November 24, 2014

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

When most people think of Thanksgiving, their thoughts often shift to the images of pilgrims and Native Americans, a fable from America’s early days before it was ever anything resembling a nation.

What some forget is that one of the reasons we celebrate this holiday is because President Lincoln, in the depths of the Civil War, declared the final Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving, and it has been recognized on this date ever since.

So though this holiday is often considered to be one of peace and togetherness, it is worth remembering that it was born during a time of incredible, almost inconceivable strife.

Tonight, I am driven to revisit what I feel is one of the finest pieces of writing about not simply this country, but the soul of humanity, the desire for respect and equality, and the recognition that the fight for such things is likely to be never ending.

We go to bed tonight in a world mired in strife, and we will wake up in that same world. But I am struck by these words, the “unfinished work for which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” I am bitterly saddened that for some in this world, the fight is not one in which they have a choice: for some in this world, in this country, and in our very neighborhoods, they are forced to fight simply because they are alive. To exist in this world is to be brought into never ending conflict with it as we have made it.

And we have made it – do not forget that.

But it is especially cruel to me that the blood that has consecrated these lands – be they in Missouri, or Ohio, or Florida, or Georgia, or in any number of such civilized regions – is so often the blood of children, who perhaps were dispatched from this world before they could ever mature enough to comprehend it.

At times it seems that the act of giving thanks is a bitter one, for it may be merely a recognition that some of us have, through sheer luck and the power of privilege, been given an embarrassment of riches that are denied to others. To thank the world for what we have received feels at times to participate in unspeakable corruption and injustice. I struggle to reconcile what I have with what I see on my television screen.

I am thankful, I suppose, for the weak, glimmering hope I still foster that we may overcome the burdens we have laid upon ourselves. I am thankful to see citizens passionately determined to make this matter. I am thankful, I suppose, for tomorrow, and the promises it might bring, however distant, and however difficult.