Yesterday, on the same day that deaths from the coronavirus pandemic reached the quarter-million mark, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) took to the floor of the US Senate to address a pressing issue: the disturbing lack of patriotic appreciation of the Pilgrims and their contributions to freedom and democracy in the USA. He gave a whole speech on the matter, focusing mostly on the historic legacy of the Mayflower Compact, which enshrined self-government on the shores of North America as long as you ignore all the people who were already here and governing themselves pretty satisfactorily. But they don't count, because they weren't civilized, stupid.

But Cotton, who's on a mission to turn himself into an actual cartoon character, couldn't stop there, because who would pay attention to an anodyne speech commemorating the arrival of the Mayflower 400 years ago? So he went with the predictable culture-wars angle, accusing the New York Times of terrible crimes against the sacred American past:



Sadly, however, there appear to be few commemorations, parades, or festivals to celebrate the Pilgrims this year, perhaps in part because revisionist charlatans of the radical Left have lately claimed the previous year as America's true founding. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Pilgrims and their Compact, like the Founders and their Declaration, form the true foundation of America.

Deadly pandemic? What deadly pandemic? We need parades, to learn those radical 1619 project historians a lesson!

But let's not ignore the full-on white nationalist parts of Cotton's lament, which we'll put in bold here:

Some — too many — may have lost the civilizational self-confidence needed to celebrate the Pilgrims. Just today, for instance, The New York Times called this story a "myth" and a "caricature" — in the Food Section, no less. Maybe the politically correct editors of the debunked 1619 Project are now responsible for pumpkin-pie recipes at the Times, as well.

"Civilizational self-confidence"? Why not just call it "White Pride" and be done with it, Senator? (And no, the 1619 Project hasn't been debunked, you canker sore.)

To be clear, the New York Times article Cotton's referring to does indeed call the simplistic Friendly Indians and Grateful Pilgrims narrative a myth, because history is actually far more complicated than your third-grade class pageant. Honestly, that's the only way to approach lots of cherished national myths. The article focuses on the fraught relationship Native Americans have with the Thanksgiving holiday. And it even points out that pointing out the contrasts between myth and historical reality has itself become a holiday cliché:

The brutality of settlers' expansion into the Great Plains and American West has been drastically underplayed in popular myths about the founding and growth of the United States.

Arguably the best-known of those myths is the story of the first Thanksgiving. [...]

It is now widely accepted that the story of a friendship-sealing repast between white colonists and Native Americans is inaccurate. Articles debunking the tale have become as reliable an annual media ritual as recipes for cornbread stuffing.

Not that Tom Cotton has any use for complexity, or for the point of view of anyone but those brilliant white patriots who made America. Native Americans are useful secondary players for moving along the story of the brave settlers, whom God ordained to master the continent. And if you bother suggesting anything that departs from that simplistic orthodoxy, you're clearly a politically correct charlatan. In any case, the Times article is a pretty good read, making a strong case for abandoning Cotton's cartoonish verities.

And yes, it doesn't simply call the "traditional" grade-school version of the first Thanksgiving a caricature, it explains what's wrong with that limited view, with the help of Linda Coombs, a "Wampanoag historian and a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), on Martha's Vineyard."

"There was an event that happened in 1621," Ms. Coombs said. "But the whole story about what occurred on that first Thanksgiving was a myth created to make white people feel comfortable."

The caricature of friendly Indians handing over food, knowledge and land to kindhearted Pilgrims was reinforced for generations by school curriculums, holiday pageants and children's books. These stories were among the few appearances made by Native Americans in popular historical narratives, effectively erasing history-altering crimes, like the killing of tens of millions of buffalo, from the country's consciousness. That massacre led to the mass starvation of Indigenous people.

"Erasure isn't taking down a conquistador statue," said [Winona] LaDuke, 61. "Erasure is when you don't even know the name of the people who own the land where you live."

The article even offers a shout-out to the brilliant revisionist Thanksgiving pageant in The Addams Family, a depiction Tom Cotton must surely find abhorrent.

Lyz Jaakola, 52, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, recalls the catharsis she felt as a young woman watching the movie "Addams Family Values," a dark comedy released in 1993.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, other people get it, too,'" said Ms. Jaakola, a musician and teacher who was elected this month to the City Council in Cloquet, Minn. "They realize how ridiculous the whole image of Thanksgiving is."

Poor Tom Cotton. He's stuck being the cartoonish villain telling nonwhite people their history and political interests are only incidental to the really important stuff done by Europeans. Maybe he could look more closely at the Thanksgiving myth, and learn how to share.

But all in all, when this pandemic is over, we'd rather spend a nice fall Thursday in the company of Linda Coombs, Winona LaDuke, Lyz Jaakola, or any of the other folks interviewed in the Times than with Tom Cotton. He's just a preachy bore.

[NBC News / Sen. Tom Cotton / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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