Grumbling is in the air…about impending American crises. Higher taxes, inflation and unemployment loom on the horizon. Unemployment (and underemployment) via high penalties will be incurred by companies and citizens unable to afford the new national healthcare. So, during this Thanksgiving season, it bears saying a few words about past American hard times. Lest we forget… we will survive! America has weathered hard times before, and we should be grateful for past successes— and insights to overcome American social change.
The first Thanksgiving in New England, 1621, was 3 days of celebration and prayer for the early pilgrims (those fleeing religious persecution in Europe.) They expressed thanks for surviving the arduous journey to the New World— thanks for the first harvest of food and the Wampanoag nation who showed them the way. Early settlers could not have succeeded without the nation who educated them about climate, growing seasons and the land. Some Wampanoag wanted alliances with the “Coat Men,” because they knew their world was changing. Some wanted to help fellow human beings.
Overcoming the treacherous voyage to the New World to establish meager homes in the wilderness cost the early pilgrims many lives. And survivors were not all happy, either. Some regretted what they’d left behind in Europe to start over. Others lived in fear for the future. Fear, like disease, spread through the people like wildfire, taking many lives. Including the Wampanoag.
There was much dissention among the Wampanoag and pilgrims— no-one knew what the future would bring. (see link above: “Historical Letters”) Bitter tales of expansion into all native territories would precede the birth of the United States.
Before the 13 colonies evolved into a United States, there was much dissention between colonists: those who would fight the British government (and greatest military power on earth,) vs. those who wanted to remain under the British crown. The two sides were amassing their support and arms throughout 1776, culminating on December 23, with “The American Crisis,” written by Thomas Paine: who lived among George Washington’s troops. On December 25, Washington ordered the booklet read to his troops—
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”
At 3:00 a.m. on December 26, George Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware in boats… and roused the British to the Battle of Trenton and colonial victory. But this bloody American Revolution war would rage for four long years. Afterwards, the constituents of the new country asked Washington to be their King. Yet, he kept the public at large waiting for 3 days before insisting that a new Republic should be the goal: no more imperialist monarch. But the United States Constitution– the hallmark of a government of written laws– would not be ratified until 1787. Why did this take so long? Dissent among the outspoken. Bitter dissension raged for years between the fledgling lawmakers– until tough compromises would yield the triad of democratic government America is today.
These ‘birthing pains’ were not lost on constituents. When the founders finally emerged with consensus from Independence Hall (Philadelphia,) one woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “what kind of government have you given us?” He replied, “a Republic: if you can hold on to it.”
It would be nearly 100 years before America again would find itself embroiled in blood and hate: the Civil War. The contention, of course, was slavery. A wicked practice: enslavement to build a country– but a practice, global-wide. Even Thomas Jefferson, on his death bed in July 4, 1826, told his surviving daughters, that the issue of slavery would be left to the future. He personally deplored the institution, yet needed hundreds of slaves to manage the 5000 acre estate, Monticello. From its porch, Jefferson glanced across the far country lands that, one day, would be the University of Virginia, a leader in education and law. But upon his deathbed, he voiced regret for the institution he knew would be divisive in America’s heritage and history. http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson
Southern states decried that the north had neither power nor right to dictate anti-slavery policies to them! The south represented the farmlands that fed the country, produced its cotton for sails that powered the expanding global commerce and slavery was the underpinning. Dissention split the United States, with southern states seceding from the union altogether and the stage was set for war. The Civil War almost ended the country altogether. It destroyed the old way of America– while giving birth to freedom for millions of deserving human beings, who’s only reason for being enslaved was the color of their skin. It took another 100 years to prove that all Americans are equal in the eyes of the written American law. But equality, finally, was won.
Following World War I, America saw wretched economic conditions: high inflation and unemployment, low wages and an absence of unified leadership. Unemployment in 1919 was 1.9 %; 5.2% in 1920; and 11/7% in 1921. Then-Republican presidential nominee, Warren Harding told gatherers at the Convention—
“We promise that relief which will attend the halting of waste and extravagance, and the renewal of the practice of public economy, not alone because it will relieve tax burdens but because it will be an example to stimulate thrift and economy private life.
Let us call to all the people for thrift and economy, for denial and sacrifice if need be, for a nationwide drive against extravagance and luxury, to a recommittal to simplicity of living, to that prudent and normal plan of life which is the health of the republic. There hasn’t been a recovery from the waste and abnormalities of war since the story of mankind was first written, except through work and saving, through industry and denial, while needless spending and heedless extravagance have marked every decay in the history of nations.” (The Real Crash, Peter Schiff; St. Martin’s Press, NYNY 2012, pg. 32; also, “Warren Harding and the Forgotten Depression of 1920,” Lew Rockwell.com, Oct. 19, 2009.)
Americans remains divisive about which path to take during our current economic climate. Should the government overspend revenues? Once again, America and the globe are experiencing birthing pains, economically and politically. How do we fix this? Through dissension and compromise. And prayer, just like the pilgrims. America was born in dissension… and America will prosper through dissension. That’s what America is all about! The right of our people to dissent! So, let’s give thanks this Thanksgiving, for our Republic and its architecture of petitioning government! Happy dissension, folks— just remember: to be a dissenter, ya gotta stay in the game! Get involved with government!
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!
© 2012 RightOnTheTruth.com
©Suzy Right 2012