Man Overboard offered a familiar but important observation on Thanksgiving, which is, as widely known and often said, that history is written by the victors.
It’s true, at least in terms of popular history, which is largely what matters, since popular history is how a nation establishes its identity.
There’s probably no better example of this than the First Thanksgiving, which has only a very slight toehold on reality but is a major factor in the American identity.
It’s bad history for any number of reasons, starting with the fact that every culture in the temperate zone — that is, where food is mostly available at a specific time of year — has some sort of harvest festival.
That of the Pilgrims was unremarkable, and was only a small diary entry until it was dug up in the wake of the Civil War as a recruiting tool for European immigrants as we industrialized production and pushed our railroads west.
The intended message was “We have a long tradition of welcoming strangers,” a promotional fiction which was not only dubious in New England on several levels, and throughout our history on several others, but is key to teaching American history as “the virus that spread from Plymouth Rock.”
It ignores not just Jamestown but Spanish holdings throughout what is now America.
Well, whatever. As the fellow said in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Popular history is a series of legends that have become facts, despite there being plenty of actual, contrary history available.
Just as in the movie, nobody cares about the facts. They want the legend.
The remedy for bad history is not more bad history. There’s no value in pointing out how natives and immigrants behaved in New England because those specific events at that particular time in that small corner of the continent is not the true issue.
You won’t get an accurate picture by rewriting history. You need to rethink history.
Which begins by accepting, and coping with, our appetite for believing what we want to believe, about current events as well as about our past.
Take the current international controversy over FIFA’s awarding of the World Cup to Qatar: Matt Wuerker (Politico) properly notes that the US also has flaws in how it treats migrant workers.
However, having covered the apple harvest for several years, I’ve seen how the law requires migrant agricultural workers to be recruited and treated, and, if the entire food industry cleaved to those laws and standards, there would be no problem.
I do not believe Qatar extends those protections to migrants, and, even if it does, it’s just as fair to criticize Qatar’s outcomes as it has been for us to criticize our own.
Dammit, if I can go for five years without eating table grapes and non-union lettuce, you can miss a couple of soccer games.
Ted Rall (Counterpoint) goes further, insisting that only people from perfect countries have a right to criticize anyone else.
It’s a little bizarre that he answers his own question: We’ve seen how many of our fellow Americans respond to demonstrations at football games, and, no, I don’t think it would be much different if Colin Kaepernick were from Ruritania or Lilliput.
Besides, Rall’s demand for purity suggests that perhaps our policies in waging the Mexican War should have kept us from criticizing slavery or demanding a vote for women. I’m glad they didn’t.
Juxtaposition of the Day
It’s not as if American cartoonists are loathe to criticize our own government, much less forbidden to do so.
There has been a flurry of cartoons attacking the decision of the Department of Justice, and confirmed by the White House, to accept a loophole in international law that keeps Mohammed bin Salman from being sued for his part in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Some contend that MbS was only promoted to Prime Minister in order to invoke that loophole, and so it shouldn’t count, while others are simply so outraged by the murder that they feel we should make an exception, in this case, to international law.
But it’s easier to make exceptions than it is to find loopholes, which makes me fear exceptions more.
None of that means we can’t, in the midst of our debate over MbS, also criticize Qatar or FIFA, or, for that matter, a nation that kidnaps children and farms them out to strangers in a strange land.
And another Juxtaposition
There are sins both of commission and of omission, hence the phrase in the Catholic Confiteor, “I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”
Varvel criticizes an act that has not happened about a crime that has not been proven: While Donald Trump pardoned several of his political supporters for criminal acts, Joe Biden has not offered to pardon his son and, in fact, has stepped back from interfering in the investigation, offering only his fatherly sympathy to a prodigal son.
To which should be added this technical detail: If you offer someone the chance to make a payoff, you can’t be prosecuted unless there was a payoff. Central to prosecuting a scam is making sure money has actually been exchanged.
Meanwhile, Telnaes points out that the GOP campaigned for months on the pledge that they could cure worldwide inflation and high gas prices and, instead, they’re chasing a laptop and threatening a round of pointless, partisan Congressional goose chases.
I think we’re allowed to criticize them for that, as long as we do it before Elon Musk and the new GOP House have finished redefining “free speech.”
Qatar is not the only place that the Whole World is Watching, and First Dog on the Moon has some thoughts on Trump’s re-emergence, which he offers despite Australia not being entirely perfect.
While here in imperfect America, Free Range (AMS), also addresses the topic.
At least, that’s the truth I’ve decided to accept.