The boogeyman that replaced the specter of communism in the hearts of terrified Westerners, Islamic fundamentalism seems to come from another time. They rage against science, Western ideals and the basic rights of women. That's why you hear people on Fox News claiming that Muslim world is stuck in the Dark Ages.
"You can't use reason with these people. They only understand shadow puppets."
How Old It Actually Is:
Actually, the Middle East's clock stopped around the same time as the one at Marty McFly's high school in the 1950s. If the Arab world was really still stuck in the Middle Ages, everyone would be a lot better off.
Who Made It Up?
During the period the the Western world thinks of as the Dark Ages, when Europeans were busy murdering each other over matters of religion and superstition, Islam was cool as a cucumber. At the time, Islamic regions were actually more accepting of Judaism and Christianity than most of the Christian world was of Judaism and other types of Christianity. Long before the Italian Renaissance, the Islamic Empire realized the Greeks and Romans had been on to something with this book learning stuff, and used this realization to revolutionize astronomy, literature, physics, philosophy and architecture. Still bored, they went ahead and invented algebra and modern medicine too.
"George Washington invented numbers! We call them Arab numerals to mock them!"
The antiquated practices many Westerners associate with modern Islam are actually a relatively recent development. Reporting from Saudi Arabia for The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright interviewed an older Saudi man who reminisced about the good old days when men and women used to be able to celebrate weddings together. While it might seem weird to Westerners used to hearing stories of ankle length hemlines following the words "Back in my day... ," in the Middle East, when grandparents miss the good old days, they're often talking about a place that was far less up its own ass.
"We had books. And the orgies! Don't get me started on the orgies ...
It wasn't until the 1950s that fundamentalist Islam started gaining influence, and outdated, dying traditions like the veil saw a spike in popularity. That's when followers of a fringe 18th century scholar Mohammed Al Wahab began to take Islam back to basics, which in this case meant an imaginary past where women were treated like shit and all the pesky "progress" of the last 1400 years never happened. During his lifetime, Wahab was taken about as seriously as Pat Robertson is taken today in the West. But in the 1950s, Wahabi Muslim thinkers like Sayyid Qutb started to urge total separation between Islam and the West, arguing that the outside world had "nothing else to give humanity."
Oh really, Qutb?
Qutb and his fundamentalist contemporaries inspired a new generation of radical thinkers, who took this "fuck the West" mentality a few steps further, resulting in a Middle East that is far less progressive than the Dark Ages they're supposedly stuck in.
Some people shouldn't be encouraged to "shoot for the stars."
See, as tempting as it might be to divide history into the bad guys and the good guys, civilizations tend to evolve more like the Batman franchise, kicking ass part of the time, and reaching unspeakable, ass backwards lows that would embarrass their ancestors at others. Muslim people were doing algebra while we were burning women for having funny birthmarks on their face. They just happen to be going through their Batman and Robin phase.
3Pretty Much All of Thanksgiving
Pumpkin pie, giant helpings of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet, artery-plugging gravy. Thanksgiving combines gluttony with drunkenness and sports hooliganism and you don't have to feel guilty about any of it because it's even older than America. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 at the Plymouth colony in what is now Massachusetts. The starving colonists shared a meal with the natives and formed a friendship that would last until syphilis and exposure killed them all.
How Old It Actually Is:
Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today was finalized on 1941, coincidentally only one year after America's favorite turkey supplier first trademarked the name Butterball.
America loves it some turkey.
Who Made It Up?
It's true that a meal took place in 1621, but like most meals, it was pretty much a one-off thing. There were a few local celebrations held on varying dates, but people were generally too damn poor or busy running revolutions to bother with another holiday. Thomas Jefferson even called them "a monarchical institution."
Way to shit on everyone's good time, TJ.
All of the traditional foods and pageantry we associate with Thanksgiving are the invention of one pushy broad named Sarah Hale. She finally nagged Abe Lincoln into creating a new holiday in 1863.
The food at the original Thanksgiving was a motley assortment of fowl (possibly not even turkey), cod, corn and venison. Mrs. Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book (the Cracked Magazine of its day) realized that history would need to be jazzed up a bit if Thanksgiving was to have a future. She put together a massive recipe book that included many treats we still enjoy today, as well as batshit crazy heart-murdering foods like "ham soaked in cider for three weeks, stuffed with sweet potatoes and baked in maple syrup."
Mrs. Hale was convinced that, if she could just get enough families to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, she could avert the Civil War. Obviously, she failed, but President Lincoln thought the idea had enough merit that he tried it anyway.
Some things are beyond even the power of cider-drenched ham.
For the first half of the 20th century, Thanksgiving was celebrated mainly by the rich and wannabe rich, since no one else could afford to waste the money. In 1939, FDR decided to change the date in order to give retailers more time to get ready for Christmas. For two years, people celebrated Thanksgiving on different days depending on their political orientation. It wasn't until 1941 that Congress set the date we still use today.