Tuesday, November 25, 2008

To Whom and From Whom


On Thanksgiving Day Americans give thanks to God. Used to be everybody knew that but the multiculturalists among us have done their damnedest to hide it, so it’s become necessary to state it up front. When I ask my students about who is to be thanked on this national holiday, they look puzzled. “Indians?” they guess. That’s a clue about what we’re becoming in the 21st century. Only after discussing it some will a student say, “Wait a minute. Isn’t it God?” Those of us fortunate enough to have extended family members in their eighties can ask them the question as a kind of experiment. My prediction is that they, too, will look puzzled, but not because they don’t know the answer. They’ll be puzzled that anyone would even ask the question.

Americans face uncertainty this winter, but not the kind we thought we’d be facing. Just a few months ago we were worried about high fuel costs when gas prices and heating oil prices were around $4 per gallon. Those costs are back down to manageable levels, but now the economy itself is uncertain. People are being laid off. Nearly all of us know someone who has either gotten a pink slip or whose business has slowed dangerously. The stock market is doing a slow-motion crash. Corporations and banks are failing left and right and few economic advisors are predicting that bottom will be reached anytime soon. Unlike his soaring rhetoric during the campaign, our newly-elected president is sending out spokesmen to damper down expectations that he’s going to fix everything next year, the year after, or even in four years.

This year, I’m thankful for basic things like life, health, family, food, clothing, shelter, and heat. After several years of idleness, I’ve dusted off my chainsaws, dropped trees, and worked them up with my splitting maul - and it felt good. I’d almost forgotten how satisfying it can be to work on the woodpile when it’s getting cold. It’s simple and meaningful work in a complicated world. When I moved my young family to Maine thirty-one years ago, that became my routine because I had no choice. Oil was too expensive. The kids pitched in and it was all good. On the woodpile, there’s no disconnect between the work you do and the reason you do it. It’s hard work, there’s no better feeling than looking at a full woodshed when snow starts to fly. For a man whose job is to take care of his family, it’s a labor of love.

Back to basics is good. So is self-reliance. There was a time when Americans depended on themselves for just about everything and wouldn’t think of calling on government unless there were an emergency. There were no such things as entitlements. We were strong then because the only thing we felt entitled to was the opportunity to work. We always believed in helping each other, but that help was direct. It was bringing your tools over to your neighbor’s and working with him. It wasn’t in the form of government shaking you down for taxes to be spent on people you believe should be doing more for themselves. There’s no satisfaction in that.

Thanksgiving Day is uniquely American. It started with ordinary people celebrating the fruits of their own labor, working side by side for their common welfare - their life, their liberty, and pursuit of their happiness, all of which they knew were theirs by right. They also knew where those rights came from - from their Creator, not from their government. A century and a half later, their descendants put it down in writing and sent it to the king. On that day back in 1621 however, they gave thanks to God.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right on as usual, Tom. How long do you think this country could survive if there were no electricity and computers? Everything depends on electricty and computers today, even your car. When I was a kid (many years ago) we were almost self sufficient farmers here in North Baldwin. Now we wouldn't last long.

Harvey in North Baldwin

Claire said...

For the first time in American history we have a president elect who does not attend church on Sunday. I wonder who he'll be giving thanks to on Thursday. What does it say about a president who does not think it's important to go to church once a week? When he looks in mirror does Obama think there is no one greater than him? Oh that's right I forgot...he IS the messiah.

Anonymous said...

With todays populace holding out both hands for government goodies the reason for Thanksgiving ought to be abandoned. You are so right in that there is no good feelings as government takes our money and gives it away to those who do not deserve it. We have become a nation of whiners and lay-a-bouts and we shall reap what we sow.

Anonymous said...

Well, Bill Marvel says there is no God. Just darness like along sleep from which you never wake up. Marvel knows. He has been asleep for years.

Anonymous said...

Claire, are you an idiot or what?

Anonymous said...

In Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Unlike the American tradition of remembering Pilgrims and settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest. The harvest season falls earlier in Canada compared to the United States due to the simple fact that Canada is further north.

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did not succeed but he did establish a settlement in Northern America. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him - Frobisher Bay.

At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed 'The Order of Good Cheer' and gladly shared their food with their Indian neighbours.

After the Seven Year's War ended in 1763, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.

During the American Revolution, Americans who remained loyal to England moved to Canada where they brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada. There are many similarities between the two Thanksgivings such as the cornucopia and the pumpkin pie.

Eventually in 1879, Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years many dates were used for Thanksgiving, the most popular was the 3rd Monday in October. After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11th occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.

Finally, on January 31st, 1957, Parliament proclaimed...

"A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

- from the 'other' Tom.

Anonymous said...

Wood is good. After some time of not using it, I bought a wood furnace and five cords this spring when it appeared oil was going to remain through the roof. While it is more work than a senior such as I really need, it provides a vague sort of edification in that it makes the commodities traders (or is it traitors?), and poliwhores even a little more irrelavent than there already are.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Harvey,
The power went out at school the other day. No computers. No television. No internet. It was back to basics: chalk, talk, pen and paper. We survived.

Claire,
I almost prefer Obama at the gym than the phony Clintons filmed while clutching their Bibles as they emerge from church. Would you rather see the Obamas sitting and listening to Reverend Wright?

Anonymous I:
The last time I donated my time at a soup kitchen, I noticed that most of the "poor" people were fat. I haven't been back.

Anonymous II:
Marvel is what he is. He's out there with his opinions and he takes the flak. Nothing disingenuous about him and I can deal with that.

Anonymous III:
You're like the Beltway Sniper hiding in your anonymous trunk. What do you do when you're not online? Spray graffiti?

The Other Tom,
Thanks for the Canadian history lesson. Edifying.

Anonymous IV:
I burned a wood furnace for over twenty years - a Thermopride. It was either all the way open or all the way closed and it gunked up my chimney. I took it out. The wood I worked up this season I gave to my daughter - a struggling, single mother. I miss hanging my butt over a hot woodstove when I felt chilled.