The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving: a Day for All to Embrace Gratitude


"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


While today’s Thanksgiving may not be your country’s day of gratitude, in the spirit of this blog and my own beliefs, may I humbly ask that we all still be thankful…Thankful for what we have, cognizant that others do not and that we fulfill ourselves by bringing joy and safety to others.

My own interest in immigration is so closely tied to this day that I want to round off this note by highlighting these two items.

First, one of the U.S.’s most famous recent immigrants penned a message about the significance of this day. The one and only Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

„In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate the plentiful harvest they reaped following their first winter in North America. Later, Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the national observance of Thanksgiving Day, and it has been celebrated annually since 1863.
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans come together to enjoy the fellowship of family and friends with a feast that symbolizes the many blessings in our lives. In California, we pause to consider our good fortune as residents of the Golden State. We give thanks for the richness of our resources, from our lush farmland to our vistas and from our metropolitan cities to our wilderness.
We are equally grateful for the resources of our people, whose determination and aspiration make our state a beacon of promise and prosperity.
In celebration of Thanksgiving, we recognize the Californians who came before us, those who triumphed over obstacles with courage and ingenuity. We proudly follow their trail to ensure that our state continues to be a land of freedom and opportunity for all.“




Governor Schwarzenegger visited the Sacramento Food Bank on Wednesday to ask all Californians to join him in remembering and supporting those less fortunate during this holiday season and throughout the year. Copyright, the State of California


Secondly, another immigrant celebrating Thanksgiving - ‘the most distinctly American holiday’ - wrote an excellent essay for the Wednesday Wall Street Journal. The inimitable, indispensable Christopher Hitchens (as always covering all bases) answers many a query you may have about this day:

„Concerning Thanksgiving, that most distinctive and unique of all American holidays, there need be no resentment and no recrimination. Likewise, there need be no wearisome present-giving, no order of divine service, and no obligation to the dead. This holiday is like a free gift, or even (profane though the concept may be to some readers) a free lunch--and a very big and handsome one at that. This is the festival on which one hears that distinct and generous American voice: the one that says "why not?" Family values are certainly involved, but even those with no family will still be invited, or will invite. The doors are not exactly left open as for a Passover Seder, yet who would not be ashamed to think of a neighbor who was excluded or forgotten on such a national day?

Immigrants like me tend to mention it as their favorite. And this is paradoxical, perhaps, since it was tentative and yet ambitious immigrants who haltingly began the tradition. But these were immigrants to the Americas, not to the United States.
You can have a decent quarrel about the poor return that Native Americans received for their kindness in leading Puritans to find corn and turkeys in the course of a harsh winter. You may find yourself embroiled, as on Columbus Day, with those who detest the conquistadores or who did not get here by way of Plymouth Rock or Ellis Island. ("Not for us it isn't," as the receptionist at Louis Farrakhan's Final Call once glacially told me, after I had pointed out that her boss had desired me to telephone that very day.) Even Hallowe'en is fraught, with undertones of human sacrifice and Protestant ascendancy. But Thanksgiving really comes from the time when the USA had replaced the squabbling confessional colonists, and is fine, and all-American. As with so many fine things, it results from the granite jaw and the unhypocritical speech of Abraham Lincoln. It seemed to him, as it must have seemed in his composition of the Gettysburg Address, that there ought to be one day that belonged exclusively to all free citizens of a democratic republic…“
(Click HERE for the rest of the essay)


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"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."
- Henry Ward Beecher


Thank you.


jo

Update/Correction: In the original post, I wrote that Christopher Hitchens was celebrating his first Thanksgiving as a naturalized US citizen. While he filed for citizenship with the then INS (now Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security) after September 11th, 2001 he is still waiting for his case to be processed. This error has now been corrected. It was upon reading Mr. Hitchen's "On Becoming American" that I made the overly optimistic assumption the bureaucracy had run its course by now. It's well worth reading.



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