Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Calm the division and just give thanks


In 1620, a group of religious separatists came to this new and completely unknown land, enduring hardship and facing death on the seas, in order to practice their faith as they understood it rather than accept the British king’s religion.
    Half of them died the first winter, but the Pilgrim’s experiment in independence survived, a city on a hill, with the eyes of the world upon them.
    In response, they thanked their God for their opportunity to serve their deity and to live their ideals. That’s how America came to celebrate its unique holiday, Thanksgiving. Our forebears drew strength from being together. This year, this Thanksgiving 2012, some Americans seem to favor drawing apart rather than together as the best way to continue forward.
    On the White House website “We the People” a little more than a week ago, a New Orleans suburbanite petitioned to allow Louisiana to secede from the United States. The fact that similar petitions were filed by people from all 50 states within a week could be dismissed as mischief except that Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have raised at least 25,000 signatures each in support, enough to trigger a White House review of the requests.
     According to a spokesman, and apparently without irony, Texas Gov. Rick Perry supports the sentiment at the same time that he “believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it.”
    There may be no word in the American lexicon that has more negative power than the word “secession.” Inevitably with secession come words like Civil War, Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Antietam. These words are not part of the vocabulary of a thankful nation. They were burned into our cultural and emotional memory by a struggle that killed or maimed millions, devastated families and left scars that have never disappeared.
    Secession must be a settled matter. Those who declare themselves to be great patriots, proclaiming American exceptionalism, American democracy and American Union, should not in anger suggest a willingness to abandon those very ideals. To do so is to play with that which came so close to destroying us.
    Katherine Lee Bates, in her song “America the Beautiful,” saw both our country’s weaknesses and an ability for God to mend those flaws. In this week, instead of secession, we would do well to remember those intrepid Pilgrims, to focus on our long history rather than our quadrennial national campaign, and, as a nation, just say thank you.




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