Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

A little belated perhaps, but a thoughtful wish to all in America for a happy Thanksgiving. From my contact with the business world over there I know this is the last chance for a reasonable holiday before the privations of winter set in especially for those in the north.

A post by TFS brought this to mind. Being the man that he is, his emphasis is almost entirely on the religious aspects of Thanksgiving as primary. He links to another like-minded person who gives a quotation from Frenchman De Tocqueville.
The religion which declares that all are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law. Religion is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all it conflicts; the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims.

As one might expect, there should be (as I see it at least) one huge lot more than that for America to be thankful for.

It is horrendously out of context, I know, but no more so that the original quote and quite likely the translation as well. Not being a French-speaking scholar of De Tocqueville I am not going to take it any further than that.

First up, as I pointed out to TFS, that passage was written in the mid-1800’s, 1851 if Wiki is to be believed. At that time “citizen’s rights” were defined in a manner that would today rank beside the likes of Iran, 1950’s South Africa, and China.

To be clear, I am including under the heading of “citizen’s rights” such forgotten things as –

The right to vote.
The right to own property.
The right to unrestricted travel.

Those rights were not universal in the US in the 1850’s. I have to concede that the right to vote was not universal in NZ until 1869.

That being the case, the thought led me to think what would I be thankful for if a similar religious festival were in place in NZ.

First I think would have to be for the blessing (look it up in the Oxford TF, I am not going religious yet. It means “something to be thankful for…”) of having been born in this country, for its freedom, its bounty and beauty.

Immediately after that would come the people who have fought to make it, and keep it, that way. The likes of Hobson, Williams, Hone Hika, Te Whiti, as the foundation stones, followed by Kate Shepheard, Apirana Ngata, and even Richard Seddon and Michael Joseph Savage would be worth a passing thought. The servicemen and women of the six wars fought overseas – Boer, WW1, WW2, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam.

It is there that the difference would lie. I doubt that many of those listed would consider themselves “divinely inspired” apart from Williams who was a Minister and Missionary. For the rest, I suspect that much of what they achieved would fall into the “95% perspiration” category.

So it is likely that if I were in America now, I would be thanking a whole bunch of people for their work and sacrifice in building what America is today and striving to keep and better all that is good in that nation.


Jeremy said...

Yes, indeed, we've all played a part in making America what it is today.

And just what is it, exactly?

One thing we can be sure of is the US isn't a dictatorship. If it were, the authorities would have told us.

T. F. Stern said...

A tip of the hat to you for entertaining the line, "…I am not going religious yet…”, which shows a certain degree of open-mindedness, minimal to be sure. That word “yet” carries with it hope and permits further discussion.

Your observations are well noted and deserve acknowledgement, without the efforts of those mentioned, the freedoms and liberties we now enjoy would not have been possible; however, there are other days set aside for observing the accomplishments and sacrifices made by patriots, Thanksgiving Day is set aside in recognition of the bounty of blessing afforded by God.

The probligo said...

Jeremy, dictatorship, I agree not.

But I have doubts that you could truly term America as a "Democracy". The detail is long in the argument, but in brief you can only vote for the candidates selected by party mechanisms, you can only vote for candidates and not for (or against) proposed policies, and there is no protection against "hidden" policies.

:) ;) TF. I think that the closest I have gotten to religion since I was expelled from Sunday School would come from the Chinese. Lin Yutang ("The Importance of Living" is the book I have) is well worth a read. He brings up the ideal of the aged man, living free and simply, living with great respect for those around him, and earning the same in return. There is a strong Bhuddist link through Tao. Somewhere in there might be a hook that catches this fish.

I would like to know on what day America honours people such as Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Andrew Hamilton, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Geronimo, and the many others who played their part in the formation of modern America. Why did I leave out Martin L King? He is the man who stood on the shoulders of others. He is commemorated with his own holiday.

T. F. Stern said...

A short answer to your inquiry would be that those who appreciate what has been done for them in the past by such heroic individuals live their lives in such a way as to show that gratitude.

If you've seen the movie, Saving Private Ryan, at the end of the movie, standing in front of the grave site of his captain, the one who died that he might live, the now aged Private Ryan asks his wife if he has lived up to such actions by those who died to get him home, to have a post war life, to have a family and live out his dreams. Am I an honorable man? he asks.

This is the type of life we should all live, a statement that acknowledges all who have paid for our freedoms.