On the holiday, why not ‘thanks’ in Russian and Gaelic

As the calendar turns toward Thanksgiving, several prominent Irish Americans are doing their level best to turn the conversation away from platters of holiday “gobbler” to the spewing of lies, and, in one case, an ill-advised confession to several of those whoppers. The Turkey Day menu from Irish American Hall of Shamers William Barr and Mick Mulvaney features endless dollops of Malarkey and Ukrainian Stuffing.
Mulvaney, as of this writing, is still holding on to his job as President Trump’s acting chief of staff. In what may go down as one of the most stunning public “confessions” in the annals of the presidency, Mulvaney chided the media and America in general to “get over it.” The “it” was his admission that the Trump Administration routinely uses extortion and coercion as tools of foreign policy. That’s why, according to Mulvaney and the president, their decision to withhold direly needed military aid to the Ukraine in exchange for the beleaguered nation’s new president doing the administration a little favor: Dig up dirt on potential Democratic rival Joe Biden for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. “Perfect,” bellows Trump, and perfectly okay, bleats Mulvaney. Except that it’s not.
For any American president, the issue is not even “quid pro quo,” as the Republicans desperately contend. The mere act of any White House secretly holding back military aid approved by a whopping bipartisan vote in the Senate and the House and even hinting that a favor is necessary opens wide the path to impeachment. That Ukraine is struggling to blunt the onslaught of Trump’s BFF, Vladimir Putin, evokes a somewhat less than “perfect” prism through which to view all of this. Mulvaney bluntly acknowledged that, of course, the Trump Administration was extorting Ukraine, and to paraphrase Mulvaney, that’s business as usual for Donald Trump, so “get over it.”
By Thanksgiving 2020, President Trump and his defenders might well be offering little thanks for the impeachment table they’ve set. There is scant doubt that the president will be impeached. Removal from office by a Senate controlled by Mitch McConnell and the Saddest Sack Senator of all—Lindsey Graham—is far less likely. Still, if all of the Democratic senators, and just four of the Republicans, vote for removal, Donald Trump will enter the 2020 campaign as the only presidential incumbent impeached by the House and condemned by a Senate majority. Trump-haters, however, should fear one fact: he might well still win a second term—especially if our globe-trotting attorney general – and personal presidential counsel – William Barr reveal’s “Trump’s truth.”
Barr, the proud son of Mary Margaret Ahern (married name Barr) is on a mission to prove that not only was the Mueller Investigation a “witch hunt” and a hoax, but also that the president’s pal Vlad could not have been behind interference in the 2016 election. Far from it. Trump has a hard time believing that Vlad was behind the poisoning of an erstwhile Russian spy in the UK. Putin, our president avers, is “good people.” Now, racing in—or skulking around Europe—to prove that statement is Barr. He’s going to get to the bottom of things to unveil the “real” truth: It was Ukrainians, not Russians, who interfered in 2016 and conspired to help Hillary Clinton. One question: How did that all turn out, Secretary Clinton?
As Americans sit down to our annual orgy of food and football this Thanksgiving, we should not neglect to thank our holiday hosts and hostesses with a heartfelt “spasibo” or “spaciba”—that’s “thank you” in the Kremlin. William Barr and Mick Mulvaney would likely understand.
Something this pair of Irish Americans choose not to understand is the warning for the ages of Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator,” one of the greatest human rights leaders to trod Irish turf: “Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.”
Then again, the duo, good and grand Irish Catholics both, probably snicker at those words.
The Past Is Repast
Some might think that Thanksgiving traditions do not reflect anything Irish, but they would be wrong in that assumption. In fact, several scholars contend that without the Irish, the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving might never have happened.
Tradition dictates that we celebrate Thanksgiving in November. While the date of the legendary Pilgrim and Native American feast cannot be pinpointed with certainty, Irish-American historian Michael J. O’Brien, an author and the main contributor to the Journal of the American Irish Historical Society from 1898-1941, contended that our Thanksgiving began with the arrival of The Lyon (or Lion), a ship out of Dublin in the midst of a brutal New England winter. The problem is that the Lyon anchored off Massachusetts in February 1631—not in 1621, the purported year of the first feast.
In the 1700s in The Annals of the Year 1631, New England chronicler Reverend Thomas Prince wrote:
“As the winter came on provisions are very scarce (in the Massachusetts Bay), and people necessitated to feed on clams and mussels and ground nuts and acorns, and those were got with much difficulty during the winter season….on February 5th, the very day before the appointed fast, in comes the ship Lion, Mr. William Pierce, master, now arriving at Nantasket laden with provisions. Upon which joyful occasion the day is changed and ordered to be kept (on the 22nd) as a day of Thanksgiving.”
The question lingers: Is a 1631 Thanksgiving or the customary date of 1621 correct? The accounts of Prince and Pilgrim leader William Bradford do not provide a clear answer.
According to John Cusack’s “How the Irish Saved Thanksgiving” (Irish Central, Nov. 23, 2017), “it turns out, from records at the Massachusetts Historical Society, that the wife of one of the prominent Plymouth Rock brethren was the daughter of a Dublin merchant and that it was he who chartered the vessel, loaded it with food, and dispatched it to Plymouth.”
The issue remains that the Lyon did arrive in early 1631 “at Nantasket” with sorely needed provisions, but this date and the earlier date of 1621 remain at odds.
So what can one make of the “Irish claim?” Some will dismiss it as a bit of blarney, but Cusack maintains that “the Massachusetts historical records revealed the tale, giving the Irish a fair claim to saving Thanksgiving.”