Just in time for Thanksgiving

JUST IN TIME FOR THANKSGIVING…. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) thought he’d use some floor time on the U.S. House to share his understanding on Thanksgiving history and the travails of 17th-century Pilgrims. There are, however, a few problems with his version of events. (Fired Up Missouri warns that watching Akin’s video “may make you dumber.”)

The far-right lawmaker believes the Pilgrims were “a great bunch of Americans,” who “came here with the idea that, after trying socialism, that it wasn’t going to work. They realized that it was unbiblical and it was a form of theft. So they pitched socialism out; they learned that in the early 1620s.”

This is, to be sure, a popular belief among conservatives. Those rascally Pilgrims tried socialism, only to suddenly realize that it was ineffective and “unbiblical.” They discovered the error of their ways and embraced the virtues of capitalism soon after.

The problem is that Akin’s wrong. The New York Times‘ Kate Zernike had an item on this the other day, citing the work of actual historians, rather than easily-confused right-wing politicians.

In our reality, the settlers agreed to hold their property in common, not as experiment in socialism, but as a short-term decision “in the interest of realizing a profit sooner.” The Pilgrims “were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.”

In the right’s version, the commonly-held property led to laziness and famine. That’s wrong, too: “The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving.”

The Pilgrims ultimately moved away from the system, not because of discoveries about their “unbiblical ways,” but because settlers “spoke different dialects and had different methods of farming, and looked upon each other with great wariness.”

In the right’s version, the Pilgrims flourished after moving away from communal property, which made the first Thanksgiving possible. In reality, the first Thanksgiving was held two years before the settlers gave up on holding their property in common.

Their production improved, not because they turned from a wicked economic system, but because the Pilgrims got better at farming crops like corn that they’d never seen before.

Brian at Right Wing Watch noted that Akin’s not the only one caught up in the conservative-politically-correct myth on Thanksgiving’s origins — John Stossel and Phyllis Schlafly like the bogus version, too — so don’t be too surprised if your crazy uncle brings it up tomorrow at the dinner table.