Posts Tagged ‘Pilgrims’

Our Grim Pill Fathers

Posted in General on November 25th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

Molded by grade school lessons and Hallmark commercials, we reverently refer to those brave pioneers at Plymouth as our “Pilgrim Fathers.” Of course, if we actually did file a class action paternity suit, most of us couldn’t prove it. Furthermore, we really wouldn’t want to be related to them. The Pilgrims were a bunch of 17th century Jerry Falwells.

They were the loony fringe of the Puritans; compared to them, Oliver Cromwell was a liberal softie. We were taught that the Pilgrims fled religious persecution in England and Holland. In fact, they fled religious tolerance in those countries.

Pilgrims could not abide other Protestants (except the equally morbid Presbyterians); you can only imagine how they regarded Catholics. The Pilgrims wanted nothing less than a theocracy where only they had the freedom of worship. In England, however, the Anglicans seemed unwilling to persecute themselves. Holland was even more sectually depraved; it tolerated Catholics and (gasp) Jews. That was the Pilgrims’ idea of Hell.

And the Pilgrims were everyone else’s idea of obnoxious. If the Calvinist bigots wanted a theocracy, England did have a practical solution. In the most generous way of saying “good riddance,” the Crown offered the Pilgrims their own colony in North America. Thousands of quiet miles from England, the fanatics would be free to bore and bully. If they survived, then God and England had a new colony. And, if they didn’t survive…well, we mustn’t think that the Crown was actually rooting for the Indians.

p.s.  And now for the menu:

Hedda Gobbler Would Make a Great Name for a Turkey

Posted in General on November 24th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

Yes, to answer that endemic question of  Thanksgiving, the main course was named for the country. Europeans of the 16th century thought the North American bird resembled a fowl common to Turkey.   

The Turks, however, never thought of naming the fowl for themselves. They call it the Hindi, which refers to India. (I have no idea what the real Indians call the bird but it might be something vicious about Pakistan.)

Furthermore, but for a slight Byzantine miscalculation, we would be referring to that misnamed bird as the Anatolia.

Until the 11th century, there were no Turks in Turkey.  In fact, the peninsula then was known as Anatolia.  It was a nice, thoroughly Greek region, and one of the most lucrative parts of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, however, a Greek aristocrat named Andronicus Ducas became the inadvertent founder of Turkey.

The Byzantine general simply wanted to kill his emperor Romanus IV but was too finicky for an assassination. Ducas waited until the imperial army was fighting Turkish nomads in eastern Anatolia, near the town of Manzikert. He then ordered a retreat, abandoning the emperor to the enemy. Ducas rushed backed to Constantinople to install his cousin on the now empty and available throne.

(In fact, the Emperor Romanus was captured alive. Under the circumstances, the Turkish Sultan could coerce a favorable treaty. Romanus was soon after released; but his return to Constantinople was unappreciated by his usurping successor. The Byzantine retirement package consisted of blinding and exile.)

Unfortunately, the Byzantine Empire was in just as miserable shape. Andronicus Ducas had overestimated the army’s ability to retreat. It disintegrated, leaving Anatolia–half of the empire– defenseless. The Turks weren’t nomads after that.

And we won’t be trying to digest an Anatolia on Thanksgiving.


p.s.  A Further Tribute to the Pilgrims: