I was really surprised when I moved to Louisiana and found out that Memorial Day was a Yankee Holiday. The state of Mississippi tends to ignore it completely. The first national Thanksgiving day came via proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in 1863. Also, the Pilgrims were New Englanders so it seems to me if ever there were a “Yankee” holiday, it would be Thanksgiving.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
This would have appalled his predecessor Thomas Jefferson who spoke these words in his 1805 inaugural address.
In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the power of the General Government. I have, therefore, undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.
One of my favorite memories surrounding Thanksgiving was the report card that came home with Doctor Daughter in Kindergarten. It seems I had neglected my duties of describing the mythical pilgrim/native american feastday that now pervades our celebration. The teacher was confused about Jean’s thoughts on Thanksgiving. The kids were asked to describe what Thanksgiving means and my darling little 5 year old talked about our end of November trip to the cabin up in Estes Park and that we always play card games and hope for snow so we can go skiing!!! We never had TV there so there was even a day of peace and quiet from football games. We usually got snowed in too so there was just a lot of game playing and cooking while looking down the mountain to the valley below.
In the 19th century, the modern Thanksgiving holiday started to take shape. In 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of a magazine called Godley’s Lady’s Book, campaigned for an annual national thanksgiving holiday after a passage about the harvest gathering of 1621 was discovered and incorrectly labeled as the first Thanksgiving.
It wasn’t until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared two national Thanksgivings; one in August to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and the other in November to give thanks for “general blessings.”
So, like many other things that we do in modern America, the truth about the holiday is quite different. It seems that the Victorians and post World War 2 Americans defined the traditions that we think about as being with us much longer. Here’s a take on thanksgiving by Robert Jensen who reminds us how we’ve treated Native Americans since that first shared harvest.
One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.
In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.
Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits — which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.
That the world’s great powers achieved “greatness” through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.
I find it odd that Jensen did not take the time to read the Lincoln proclamation with its call for prayer “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience”. SO much, for American exceptionalism. Isn’t it interesting to look at things beyond the propaganda of those who benefit from pushing the consumerist aspects of national holidays and warping them into something unintended?
Let’s take a look at a few more things today.
The head of the Church of England is the Queen Elizabeth II. This makes this crisis in the COE created by the laity of the church all the odder. Bishops and clerics approved the change.
In a sign of deepening crisis in the Church of England after it rejected the appointment of women as bishops, its spiritual leader said Wednesday that the church had “undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility” and had a “lot of explaining to do” to people who found its deliberations opaque.
The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, was speaking after an emergency meeting of bishops called to debate Tuesday’s narrow balloting by its General Synod rejecting the ordination of women as bishops, even though female priests account for one-third of the Church of England’s clergy members.
Female priests hold senior positions like canon and archdeacon, and some had been hoping to secure appointments as bishops by 2014 if the change had been approved.
The vote represented a direct rebuff to Archbishop Williams’s reformist efforts during his 10 years as head of the church and a huge setback to a campaign for change that has been debated intensely and often bitterly for the past decade.
More than 70 percent of the 446 synod votes on Tuesday were in favor of opening the church’s episcopacy to women. But the synod’s voting procedures require a two-thirds majority in each of its three “houses”: bishops, clergy and laity. The bishops approved the change by 44 to 3, and the clergy by 148 to 45. The vote among the laity, though, was 132 to 74, six votes fewer than the two-thirds needed.
The Church of England is the so-called established church, meaning that it is recognized by law as representing the official religion, enjoys special privileges and is supported by the civil authorities.
Whacky old Pat Robertson is trying to explain how he got his conversation with gawd so terribly wrong a few weeks ago. How many gullible people can dance on the head of a pin?
Today, responding to a question from a viewer who wondered why her business is struggling since she thought God told her it would be successful, Robertson admitted that he sometimes misses God’s message. “So many of us miss God, I won’t get into great detail about elections but I sure did miss it, I thought I heard from God, I thought I had heard clearly from God, what happened?” Robertson replied, “You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I have a lot of practice.”
SOS Hillary Clinton and the Egyptian foreign minister brokered a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.
Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state
“The US welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza – for it to hold the rocket attacks must end and a broader calm must return. The people of this region deserve the chance to live free of fear and violence.”
Under intense Egyptian and American pressure, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas halted eight days of bloody conflict on Wednesday, averting a full-scale Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip without resolving the underlying disputes.
With Israeli forces still massed on the Gaza border, a tentative calm descended after the announcement of the agreement. The success of the truce will be an early test of how Egypt’s new Islamist government might influence the most intractable conflict in the Middle East.
The United States, Israel and Hamas all praised Egypt’s role in brokering the cease-fire as the antagonists pulled back from violence that had killed more than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis over the past week. The deal called for a 24-hour cooling-off period to be followed by talks aimed at resolving at least some of the longstanding grievances between the two sides.
Let’s all enjoy the things and people we have in our lives today but not forget that perversity still exists in the world.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?