Is there much difference between tradition and myth?
To hear some skeptics tell it, in the case of the Thanksgiving holiday the answer is a resounding no.
The notion that Thanksgiving is rooted in the Native Americans’ sharing of their bountiful harvest with early European settlers falls into the myth category — or so they say. One account has it that Abraham Lincoln, looking for a way to boost morale among Union troops in the depths of the Civil War, called for setting aside a day of national thanksgiving.
With the landing at Plymouth Rock and the War Between the States both far in our past, neither the reason nor the historical truth matters at all. Putting aside the overindulgence in eating and holiday shopping that have become the holiday’s unfortunate hallmarks, the goodness and decency we attribute to Thanksgiving are still found at its core.
Schoolchildren may still don construction paper pilgrim hats and feathered headdresses but, as both affluent and needy sit down to eat that day, it’s all about family and friends and giving thanks for blessings large and small.
Think reasons to give thanks are scarce? Think again.
For two years in a row, the East End has been slammed by storms of tropical origin. Irene was downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm when she visited in August 2011. Sandy was described as post-tropical when she made her presence known last month. Meteorological categories aside, both storms caused widespread damage and destruction — especially Sandy.
Why include these events in a discussion of giving thanks? Because in both cases, the impact here could have been much, much worse.
Although we live on a narrow peninsula perilously projecting out into the sea, the damage here, although in many cases quite severe, hardly warrants mention compared to what occurred in places like Long Beach and coastal communities in Queens and New Jersey.
Yes, shoreline homes and other structures took a pounding, gasoline was temporarily scarce and the Long Island Power Authority’s unforgivably incompetent response almost makes us long for the days when LILCO kept the lights on. But there was no loss of life here. Homes can be rebuilt and bulkheading replaced. Police, volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel remained on the job until the crisis passed.
After the winds died down and the tide receded, comments commonly given voice included “We dodged a bullet,” “We lucked out” and “It could have been worse.”
All are true. And what better reason to give thanks?