Thanksgiving - America's Communal Holiday
The Pilgrims Legacy: Love, Sharing & Community Empowerment
A couple of years ago, I happened upon a childhood book of fables and fairytales that I had saved since I was a first grader. I was young enough to still like fairytales and old enough to be learning and loving to read.
The book, A Gateway to Storyland, by Platt & Munk Co, was given to me around the holidays, and the book still gives me a warm, loved feeling when I periodically open it to browse through the fairytales and fables containing little nuggets of age old wisdom about how to conduct onesself [see photo at right / the book is still in print]. I read it numerous times immediately upon receiving it, as the illustrations fed my imagination, and lessons embedded in the words resonated with timeless sagacity.
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 oftentimes given intergenerationally - from grandparents to parents to children.
Perhaps the greatest gifts are those that cost us nothing but our time. Like 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 help their children develop skills, and impart some knowledge and learning ... just as my parents did many years ago, by giving me a well illustrated fairytale book to encourage my interest in reading, while sharing the time tested insights of the ages, handed down through storytelling.
I. A Brief Thanksgiving History
The 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, hardworking, spiritual community of Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims were early English settlers who arrived on American 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 was called the 'old country'. The Pilgrims wanted to practice their faith, unencumbered, in a way that differed from the established Church of England. They pooled their money to obtain a ship, the Mayflower, to cross the Atlantic in mid September of 1620, landing on America's shores at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts on November 9, 1620. Think of it. It took about a month and a half to travel a distance we can now traverse in about five hours.
The Pilgrims Receive Help from the Native People of a Strange Land
Per Wikipedia, the Piligrims survived a hard winter in 1621 with the help of the Wampanoag, an American Indian tribe. The Pilgrims were the immigrants, and the first Americans, 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 gratitude to a higher power, aka God, for the success of their endeavors.
Thus it was that the first Thanksgiving celebration happened in America ... or did it?
- 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
Were the Pilgrims the first to Celebrate Thanksgiving Day?
Like almost everything in our free speech, tumultuous, democratic nation - the lore of the first Thanksgiving came 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.
Given the old country tradition, the descendants of the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia - which predated the Pilgrims settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts by more than a decade - took exception to the notion that it was the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
Thus, in the early 1960's, President John F. Kennedy is reported to have settled the dispute in a Solomon-like manner, by signing an Executive Order crediting both settlements with the holiday.
In 1782 Thanksgiving was Declared Day of Community, Humility & Sharing 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."
[This was] 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 a Community of Individuals in Pursuit of their Dreams
Thus 161 years after the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving Day it was made the national holiday, in 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 churches in Europe. As well as thanks that the American colonists were subsequently successful in freeing themselves of the capricious, autocratic, established ruling classes of Europe. Americans were free to discover, create, invent, build and express themselves in pursuit of achieving their full potential. This is stated in the Declaration of Independence, when claiming that all men's inalienable rights are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
II. Achieving Your / American Dreams
Disempowered People: The World Before the American Revolution & the American Experiment
It's important to note that it was only a couple of centuries ago, when those at the top of society controlled everything. Literally EVERYTHING. The super rich, reigning monarchs and their 'noble' allies [today we call them presidents, oligarchs and billionaires] 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 without collapsing. Ultimately this obscene resource hoarding and complete disrespect of anyone who was not of a monarchical family or affiliated nobility, caused many of these governments to collapse, erupting in violent revolutions, many deaths and is why many people fled to America.
This incredible hoarding of resources was for what? So those people who already had so much, could have even more that they didn't need? As inane as it is, this suboptimal allocation of communal resource, continues to this very day. Thankfully in America and western democracies, this suboptimal resource allocation is not quite as oppressive as it was just a couple of hundred years ago, but which still lives on in places like China and Russia.
Strong & Healthy Nations Don't Suppress the Voices of Their People
This top down control of societal functions is not only incredibly dysfunctional in the abstract - it is even more absurd in practice. This is why our Enlightenment-period [1700's] 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 John Kennedy, recognizing this truth, said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable." And so it is, as it has always been.
Since the birth of America as a nation, Americans have generally prospered. Prior to the American Revolutionary War, empowering anyone outside of the ruling classes had scarcely been done in the history of mankind [ancient Greece may be an exception]. I will use technological advances as a measure for how free peoples in general, and Americans and western democracies in particular, have moved the needle forward in all walks of life over the past two plus centuries - since our nation was born. These advances are why we live lives so different than those just a couple of hundred years ago. And the oppressive societal structure is why the people of only a couple of hundred years ago, didn't live lives that that were that different than people lived many THOUSANDS of years earlier.
Unhealthy Nations & Leaders Use Fear & Force 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.
The fear mongering and forcible organizing of society - provides the ruling classes with all the resources - regardless of their intellect, education, skills, abilities and experience. In these dysfunctional societies the rich and powerful squander the nation's resources by pampering themselves with luxuries only available at the top of the political / economic system - or in narcissistic, ego-driven, grabs for more power and territory via wars fought by those who didn't start them and have little to gain by their victory. When power and wealth are greedily hoarded by the inept, unqualified and too often the seemingly criminal few - the scant resource provided to the remainder of the population, prevents most people and that entire society from coming anywhere near any measure of their real full potential.
The Real Rigged System: One of the Key Reasons Why Fear Mongering & Authoritarian Powers Fail
There's an economic concept 'adverse selection', which 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."
Living in a non-democratic society, is living in a nation-wide rigged trade, where only the people at the top reap the rewards. This is why the rest of the population withdraws from full participation in 'the trade' - aka the economy - in pursuit of their dreams. Most of the general populace withdraws because they know that if their endeavors are successful, the benefits that ensue will be confiscated from them by members of the ruling classes. Thus the working classes limit their pursuits / investments in achievement, because there is no real incentive to work hard and take risks, because they will never reap the benefits of their own labor / creations.
The American Dream is What Lures Talented Risk Takers to this Nation
People don't try to emigrate from a nation that empowers them. Like a bad relationship, they leave because it's an unfair, unstable or even abusive relationship.
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 societies that allow them to develop their abilities and pursue any train or tangent of thought they wish - where they are not forced to drop a line of questioning, thought or research because the ruling class has deemed it threatening to their power and thus outlaws 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. Why? Because the government bureaucrats / the national system doesn't respect them. Talented people have little to no incentive to achieve things that further empower a government in which they have no voice - aka a repressive authoritarian regime.
The World's Greatest Technological Advances - 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 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 16) French inventor, Nicephore Niepce, invented the camera.
Thus, most of the modern technology with which we live and rely upon today, was created by people living in and working in the western democracies, aka the free world.
III. Thanksgiving is a Time for Reflection
Thanksgiving is a Time for All Americans to Take Stock and Reflect on Who We Are
My parents worked hard to empower me by investing in my experiences and learning. They did their best to help me obtain a good education and encouraged me to develop competitive job skills, so I would become a productive member of society. They also taught me how to get along with, and work with others, as it's rare that one ever truly achieves anything on their own. 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 generous, self-determined, morally strong community in America. Between one and two centuries following the Pilgrims first Thanksgiving, the American Founding Fathers built upon that legacy, by fighting off their oppressors in order to obtain their freedom. Immediately after obtaining their freedom, the colonists - led by the Founding Fathers - worked hard to establish an enlightened and people-empowering government structure. To empower the people they included checks and balances in the government apparatus - 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 insatiably power-hungry, super-greedy, ultra-rich [aka Donald Trump] would try to usurp the power of the people in an effort 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 arrived before us - preserved and strengthened our system of government and social mores.
But our ancestors are now gone. Like my parents, our American ancestors and predecessors did their best to empower succeeding generations, before they passed the torch ... a torch which has now been passed onto us.
Thanksgiving is a Time for All Americans to Take Stock and Reflect on Who We Will Be
For better or worse, the rest of the American story is now our responsibility. The preservation of a somewhat fair, due process system, including free speech, freedom to pursue our dreams, and social mobility to all - regardless of race, gender or religion - is ours to preserve. Or ... like careless, spoiled heirs - it is also ours to piss away.
So on this Thanksgiving as I reflect upon what we've been given - which generally speaking is so much compared to so many others around the world - I ask you to reflect on what you want to leave behind for your children, relatives and subsequent generations - not just in possessions - but in the greater surrounding context, meaning the societial norms, cultural milieu and system of governance in which we live and operate.
The Pilgrims left behind the tradition of Thanksgiving, and the Founding Fathes left behind a government of, for and by the people. But if 'We the People' don't pay attention to who controls the media we rely upon to inform us, who funds the candidates who become government officials and who the government officials really are and what they really do - the greedy, power-hungry, usurping criminals circulating in the highest levels of our national power structure - will soon enough take most of it or all of it away from us.
This is our time. And this is now our story ... the story in which we all play a role. And future generations of Americans will judge us by what we preserved and built ... or by what we lost because we failed to take our responsibilities seriously and invest the time and thought and energy into doing the right things.
In the past, all great civilizations have collapsed, because those who inherited them failed to live up to their promise. Let us hope that we Americans can once again beat the odds, and hold off what seems an historical inevitability.
Best wishes to you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving.
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