How long before Thanksgiving becomes another holiday celebrating American self-flagellation?
To a certain extent, it’s already there. Talk much about the Pilgrims in mixed political company, and it won’t be long until the left-leaning members present start talking about genocide. If Columbus Day is the Washington Redskins of holidays, Thanksgiving is like the Atlanta Braves: not quite as objectionable to those who believe we only started being moral creatures about five years ago, but you get the feeling it’s only a matter of time before they’re the Atlanta Baseball Team.
And even if you can’t get the holiday changed, you can certainly gain a certain amount of notoriety for being a staunch revisionist. Take Randy Kritkausky, an author who focuses on Native Americans. Quite a few more people know his name this Thanksgiving, thanks to his petition to end a tradition at The Wall Street Journal: publishing two editorials by its former editor on the holiday.
“The progressives have come for our annual Thanksgiving editorials,” the Journal’s editorial board wrote in a Monday piece titled “Censoring the Pilgrims.”
“They won’t succeed, but we thought we’d share the tale with readers for an insight into the politicization of everything, even Thanksgiving.”
“Since 1961, we’ve run a pair of editorials written by our former editor Vermont Royster. The first is a historical account about the Pilgrims in 1620 as related by William Bradford, a governor of Plymouth Colony. The second is a contemporary contrast from the mid-20th century about the progress a prosperous America has made that we can all be thankful for,” the piece continued.
“The editorials are popular with readers, who tell us they appreciate the sentiments about hardship and gratitude during what should be a unifying national holiday. For decades we’ve run them with nary a discouraging word.”
Enter Kritkausky, whose petition on Change.org has garnered over 50,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
He wrote that the first editorial, the one which gives a historical account of the Pilgrims’ first winter in America, “is full of disdain and racism towards indigenous people, and it’s time to stop publishing it.”
“Tell the Wall Street Journal that it’s 2021. It’s time to stop publishing 17th century racism,” he wrote.
“The passage includes lines such as, ‘What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men?’ The pilgrim writes that they were separate from ‘all the civil parts of the world.’
“The Wampanoag indigenous people saved the colonists from starvation and death, a story that our nation now celebrates as Thanksgiving,” Kritkausky continued.
“But even more than this disturbing lack of gratitude is the notion that there were no civilized people in the Americas. This world view generated centuries of genocidal practices that eliminated 90% of the indigenous population, my ancestors.”
And so it continued. Kritkausky mentioned the discovery of over 1,300 unmarked graves of indigenous children at Canada’s so-called residential schools and how, given the events of late, the editorials “should not be acceptable in a newspaper claiming to be an international media source.”
“I have previously written to The Wall Street Journal requesting an end to this annual practice. My request has been ignored,” Kritkausky wrote.
“Now I ask you to stand with me calling for The Wall Street Journal to end this racist insult. Such an action would be an appropriate commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving in the United States.”
The good news for Kritkausky, I suppose, is that he finally has a response. The bad news is that he’s essentially being made an object lesson for what happens when an institution stands up against the digital mob.
The editorial board wrote Kritkausky’s petition was “a willful misreading of the editorial, which recounts the bravery and trials of the Pilgrims as they sought a better life in a new land.
“The petition makes a historical point, which is fair enough, but then wraps it in the grievances of contemporary politics to claim the editorial is racist. Somehow the Pilgrims and their chronicler share responsibility for genocide. The point of the statement and petition isn’t to promote debate but to shut it down.”
“We don’t mind giving critics a chance to make their case, but we won’t bend to political demands for censorship. We will run the editorials as usual this week.”
Even if it’s not Thanksgiving, you can read them here (the evil one about the Pilgrims that Kritkausky believes is a “racist insult”) and here (the less-offensive one about living in a thriving, prosperous America).
It’s worth noting that, to close the second editorial, Royster said Americans “can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
“And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven [the Pilgrims] had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.”
These are arguably stormier days than when Royster first wrote the editorial in 1961, with more than a few troubles for us to be daunted by. Many of these troubles stem from those who believe we’re not a “society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators” and never have been. Others would rather those who share their values were our cultural “kings or dictators” and did away with the many of the enduring liberties we enjoy.
We can be thankful the Pilgrims didn’t fold to the troubles which faced them. We can also be thankful the Journal, when faced with an entirely different hindrance, didn’t flinch, either.
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