• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Thanksgiving, 2013

Thanksgiving and Chanukah coincide this year.  As Chanukah is a story of mankind’s struggle for freedom, it’s only right and proper that freedom be high on the list of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

And I am. … I am very thankful this Thanksgiving for the opportunity to live free in a free country in an increasingly free world.

I am also painfully aware of how far we still have to go.

Too many of us — men, women and children throughout America — throughout the world —will go to bed hungry on a day when others, surrounded by family and friends, eat way too much. Abstractions like freedom don’t mean much when your belly is empty.

For too many others, the joy of Thanksgiving will be tempered by the empty chair where a loved one no longer sits. A husband or wife killed serving his country. A friend who died after a long illness. A son or daughter murdered by a mad man with a gun. A favorite Uncle who passed away after a long and fruitful life.  Empty chairs where there used to be life.

And if you’re a Washington watcher like me, any joy in Thanksgiving is tempered by the antagonism and gridlock in our Nation’s capital.

It helps to take a longer term view. After all, Chanukah was 2,000 years ago.

*****

Rita and I were in London in September where we had a guided tour of the British Houses of Parliament. The building — the Palace of Westminster — has its origins in the 11th century. Standing in the main hall, walking through the House of Lords, seeing where the Prime Minister defends his government, I felt a part of an unbroken 900 year experiment in self-government.

Across the street from the Houses of Parliament is Parliament Square, a small park with statues of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. Rita and I talked about how interesting it was that England with 600 years more experience in the journey for freedom and self-government than us would have statues of Lincoln and Mandela in this park; the British recognizing that freedom and self-governance are not the province of this country or that country but an aspiration of people everywhere.

Our trip to London was the culmination of a trip that had begun nearly 3 weeks earlier in Bruges, Belgium. Bruges received its city charter in 1128 and, like England, represents nearly 900 years of this experiment in self-government.

Between Bruges and London, Rita and I visited Normandy, a moving reminder that freedom is never free, that there are those who would destroy freedom, that preserving freedom requires sacrifice. We walked the beaches of Omaha and Utah and visited the American Memorial and Cemetery. On this Thanksgiving as on all Thanksgivings, we have a duty to be thankful for their courage and sacrifice.

Our last day in Normandy, Rita and I visited the Caen Memorial and Peace Museum. The city of Caen had been destroyed in the 6 weeks after D-Day. Of the city’s 60,000 residents on the morning of June 6, 1944, more than 15,000 were killed, another 20,000 or more were evacuated and 10,000 buildings were destroyed. The Museum serves as both a warning and an inspiration.

*****

Go back to the beginning, to our very earliest experiments in governance that have been a part of our species since we started living together in cities.

When we take the long-term view we see a trend away from autocratic single-person or single-group political decision making and a trend towards increased expanded self-government, a trend towards more freedom for more people, not less.

From even before that first Chanukah 2,000 years ago to the origins of Parliament 1100 years later to that first Thanksgiving in 1621 to our own independence in 1776 to the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address four score and seven years later to D-Day in 1944 to the March on Washington a short 50 years ago in 1963, the long-term trend is towards increased freedom and an expansion of who gets to participate in self-government.

Lincoln captured the essence of this trend 150 years ago at Gettysburg: we are dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal and committed to government of the people, by the people and for the people.

While in London, Rita and I visited the UK Supreme Court, across Parliament Square from the Houses of Parliament. Written on a glass panel above the entrance to the Court’s library is the famous quotation from Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, written in the same year as the March on Washington: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

As commerce and technology continue to shrink our world, we are increasingly caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.

Let us be thankful this Thanksgiving that we are a part of this great garment of destiny. Our lives are its threads, woven together in rich patterns of family and community.

Let us give thanks to those who came before us, thankful for their struggles and efforts and sacrifices on behalf of freedom, doing their best in their time to meet the challenges of self-government.

Let us be thankful this Thanksgiving for the Blessings of Liberty that those who came before bequeathed to us and let us commit to bequeathing them to our posterity.

Our species is on a journey into a future in which increasing numbers of us will be able to live out their lives in accord with their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Let us be thankful for how far we have come and mindful of how far we still have to go.

Let Freedom Ring.

 

Copyright © 2013. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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