My first encounter with Thanksgiving was textual, at an American preparatory school that I attended for a couple of years in Beirut. It had not been easy for me to partake of the world of the offspring of urban, Westernized elites. But I had taken to the school an awe for all things American.
From our teachers—and they were the bearers of a missionary outlook, committed to the transmission of a modern education of inquiry and curiosity—we learned about great American men and women and of the founding. We learned of the Pilgrims, the hardship of their winter in 1621, then the Indians extending the settlers a welcome, the feast they shared, the bounty of the land, the giving of thanks for all that.
The Pilgrims and the Indians breaking bread—this was not entirely convincing. It warred with a more powerful American force than that of our teachers: a steady diet of Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott and John Wayne and Gary Cooper. In those Westerns (and we were all addicted to them) the cowboys and the Indians were bitter enemies. It wouldn't be easy to give credence to the tale of the Pilgrims and the Indians; the Apache and Comanche wars were what stuck.