes Booth murdered the president on the 15th.


Which latter fact I mention because Lee Harvey Oswald ruined Thanksgiving, 1963, by murdering the president the Friday before, and Steve Brodner has remembered the day for the Atlantic.

It was one helluva shock, because it had been 62 years since anyone had murdered a US President, though Theodore Roosevelt took a bullet in 1912, which doesn’t count because (A) it didn’t kill him and (B) he was no longer president, only a candidate. He gave his speech before seeking medical help because that’s what one does.

Similarly, when Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to kill President Truman, he remarked that “A president has to expect these things.”

Presidential sang-froid aside, we certainly weren’t expecting it in 1963, and Kennedy’s assassination stunned everyone, but was only a forerunner to the murders of MLK and Bobby, which were then followed by a couple of attempts on Gerry Ford and a near-success on the life of Ronald Reagan.

So when we say, “I guess you had to be there,” it’s true, because you can talk about the impact but you can’t really share it. We’ve become a little numb to such things.

I think of it less as “the end of innocence” than as “the beginning of some truly insane conspiracy theories,” and that persists, doesn’t it?

I finally got to Dealey Plaza in the early days of this century and was surprised at how small it was. Photographs had made it seem quite wide open.

I was talking to one of the guys selling screwball materials there, and he turned out to only be doing it for a friend and also turned out to be a Vietnam vet who conceded that, while a very good shot, it wasn’t an impossible one, particularly if you rested your rifle on boxes.

He said, however, that there were too many coincidences involved.

So, having recently been dealing with airport vending machines, I took a Sacagawea dollar out of my pocket, gave it to him and told him about the unlikely coincidence when Lewis & Clark got to the point where they needed to bargain for horses:

I said to him that history is full of coincidences. The ones in Dallas were lousy, the one Sacajawea experienced was wonderful and worthy of gratitude.

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is required to be logical. The appeal of conspiracy theories is that they add a seemingly rational filter to our otherwise irrational reality.


Francesco Marciuliano notes that the rational solution to family Thanksgivings is to sit at the kids’ table. If it’s not too late by the time you see this, you might want to give it a try.


David Fitzsimmons draws a similarity between our current pandemic and the fate of the Wampanoag, but he’s accusing the Pilgrims of something they didn’t do. Or, at least, that they didn’t do then.

A little over a decade after they arrived, there was an outbreak of smallpox among the natives, but it was nothing compared to the Great Dying which happened before the Pilgrims had landed and had a much more dire impact on the population.

And if you follow that link, you’ll find that the Pilgrims and Puritans saw it as God clearing a space for them, a truly appalling attempt to add purpose to events that were only slightly connected.

However, let’s be fair: That first harvest dinner was, as presented, a gathering of Europeans and the natives who had helped them survive.

Their friendship didn’t last, certainly, and it’s interesting to compare what was happening in New Amsterdam at roughly the same time, since the Dutch set up respectful and mutually beneficial trading arrangements with the Mohawk and other Iroquois.

When the English took over that colony in 1664, they left the Dutch traders in place and so the histories west and east of the Hudson River are drastically different.

That may be in large part because the Iroquois hadn’t just been nearly wiped out by disease and therefore could demand, rather than request, respect.

But, mainly, the English government in New York was a bureaucracy, not a theocracy. They eventually screwed up the Iroquois economy, but they weren’t out to kill anyone. (It happened anyway.)

Such details are what make history complex and fascinating.


Can’t we talk about something more hilarious?

Other distractions besides the Macy’s Parade include a lovely joint project in the New Yorker by Roz Chast and Emily Flake.

Read it, and then imagine what cartoonists you’d nominate to pair up and do something similar.


And something to perhaps not read

You may also want to read the Comics Journal’s review of the long-awaited, much-postponed graphic examination of the death of cartooning legend Alex Raymond — creator of Flash Gordon and Rip Kirby — by Dave Sim and Carson Grubaugh, which doesn’t particularly sell the book to Raymond fans but might sell it to Sim fans.

That’s the value of an honest review, and, whatever you decide about the book, the review itself is good reading.


Finally, Kal Kallaugher offers a bright, colorful look at a dark, dim future.

It’s getting harder to believe that it will all just happen some day and somewhere else, and perhaps the best that can be said about our current climactic prospects is that some of the damage is already here and some of the players — by whom I mean farmers — are beginning to recognize that.

For which we should be thankful.

Which reminds me to thank you for reading, and falettinme be mice elf agin.


One thought on “CSotD: Holiday Distractions

  1. Yours has been the ONLY mention of President Kennedy’s assassination that I’ve seen; it’s as tho that day never happened. And changed America forever, and for the worse.

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