• 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, 2018

Chaos … Disorder. Turmoil. Disruption. Upheaval. As Thomas Friedman wrote in early-October: The nation is deeply divided, with each side seeing the other as ‘the enemy.’ … we’ve moved from “partisanship,” which still allowed for political compromises in the end, “to tribalism,” which does not.

My team’s Blue. Your team’s Red. We have come to hate each other with the ferver of college football teams. [And here too, I’m Blue. Go Blue!!]

Our Government in Washington has evolved into a real-life parody of Groucho Marx singing “whatever it is, I’m against it.”

We the people seem to have lost our way.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We the people — you and me and our neighbors — are, as I write, altering, abolishing, and instituting new government as seems most likely to effect our safety and happiness. We’re not doing it with a Constitutional Convention like we did in 1787. Nor we pray will we have to do it through civil war. But we are in the midst of change. The revolution we started in 1776 continues.


It was 17 years ago that I felt compelled to put down in writing what I was thankful for that dark Thanksgiving, 2 ½ months after 9/11. Perhaps I felt a search for thankfulness might help me regain my moral balance in the aftermath of that terrorist attack. Little could I imagine that it was to take me on a 17-year quest for the soul of America.

I wrote in that first essay: I am most thankful for freedom, liberty, and a civil body politic, for it is through these that the myriad blessings of Providence emerge. And it is through reflecting on these, America’s fundamental principles, that we can see most clearly how we must now act.

I have now written more than 75 of these essays, each an exploration into the American character. What are our principles and how must we act if we are to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Lincoln framed America’s soul at Gettysburg: we are conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Even as we have fallen short – sometimes horribly short – this is America’s soul, our heart, our creed. It is what we the people aspire to. And it is what we have battled over for 250 years: the wide gap between our soul and our reality. As I wrote on Independence Day, 2017:

We have been to this place before. We were here at our birth, 241 years ago today. We were here again four score and seven years later. And again at Seneca Falls and Wounded Knee and the beaches of Normandy and the bridge at Selma and at Stonewall and Standing Rock, always returning to our creed: that we are all created equal.

And so we are here again.


The future is not a gift, it is an accomplishment.

Senator Robert Kennedy

To the extent history is a guide, periods of chaos always stabilize with the arrival of a new order. Our opportunity is to build this new order so that it most deeply connects to who we are as a people. If today’s chaos are the lemons, a renewed dedication to our most singular core value – that we are all created equal — is the lemonade.

It seems to me that this is what our history requires of us. Here’s what I wrote in my Memorial Day Essay in 2015:

This is the principle — that we are conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal — for which more than a million men and women gave their last full measure of devotion.

We can be certain that the men and women who died in the Middle East or in Vietnam or on the beaches of Normandy — that these men and women represented the full spectrum of American diversity — Gay. Straight. Black. White. Native American. Christian. Jew. Muslim. Liberal. Conservative. Even racists and bigots.

No matter what I believe about America, someone having diametrically opposite views died to protect my liberty. A slave-owner died in the War for Independence so that my generation could be free to launch the modern civil rights era.

If nothing else, America’s own history should be humbling. Who are we to deny anyone their freedom, when our own freedom is inextricably bound with theirs? As Martin Luther King, Jr described it “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” This reality frames our challenge.

Right now, if you look at media – social or otherwise – it’s mostly about the war between Blues and Reds. It’s either cheerleaders for one team or the other, or pundits discussing the war from their privileged ‘pundit’ position. All of it breeds “I’m right. You’re wrong” thinking.

We need a new kind of thinking in America, one that goes beyond “I’m right. You’re wrong.”  We need to put America’s creativity to the challenge of “It doesn’t matter who’s right. Let’s make America work for all of us.” The Hidden Tribes of America, a year-long study of More in Common, suggests roughly two-thirds of us feel the same way.

Let’s take this Thanksgiving as a time to remind ourselves that it’s not about “our team or “their team.” Let’s make this Thanksgiving about America’s team … all the good men and women across the wide-range of America’s political beliefs who hold in their hearts the principle that we are all created equal.


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

And let’s hold in our hearts as well, that perhaps our enemies are not our enemies; maybe they’re just like us, with their own sorrow and suffering.

Let Freedom Ring.



Copyright © 2018. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay provided the essay is reproduced unedited and in its entirety, its source is identified as The Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org, and this copyright NOTICE is included.

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  1. Tom Drucker says

    This is a beautiful and moving essay. Please read and pass it on. Happy thanksgiving to all. Let Freedom ring!

  2. I love this essay. Well said. Thank you Stan. “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” Jackie Robinson

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