Like much of the rest of the New Deal, moving Thanksgiving earlier failed to be an economic blessing. Nineteen days after Pearl Harbor, FDR signed a joint congressional resolution making the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving.
Today’s president-elect, who is not always a human sunbeam, seems to regard the nation (“a hellhole”) as akin to tundra in that anything done to it will improve it. Perhaps his deft presidential touch on the tiller of the ship of state will soon have America sailing toward greatness. But his coming ascension to the ship’s bridge might cause a polar frost, followed by scorching heat, at many Thanksgiving dinner tables. Uncle Ralph, squinting at Aunt Emma’s defiantly worn “I’m With Her” button, is going to say, with measured malice, “I wish you were.” At least there will not be anesthetizing boredom caused by the turkey’s tryptophan.
Modern presidential campaigns, like the presidency itself, are too much with us, which makes it difficult to relegate politics to the hinterland of our minds. Shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, the student government of Barnard College in New York City sent to all students this e-mail: “Happy Turkey Week. Thanksgiving is complicated. We urge you not to forget that this holiday commemorates genocide and American imperialism. But, enjoy the week off and make it into something meaningful.”
The e-mail’s authors deserve the fate of William Veazie, a Massachusetts church warden who in 1696 was spotted plowing a field on the day designated for Thanksgiving. Kirkpatrick says he was fined ten pounds and sentenced to an hour in the pillory in Boston.