What’s Going On: The perfect time for Thanksgiving 2.0

It’s Thanksgiving in July.

You might know it as Independence Day, but really, isn’t it just Thanksgiving 2.0?

Both holidays have the same basic blueprint, with slight variations.

They both are anchored to one specific day on the calendar, Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday while Independence Day is always, well, July 4.

They both are celebrated with specific foods: Thanksgiving with turkey and sides with as many carbs as possible, Independence Day with barbecue with as many processed meats as possible.

They both are celebrated with sporting events, football on Turkey Day and baseball on America’s day.

And of course, they are both filled with good times shared between families and friends.

But arguably, the most significant similarity these two American-only holidays share is their significance in American history.

Thanksgiving is America’s oldest original holiday, pre-dating the country itself by 155 years. The first Thanksgiving in 1621 commemorated the first completed harvest in the New World and was celebrated by about 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.

What most people may not realize though is those 50 pilgrims were all that was left from the original 102 that arrived on the Mayflower the previous year. Of those 50, many of them would have had a voice in drafting the Mayflower Compact, with all 41 men signing it Nov. 11, 1620 aboard the ship it was for which it was named.

That Compact would not only serve as the first governing document of the New World, but also as the foundation for the democracy we associate with The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and America itself.

While the significance of Thanksgiving to American history (or at least the people who started the holiday) may not be as well known, Independence Day certainly is.

It celebrates the day we essentially told King George and the rest of England to take a hike. We didn’t like their game anymore (and especially its rules) so we were quitting. Starting our own game. Leave us alone for a while and in 150 years or so, when the German kid next door starts pounding on you, we’ll save your skin. Heck, we’ll probably do it twice if you ask nice.

As for the piece of paper behind the holiday, The Declaration of Independence, it was first signed July 4 by John Hancock himself … appropriate considering the size and embellishment of his signature.

Amazingly, one of the two most important documents in American history (along with the Constitution) didn’t exist a month earlier. A committee of five people, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, formed June 11 to draft the declaration. It was completed in less than three weeks and then approved by Congress July 2, left to sit for two days before signing.

Today, nearly 250 years later, we could really use a holiday where we celebrate our common identity as Americans.

President Trump is right about one thing: we are no longer a civil nation. Whether we’re kicking government officials out of a restaurant for their beliefs, denying service to homosexuals because of their beliefs or simply calling someone a “loser” on twitter because of their beliefs, civility is as dead in this country as Jefferson, Franklin and Adams.

Add another mass shooting at a newspaper older than the nation itself, and yes, a little unity masked by a celebration and barbecue sounds perfect. Mix in a few firecrackers (because let’s face it, another thing we love as Americans is blowing things up) and maybe for one day we can all celebrate our ancestors sticking it to the British a long time ago.

We can get back to hating each other Thursday.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.