Thanksgiving - America's Communal Holiday
The Pilgrims Legacy: Love, Sharing & Community Empowerment
For the past couple of days, I've been searching for something to say about the Thanksgiving holiday.
My Mother died this Fall, and it will be my first Thanksgiving without a living parent, so I reckon that's led me to musings about who we are, and what we're doing, and why we're all here.
If you're looking for answers to those questions in this little story, I can save you a few minutes by telling you that you won't find any definitive answers here.
Anyhow, after various false starts, I happened upon a childhood storybook that I had saved since I was a first grader. I was young enough to still like fairytales and old enough to be learning to read. The book, A Gateway to Storyland, by Platt & Munk Co, was given to me around the holidays. The fairytale storybook contains a warm, loved feeling that I still can get, when I periodically open it. When I was younger I read it numerous times, as the words and the illustrations fed the imagination.
Unselfish Parental Love Manifested by Empowering Progeny
Love comes in many forms, but the purest form is unselfish love. The love of truly giving something with no thought of anything in return. That love is likely most often given generationally - from parents to children - from one generation to another. And one of the greatest gifts is the gift of teaching someone something that they will be able to put to good use throughout their lives. Parents do this all the time, when they teach their children's skills and impart some of their knowledge and wisdom ... just as my parents did many years ago, by giving me a well illustrated fairytale book to encourage my learning to read.
Pilgrims: Shared Communal Resources to Actualize a Dream
At Thanksgiving time we commemorate one of America's first settlements, founded by the risk-taking, resource-pooling, communal sharing Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims were early English settlers who arrived on these shores in the early 17th century [1600's]. They came here because they wanted a measure of freedom and self-determination that they were forbidden in Europe or what we call the 'old country'. They wanted to practice their faith in a way that differed from the established Church of England. They took great risks, pooled / shared their communal resources to obtain a ship, the Mayflower, to cross the Atlantic in mid September of 1620, landing here at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts on November 9, 1620.
Help Comes from a Foreign People in a Strange Land
Per Wikipedia, they survived a hard winter in 1621 with the help of the Wampanoag, an American Indian tribe. The Pilgrims were the immigrants, and the Indian natives welcomed them. The Wampanaog taught the Pilgrims how to catch eels, and how to grow and harvest corn. Thus the Pilgrims ended 1621 with a good harvest which they celebrated and shared with their new friends, expressing their thanks to a higher power, aka God, for the success of their endeavors. Hence the celebration entered into American lore, as the first Thanksgiving.
- CLICK here for the rest of the story about Thanksgiving Day sentiments in NYC.
Thanksgiving - America's Communal Holiday
The Pilgrims Legacy: Love, Sharing & Community Empowerment
Like almost everything in our free speech nation, the first Thanksgiving is not without some small controversy. Wikipedia informs us that there's some debate over who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, because giving thanks for a good harvest was also done in the old country, and was also done in the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia which predated the Pilgrims settlement by more than a decade. In the early 1960's JFK settled the dispute in a Solomon-like manner signing an Executive Order crediting both settlements with the holiday.
Thanksgiving: A day of Community, Sharing & Humility before a Greater Power
In 1782 the United States Congress issued a proclamation for a day of thanks. Wikipedia says the text issued in that proclamation is as follows,
"By the United States in Congress assembled, PROCLAMATION.
It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict, in which they have been so long engaged, - the present happy and promising state of public affairs, and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils which is so necessary to the success of the public cause, - the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them, - the success of the arms of the United States and those of their allies, - and the acknowledgment of their Independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States; Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness."
Done in Congress at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh. "
Thanksgiving Celebrates Self Determination & Community
Thus 161 years after the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving Day it was made the national holiday, of the newly formed United States of America. The day was set aside by the nation to give recognition and thanks to a higher power, for allowing the American colonists to have freed themselves of the shackles of the established church in Europe; and subsequently freed themselves of the established ruling classes of Europe. They were free to discover, create, invent, build - to strive to achieve their full potential. Thanksgiving Day celebrates family, sharing and communal self determination.
Disempowered People: The World Before the American Revolution
It's important to note that it was only a couple of centuries ago, when those at the top of society controlled everything. The super rich, reigning monarchs hoarded most of the nation's resources, like a cancerous tumor sucking up so much of the system's vital nutrients, that the functioning / contributing parts of the system were left with just enough to keep functioning. Ultimately this obscene hoarding of resources, caused many of these governments to collapse, erupting in violent revolutions and many deaths. And this was for what? So those people who already had so much, could have even more? As inane as it sounds, this suboptimal allocation of communal resource, continues to this day.
Strong & Healthy Nations Don't Suppress the Voices of Their People
This top down control of societal functions is ridiculous in the abstract, but even more absurd in practice. This is why our Enlightenment-period, Founding Fathers pushed for another option - a nation "of the people, by the people and for the people". In this manner society, could over time evolve and change peacefully. In 1962 President Kennedy recognizing this truth said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable." And so it was.
Since the birth of America as a nation, Americans have generally prospered. Prior to the American Revolutionary War, empowering a whole people had scarcely been done in the history of mankind. I will use technology as a measure for how free peoples in general, and Americans in particular, have moved the needle forward in all walks of life over the past two plus centuries - since our nation was born.
Unhealthy Nations Use Fear to Disempower & Exploit Their Own People
My intention is to give credence to the idea that people living in democratic free societies are far more productive and far more likely to be empowered to live up to their potential, than the 'subjects' and 'peasantries' and 'working classes' of non-democratic societies, which use forceful, oppressive, fear-mongering methods to control their peoples in order to maintain the brittle, status quo. This is an organizing of society that includes providing the ruling classes with their luxurious positions at the top of the food chain, regardless of their intellect, education, skills, abilities and experience. When power and wealth are greedily hoarded by the [inept and unqualified] few - not distributed to the many - the scant resource provided to the remainder of the population, prevents them and that society from even approaching some measure of their real potential.
An economic concept 'adverse selection', has relevance here. Adverse selection per Wikipedia is,
"... [when one] party without the information [power] is worried about an unfair ("rigged") trade, which occurs when the party who has all the information [power] uses it to their advantage. The fear of rigged trade can prompt the worried party to withdraw from the interaction, diminishing the volume of trade in the market."
A non-democratic society, is a rigged trade, where only the people at the top reap the rewards, and thus the rest of the population withdraws from full participation in 'the trade' aka the economy. The rest of the population withdraws because there is no real incentive to work hard and take risks, because they can't own / reap the benefits of their own labor / creation.
People don't try to emigrate from a nation that empowers them. And people don't risk everything, including their lives, to move to a nation that uses fear and suppression to manage its population. People who are smart and talented want to live in a society that allows them to pursue any lines of thought they wish to pursue - not to drop a train of thought because the ruling elite has decided to outlaw it. Bright and talented people are not going to want to contribute to a society that doesn't allow them, their family and friends to have a voice in it. What's the incentive? Why should they empower their oppressors?
Americans & Free Peoples: Achievements of the Past Two Centuries
The following represent some of the key examples of technological breakthroughs and inventions of the free world over the past couple centuries. While most of these inventions and discoveries were made in America, some of them were invented in other - mostly democratic - nations.
They are: 1) Englishman Thomas Savery invented the steam engine, 2) Englishmen Robert Trevithick and George Stephenson invented the locomotive, 3) American Thomas Edison's invented the incandescent light bulb and the phonograph, 4) American Alexander Graham Bell's invented the telephone, 5) German Karl Benz invented the automobile, 6) Italian Guillermo Marconi's invented the radio, 7) Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane, 8) American Philo Farnsworth invented the television, 9) Englishman Charles Babbage conceptualized the computer, 10) American Jack Kilby developed the first practical / useful semiconductor, 11) Italian American Enrico Fermi developed the first nuclear reactor, 12) American Robert H. Goddard invented the rocket, 13) American John Watson along with Englishman Francis Crick discovered DNA, 14) Americans Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cert invented the internet protocol, 15) American Steve Jobs invented on screen typography and [late addition] 16) French inventor, Nicephore Niepce, invented the camera.
Thus, most of the modern technology with which we live, and that we rely upon today, was created by people living in and working in the western democracies, aka the free world.
Thanksgiving: A Time to Reflect on Who We Are & Who We Will Be
My parents worked hard to empower me, but they have now passed on. They did their best to help me get started, to help me obtain an education and job skills so I could become a productive member of society, and they taught me how to get along with, and work with, others. But my parents are now gone, so the rest of my life story is up to me.
Similarly the Pilgrims worked hard to establish a morally strong, generous, self-determined community. Between one and two centuries later the American Founding Fathers built upon that legacy, by working hard to establish an enlightened and a community-empowering government structure - complete with checks and balances - in order to provide subsequent generations of Americans with enough time to identify and react to those who would usurp the power of the American people, in order to make it their own ... Again.
The Founding Fathers knew there would come a time when the emerging super wealthy, greedy rich would try to rule over the nation like the Kings and Nobles of the 'old country'. The Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and most of the generations who went before us - preserved and strengthened our system of government and social mores. But they are now gone. Our ancestors and our predecessors did their best to empower each succeeding generation of America's progeny, before they passed the torch ... a torch which has now been passed to us.
For better or worse, the rest of the American story is now ours to create. And for the moment, it is also now our story to tell. But it's not our words, but rather our actions - that will tell future generations of Americans who we were - by what we accomplished ... or by the things we failed to do.
Best wishes to you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving.
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