One of the things I have always enjoyed about the run up to Thanksgiving was Rush Limbaugh’s annual monologue. If you want to know the truth—not just about the Pilgrims and the origin of the Thanksgiving story, but also about politics or life in general—you need look no further than Rush’s body of work: his books, show transcripts, or his legacy website. As the Bible says, “he being dead yet speaketh.”
Indeed, one of the things I’m perennially thankful for is Rush Limbaugh, and his passion for his work, and those who still labor to preserve and propagate his vast catalogue. Though Barack Hussein Obama did everything in his corrupting power to tarnish the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump’s recognition of Rush’s inestimable value to the Republic, and his conferral of our nation’s highest civilian honor on Rush was one of his most transcendent moments. Rush richly deserved the honor, and by dint of his character, restored the award to its place of rarefied prestige.
Exceptionalism is Rush’s legacy — the king of talk radio presented equal parts irrefutable content and enthralling entertainment.
Rush defined and personified American exceptionalism as a relentless striving for the good—a humble, honest work ethic that assumes personal responsibility for failure. An optimistic perspective on calculated risk. And an exocentric worldview that subsumes personality and ambition to the clear expressions of the Divine.
Necessarily, such an individualistic ethos demands small government and the freedom to exercise conscience in matters of faith and practice. That brings us to the real story about the Pilgrims and their flight from persecution, search for free expression, and experimentation in self-government. Theirs was a passion for faith and indomitable courage that we cannot fathom today.
The Pilgrim story is a golden legacy, suppressed and disfigured by a tyrannical bureaucratic state that rivals the monarchical oppression of King James. It is a human drama of unparalleled significance, and the first gasps of a democratic republic — a form of government never before witnessed in the history of mankind. It’s exceptional in every sense of the word, the real Pilgrim story of which Rush was such an ardent evangel.
In 17th century England, King James embarked on a campaign of religious persecution, which involved targeting anyone who refused to adhere to the tenets of the Official Church of England. A group of conscientious objectors, known variably as Puritans, Saints, or Separatists, fled England for the more permissive environs of Holland. This group, numbering around 40 souls, was led by William Bradford, a devout man determined to begin life anew across a wilderness of ocean, and treacherous beyond our modern understanding. Two ships were commissioned from Holland, one named the Speedwell, and the other the Mayflower, moored in England. Of the two ships, only the Mayflower left England for the transatlantic voyage.
Both ships were unbelievably small by today’s standards, barely the equivalent of a fifty foot vessel. In all, 102 passengers (including 40 pilgrims) were packed either on the exposed, freezing main deck or just below in the damp, infused with the putridity of rot and excrement. It cannot be overemphasized how stalwart these people were. They were people who believed the Bible and averred it to be the inspired Word of God, inherent in its autographs. It was their conviction they were participating in an exodus of sorts, and endured the awful crossing empowered by their faith.
Thanksgiving, though not readily recognized as such, is fundamentally about faith. It was faith that sustained the Pilgrims through the gut-wrenching voyage, through the abysmal first winter, and through the relentless struggle for mere survival. They knew most intimately the Biblical passage: “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received the dead raised to life again.” (Hebrews 11:33-35)
What impelled them to desert shores of relative safety and to hazard the frigid sea, whose breaking waves surmounted the Mayflower’s forecastle to rain edged shards of salt sea down on them, was a concrete faith in a Redeemer and His power to guide His children through storm if not persuaded to calm the towering sea.
Having made landfall in New England, the Pilgrims’ trials had just begun. Their faith would be tested to the uttermost as half of them would be dead before winter’s end—including William Bradford’s wife. While it is certainly true that the Pilgrims were greatly aided by the indigenous people, the greatest threat they faced was actually created back in Holland by sponsors of the great endeavor. The Pilgrims were required to hold property, crops, and lands in common. Any profits were to be deposited in a common store.
They were covenanted into a commune—today, we’d call it socialism or marxism. And, it nearly killed every Pilgrim settler that year. It was an existential threat to the nascent republic then, and it still is today. Bradford (then governor of the Pilgrim colony) wrote that fit men otherwise capable of labor and service did nothing. They complained that they were being required to work for other men’s wives and children without compensation. And, they considered such a state to be the most rank injustice.
Bradford quickly remedied this by immediately introducing private property ownership, and the resulting boom in prosperity resulted in the Thanksgiving celebration we know so much about today. In short, it wasn’t so much about help from the American Indians as it was about abolishing the diabolical doctrine of socialism.
You can still hear Rush’s Thanksgiving monologue here. Play it for yourself and your family. Make it a Thanksgiving tradition like we have. And, Rush goes into great detail about the Pilgrims in his book Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims. It’s written for young people, but if you’re young at heart, I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I have.