by Cheryl Seal
For a nation composed mostly of second, third, and maybe fourth generation immigrants from a grab bag of other cultures, there is an inexplicable preoccupation among some conservative outfits, such as the Heritage or Hoover Foundations or the DAR with our "national heritage." To hear some of them carry on, you would think the roots of American culture extend into the furthest, mistiest corridors of time - that Pilgrims, pioneers, and the founding fathers were a saint-like chosen bunch at whose alters we should all worship with unquestioning awe. As a result, there stubbornly persists in the minds of many right-wingers a vague historic "ideal" of what constitutes a "patriot" and a "good Christian." It wouldn't hurt these folks to stop and look history squarely in the eye for a minute. It might just bring them down off their mountains to join the rest of humanity!
Here with a square look at the Pilgrims is our favorite Democrat, Will Rogers.
Pilgrims, Providencetown, and Plans Revisted
By Will Rogers. from an April 14, 1935 radio broadcast
"On last Sabbath evening, I referred to the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. Well, you ought to wait till I heard from New England! I split New England wide open! It seems there's a town up there called Provincetown and they have adopted a slogan which says "Don't be misled by history or any other unreliable source - this is where the Pilgrims landed!" This was by unanimous vote of the Chamber of Commerce of Provincetown: 'Provincetown has been made the offical landing place of the Pilgrims. Any Pilgrim landing in any other place was not official! If he landed on Plymouth Rock...well, it just served him right!'
"As a race there's never been any comparison between a Pilgrim and an Indian (now I hope my Cherokee blood is not making me prejudiced - I want to be broadminded!). But, I'm sure it was only the extreme generosity of the Indians that allowed the Pilgrims to land. Suppose we were to reverse the case - do you reckon the Pilgrims would ever let the Indians land? Yeah, sure - what a chance, what a chance! The Pilgrims wouldn't even allow the Indians to live after the Indians went to the trouble of lettin' 'em land!
"Well, anyhow - the Provincetown officials sent me a lot of official data that said that after the Pilgrims landed, they found some corn that the Indians had stored, and that the Pilgrims were about starved, and so they ate up the Indian corn. And they claim that the corn was stored in Provincetown. So, you see the minute the Pilgrims landed, they got full of the corn...and then they shot the Indians - perhaps because they hadn't stored enough corn!
"But they always prayed! That's one thing you can say about a Pilgrim - he would pray...mostly for more Indian corn! I bet you never in your life, any one of you, ever seen a picture of one of these Pilgrims prayin' when he didn't have a gun right by the side of him...that was to see that he got what he was prayin' for!"
Will Rogers on Government Plans
"There ain't but one place that a plan really works and that's on paper. The minute you get it off the sheet of paper and get it out into the air, it blows away. That's one thing about Republican Presidents - they never go in much for plans. In fact, they only have one plan: "Boys, my head is turned - get it while you can!"