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Thanksgiving and the Foreign policy

by Guest Columnist

Thanksgiving and the Foreign policy

There have been bleaker Thanksgivings, to be sure, than the one Americans celebrated Thursday. The storied first feast in 1621 in the Puritan colony on the Massachusetts shoreline actually took place in the ruined Indian village of Pawtuxet. The Wampanoag Indians, who brought the little band of Puritans wild turkeys (a meat they themselves rather despised) along with some ears of corn and seasonal squashes, had scant reason to rejoice since their numbers had been reduced by some 95 percent by smallpox, introduced in 1614 by an earlier British expedition. If he heard the thanks raised to heaven by the Puritan leader John Winthrop, the English-speaking Indian known as Squanto probably declined to translate it for his fellows. Winthrop saluted the epidemic as a miracle. As he wrote later to a friend in England, “But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space, the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox, which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection.” Afforded their toehold in the New World by the blessings of plague, the Puritans prospered and the hectic tread of land grabs and capital accumulation carried America on its great journey towards this 387 th Thanksgiving, one marked by economic circumstances more frightening than most Americans have experienced in their entire lifetimes. An American would have to be over 75 to remember as a child the desperate circumstances of the late 1930s when, after five years of Roosevelt’s New Deal, there were still 20 million unemployed. The economic darkness only lifted with the arrival of World War II. Someone born in 1961, the year John Kennedy was inaugurated, would have been a 7-yearold amid the joyous Thanksgiving when the postwar boom crested. There were some gloomy economic Novembers in the late ’70s, early ’90s and the expiring balloon of the dotcom boom eight years ago, but nothing like today’s grim landscape. Down the road from where I write this line, in the northwest corner of South Carolina, a friend of mine owns a small trailer park. By the late summer, as local factories started closing, long-term tenants said goodbye and went on the road in search of work. The vacant trailers were soon filled by families walking away from mountains of mortgage debt and foreclosed homes. They live on budgets so tight that my friend says that they can just barely make the $500 monthly rent, but $550 would put them under. He pointed to one where an older man had just arrived from Michigan, 650 miles north up Interstate 75, heart of the US auto industry and already in economic ruins long before the major auto companies went begging for bailout in Washington DC in the last couple of weeks. States in the industrial heartlands, like Michigan and Ohio, have been reeling for years as the factory owners

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