Happy Thanksgiving, and All Praise to John Smith!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. We are having a simple dinner: vegetables a la grecque--leeks, mushrooms, cucumbers; fresh turkey with corn bread , apple, onion, sage, and sausage stuffing; Southern green beans with bacon and onion cooked in broth; rice of course to honor South Carolina; and pecan pie. We used to do the whole thing with macaroni pie, fresh baked rolls, sweet potatoes, but then there were tons of leftovers. We'll start with scotch to honor my Fleming and MacFarlane ancestors, and a tip of the hat to friends in Texas with a bottle of Balcones single malt from--mirabile dictu--Waco.. Finally to show respect to those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in America, (in Jamestown) we are going to curse socialism and toast everyone working to support his family.and thank the Lord for delivering us from the scourge of the Crescent.
Some Americans know that Captain John Smith put an end to the Proprietors' foolish and self-interested experiment in communism, but very few know that he was honored with a coat of arms--three Turks' heads--for his gallantry in fighting the Ottoman Empire. He killed three Turks in single-combat.
My fifteen year old grandson, too smart for his own good, asked today why so many people are condemning Thanksgiving. I explained that human beings are not terribly kind by nature, that most wars of conquest result in the subjugation of conquered peoples and the gradual extinction of their cultures. This is true of the barbarians who conquered Rome, the Germans who conquered Celtic England, and vritually every war in subsaharan Africa and between Native Americans. One thing, however, we can learn from reading colonial history--see Francis Parkman's accounts of the French in Quebec--is that the Indians were taught to give up torturing and eating their captives. As Michael Ironside says in the wonderful junk TV show "V", "I may bring down the neighborhood, but at least I don't eat it."
"V", for those who do not know,  was a wonderful piece of trash, first a mini-series and then a season. The premise is that "Visitors" from outer space visit earth, promising to cure cancer and share the blessings of advanced technology. Of course all the right people side with them. Unfortunately, they are reptiles disguised as humans, and their main object is to steal all the water and deport millions of human cattle to field the hungry reptiles. I believe it came out in the early 1980's. I naturally assumed that the Visitors were a metaphor for American Liberals
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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

11 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    A Happy Thanksgiving to you, Dr. Fleming, and to Gail and to all your family. I apologize for being an infrequent reader and commenter of late. I’m afraid that my nanny scaling back her hours to practical non-existence has proved more challenging for my truly crude scheduling skills than I had anticipated. I can’t say that I’ve gotten much better, but I did buy both a laptop and pipe so I can sit out on the deck in the cold nights after everyone is in bed and catch up on what’s important in life, namely the thoughts and comments of the few sane people I have the privilege of knowing. For the Fleming Foundation and for all the folks here, I am truly thankful.

    I remember “V” from my childhood, but only just barely. I would say that I would revisit it, but I feel like it surely couldn’t be as bizarre and mind bending as the daily news.

    We all went over to my folks for Thanksgiving, and I helped to prepare and cook the turkey. I confess, I mutilated it again (spatchcock), but danged if it didn’t turn out exceptionally juicy and delicious. One of my daughters and I also prepared an asparagus casserole from Great Grandmother’s cookbook, but, her being a good Southern Baptist, the recipe called for almost the exclusive use of canned foods and the microwave oven. We decided to sauté some fresh asparagus instead and ignore the microwave altogether. It turned out much better. I think Great Grandmother would have been pleased with the improvements. My mom, to no one’s surprise, made enough other foods to feed Cox’s Army, so we’ll be enjoying leftovers for quite some time. And every meal of leftovers is a meal I don’t have to plan and cook!

    Hooray for Thanksgiving!

  2. Robert Reavis says:

    Mr. Cornell,
    Nice to see you back and to read your thoughtful contributions. We have missed your honest words and unaffected presence.

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    Dr Fleming, I remember thinking the same thing about the aliens in “V”. Nothing else seemed to fit but liberals, despite the overtly fascist appearance of their uniforms and symbol. I really liked the miniseries but they seemed to run out of steam with the later TV show. The only thing I really liked about the TV series (being in my early teens) was the alien commander Diana, but then who didn’t like her?

    A few weeks ago I sampled the first episode of Space 1999, which I was sure would be insufferable. It turned out to be not bad for a sci fi TV show. It has the look and feel of pre-Star Trek/Star Wars sci fi, like something from the 50′ or early 60’s and it seemed that the acting was better. I wonder if Star Trek and Star Wars changed space oriented science fiction from what it used to be, as later movies and TV shows all seem to have been influenced by them to one degree or another. Space 1999 may be the last hurrah of that earlier type of science fiction.

    As for Captain Smith, I just love his coat of arms with three severed Turks heads. Oh, I just love it!

  4. Dom says:

    Is Berkley Hundred worthy of discussion?

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Dom, thanks for pointing out my error. This piece started out as a brief post on Facebook, and I should never have said that the First Known American Thanksgiving was celebrated in Jamestown, when in fact the first we hear of took place on Berkeley Plantation about 11 years after the Jamestown Settlement. Both, I believe (tbhough I could be wrong) were established under the auspices of the Virginia Company in London.

  6. Dom says:

    Dr. Fleming,
    I did not realize there was an error. I asked the question because reliable information about the Berkley Plantation and Thanksgiving proclamation seems to be hard to come by. Almost like it is deliberately suppressed or something. The most I can do is point out to my children that the Pilgrims were aided by a friendly Catholic and boatloads of gear from Virginia.

  7. Allen Wilson says:

    Dom, I didn’t know about Berkley Planttion or about the gear from Virginia. Who was the catholic?

  8. Dom says:

    There is an interesting children’s book called John Smith Escapes Again that I enjoyed with my children when they were younger. The format for each section opener is a little annoying, but the illustration is good.

  9. Dom says:

    Mr Wilson,
    The Spaniards baptized Squanto if I am not mistaken.

  10. Raymond Olson says:

    I suppose there is little or no “hard” evidence of Squanto’s baptism, but if he had been baptized, it would have been by the Spanish monks who took and other Native Americans sold into slavery by Thomas Hunt of Smith’s 1614 expedition. I am under the impression, nevertheless, that Squanto manifested acquaintance with Christianity.

  11. Dom says:

    Mr. Olson,
    Thank you. Perhaps I have based my tales on shaky evidence. Hopefully this is harmless: the subject of Squanto’s faith is probably not too significant beyond helping to humanize people and events, which we seem to have reduced to mere cartoons. Children are always intrigued by little-known details and curious anecdotes.
    Omitting the contributions of Jamestown, Berkley Hundred, etc from the popular myth is far more egregious. One would think that the story behind a holiday invested with such significance would be worth getting right. Well, the victor does write the history. It still surprises me how little seems to be written down about such topics as Berkley.