Letter: A time to celebrate and to mourn
A time to celebrate and to mourn
Thanksgiving is both a time to celebrate and a time to mourn. Despite all the confusion and misinformation, there is good news about the harvest feast in 1621, now known as the First Thanksgiving. We Americans have much to celebrate: democracy, separation of church and state, consent of the governed, self-determination and equal and just laws serving the common good. These are the tenets of civil government that arose from the principles and ideals of the Mayflower pilgrims and the Indians they lived among in peace and friendship for 54 years.
We also have much to mourn. We can mourn the loss of the intercultural relationship that developed in Plymouth under the guidance of two visionary leaders: Governor William Bradford and Massasoit, sachem of the Pokanoket Wampanoags. We can mourn the disaster of King Philip’s War, which ended an unprecedented half century of friendship, and we can mourn alongside our Native brothers and sisters nationwide who have suffered enormously since that unique time in human history.
The origin story of the United States begins with the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrim-Wampanoag peace treaty and an intercultural feast, followed by a melding of cultures through more than half a century of friendship between the Mayflower pilgrims and the Pokanoket Wampanoags at Plymouth Plantation from 1621 to 1675.
American democracy and the American mind and spirit are the fruits of the seeds planted at Plymouth. There’s an untold story waiting to be told, a story that has been out of balance since the first telling of it. The telling of this story reflects the consciousness of the people who tell it. For centuries, we glorified the pilgrim and ignored the Indian except for the story of Squanto and the planting of corn that culminated in the First Thanksgiving. Now, for decades, in an effort to correct that imbalance, revisionist history has demonized the pilgrims with tales of misdeeds that never occurred. We now have a confused and confusing story. We are enmeshed in blame, shame, guilt and anger, with no one knowing what or who to believe.
The light and the shadow of the human psyche have been at play throughout history. It is as evident in the events playing out on the world stage today, as it has been through the ages. Every race and culture has its visionaries and its demons, its light and its shadow. This is a truth that must be recognized before we can move forward in the evolution of humanity.
William Bradford and Massasoit were visionary leaders who came together in friendship in one brief, shining moment at the very beginning of the American experience. Bradford and Massasoit set an example that can inspire future action if we choose to see the value in opening our hearts, coming together and moving to higher levels of being.
When Edward Winslow, pilgrim ambassador to the Indians, after saving the life of Massasoit, was asked how he dared come deep into Indian country alone, he stated: “Where there is true love, there is no fear, and my heart is so upright towards you, I am fearless to come amongst you.”
We can all be inspired by the examples of Bradford, Winslow and Massasoit. We can face, mourn and transcend the shadow of history. We can realize the promise that we the people of the United States of America made to the world. That is worth celebrating.
Connie Baxter Marlow
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