What the &%$#? Election Musings.

2 Comments

us-flag-upside-down-370x229

In the wake of recent Electoral Events, I will be posting a series of Commentaries, probably beginning next week through early December. I truly hope to contribute to the dialogue, and invite your comments on my posts.

Unlike the Republicans during President Obama’s administration, I do not hope for and will not work for a failed Trump Presidency. I hope he jettisons all of his campaign rhetoric and does a great job, and I support him in any good things he will do.

These blogs will be for perspective, and for going forward.

Note: I have strong opinions and statements, and I back up what I say with evidence. If you share ideas, please back them up with evidence, not just feelings. I’ll outline that in my blogs. You are free to have feelings, but feelings ≠ (do not equal) evidence.

I do not believe—no, I know—that there are not two sides to every story (there are sometimes, but not always). Sometimes one side is true, and one side is false, and no amount of believing will make the other side true: e.g. Earth is round: Case Closed. Our Media must realize this and act accordingly.

God Bless America!

Future topics:

  • Theoretical Methodology. What are facts and Truth, as opposed to Truthiness?
    • A Reading List that will allow you to understand exactly what is taking place
    • The creation of Idiot America where the gut rules, and intellect is despised.
  • The context of this election against the understanding of the Eleven Nations of North America.
  • How I dealing with my stages of grief.
  • How the 2016 Election results happened.
    • How the Republican obstructionist, the Tea Party and Movement Conservatism opened the door.
    • How Trump manipulated the electorate
      • Dog Whistle arguments
      • Enlisting White Rage
      • Enlisting Misogyny
      • Rhetorical techniques
      • Who is Trump after all?
    • How the Democrats were asleep at the switch
    • The Media’s epic failure to cover this election equitably
      • What’s wrong with the media’s approach of two sides to every issue, when there are really not?
    • Extra-campaign factors
      • James Comey and the FBI: motivations
      • Wikileaks
      • Putin and Russia
      • The European phenomenon of whites-first politics (Brexit, Austria, Hungary, Finland, et al.)
  • How Movement Conservatism has bamboozled America (It’s a Con of awesome proportions, let me tell you!)
    • How they have created a state of Invincible Ignorance in almost half of our nation’s people
      • How to invade and conquer Invincible Ignorance
  • Exposing the Right-Wing efforts–successful–to suppress voting
  • The guilt of Fundamentalist and right wing Protestants, and Right-Wing Catholic Bishops in this whole mysoginistic mess as they betray Christ and drive people away from Him and toward the Right-Wing.
  • How we can neutralize the Electoral College without a Constitutional Amendment or Convention, and  enter 21st Century reality.
  • How we progressives can and must work humbly and contritely to convince America that our agenda is good for Everyone!

Steven A. Armstrong

 

Update: Here’s a posting I sent to friends (real friends) on Facebook:

 

OK my (real, not FB) friends, since you’ve all been in the discussions.  I’m not going to belabor this, since I am preparing probably a month of Blog Posts putting forth my whole argument. See the preview at www.stevenaarmstrongsf.com . Here are my basic points:

 

  1. I love you as my friends, and nothing will change that. Bottom line.
  2. The Donald has to prove himself to me. See #9 below for how he’s blowing it so far. The clock is ticking.
  3. I have messaged the poster of the homophobic car note and asked him to verify. He is an Episcopal Priest. I have heard back and the note is genuine. I have verified it. This happened to a real Gay Episcopal married priest, not the poster. Shame!!
  4. I’m sorry the college student lied about the Hijab. That’s wrong, and perhaps actionable. She made a very bad mistake which then plays into the other camp’s hands.
  5. Anything I post, please fact-check. I want to be accurate about facts.
  6. I can assure you—and you know me to be an honorable man—there are millions of us out here who are terrified at the promises DJT made during the Campaign. If you don’t accept that, I don’t know what to say. Talk to people outside your circle.
    1. I must be honest with you. A vote for Trump viscerally feels to me like a repudiation of everything I have worked for my entire life. Sorry, but that what it feels like to me. It doesn’t mean I don’t still like my friends who voted for Trump, but this is personal for me.
    2. We are particularly terrified at the possible effects on SCOTUS. God help us!
  7. I heard a very wise statement the other day: “Those who took Trump seriously, did not take him literally. Those who did not take him seriously took him literally.” I take the man at his word…and it scares the hell out of me.
  8. I cannot for the life of me understand how we listened to the exact same Trump rallies and speeches and tweets, and you don’t see how hate-filled his whole campaign was with Dog Whistles everywhere.
  9. World perspective: White Europeans and their descendants are trying to claw back the power they have lost since they conquered the world in the 16th-19th Centuries: see Brexit, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Russia, and now us. As a Sion of Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, I reject this movement: Anathema Sit!
  10. I cannot for the life of me understand how we listened to the exact same Trump rallies and speeches and tweets, and you don’t see how he either lied or just made stuff up as he went along. No drought in CA, no Climate change, and so forth and so on. No contact with Russia, when Russia affirms his staff was in contact.
  11. I cannot for the life of me understand how when you see the gang of thieves, cut-throats, white supremacists, homophobes, and cronies he is loading his transition team with, you are not as appalled as I am. My heavens, Steve Bannon, the very heart and soul and enabler of the evil Alt-Right! How can you countenance that?
    1. Doesn’t it bother you that White Supremacists and the KKK laud him? They know his true agenda.
  12. I do not care in the slightest that George Soros may be assisting the protests. The Koch Brothers do the same thing with the Tea Party, etc. I’m a Soros fan! Thank God we have some rich guys on the peoples’ side.
  13. One of the ways Trump won was by the racist voter suppression laws in many States which are tantamount to a resurrected Jim Crow. I believe that the US should issue a free National ID Card to all actual citizens, and that all citizens be compelled to vote as in Australia. They can vote a blank ballot if they want. Any one—like Fr. Deacon Paul Weyrich, with whom I served at the Altar, one of the founders of Movement Conservatism and its unholy alliance with Right-wing Christianity—who says “We don’t want everyone to vote” is un-American. I pray for his repose. He died of a terrible illness. A great Deacon, a terrible politician. We both loved trains. You see, I have been at the Heart of the Beast and understand it from the inside.
  14. Some of my basic principles:
    1. There are not two legitimate sides to every story. The media does not have to give time to “both sides” when one is demonstrably false by any valid test. For example, Pence says tobacco doesn’t cause cancer. Sorry Mike, you are just wrong. No justification for listening to you on that. The world is round: No time need be spent on alternate theories.
    2. The greatest evil threatening our nation is “Movement Conservatism,” which is a quasi-religious Cult. I’m not talking about ordinary conservative thinkers. I mean the doctrinaire cult that brought us trickle-down economics, etc., and now has control of Congress. Far more dangerous to us and to the world than Daesh or Al Qaida. And the Republican Party, once the dignified GOP of Eisenhower and Rockefeller, is its biggest victim.
      1. Example: The Left and Right are not equivalent. Liberal think-tanks were created to examine problems from a purely objective standpoint and avoid all partisanship, finding fact-based solutions. Conservative think-tanks eschew all objectivity and were created solely to press for the Movement Conservative agenda. The first is genuine, the second is partisan hogwash.
    3. The New Deal is the greatest achievement of our Nation’s social policy. Of course it had flaws and needs updating over time, but I stand by Our Father and Mother among the Saints, Franklin and Eleanor. I will fight every attempt to destroy it.
    4. The Left, and in particular, the Democratic Party, has made many mistakes. I do not claim infallibility for them at all. In particular, in this election, they did not take account of the rise of White Rage, the disaffection of many of the white middle-class, and the fickleness of minority voters. They did not effectively get out the vote.
      1. The rule by experts of Kennedy and Johnson administrations had many missteps. It’s still the right way, but we need to humbly admit it needs work.
    5. Finally, I intuit very deeply that we are in mid-1930s Germany.
      1. Trump wants to keep holding rallies! Can we say Nuremberg and Reichsparteitag?
      2. He has no concept of how a Democracy works. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.
      3. Here are the key notes of Fascism. They sound like DJT to me:

Nationalism: Fascism seeks to solve economic, political, and social problems by achieving a millenarian national rebirth, exalting the nation or race above all else, and promoting cults of unity, strength, and purity

Totalitarianism: It opposes liberal democracy, rejects multi-party systems, and supports a one-party state, which we now have with all the power with the Republicans.

Economics: Some of this does not fit Trump. I am an honest guy. But this part does: Fascists criticized egalitarianism as preserving the weak. They instead promoted social Darwinist views.

Action: Fascism emphasizes direct action, including supporting the legitimacy of political violence, as a core part of its politics. See his rallies.

Age and gender roles: His misogyny, sexual abuse, and a retrograde gender view.

  1. My conversations with my European and other foreign friends confirm that everyone else in the world already sees this. Those who cannot see it here are simply self-deluded. I’m sorry, I must be blunt. There is no American Exceptionalism.
  2. This is my credo. I will not be silent:
                                  First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. — Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

 

                                               i.

I am doing this for you, to save all of us! You have no idea the evil that has been loosed upon us.

Enough for tonight. I will continue my battle tomorrow and the next, and the next until we have built Jerusalem in America’s green and pleasant lands.

 

Please God, Truly bless America, and make her The City set on a Hilltop.

My modern adaptation of the Troparion of the Holy Cross in my Byzantine Christian tradition:

“O Lord, save Thy People and Bless Thine Inheritance,
granting to Thy People Victory over any who oppose Justice!
And by the Power of Thy Cross, Preserving Thy Commonwealth!”

Here’s the video:

NB: Some of the accents are wrong in the Greek–not my doing! They forgot the rule about grave accents on the ultima before other words. Ah well!

The sacred meaning is still intact!

 

Christmas Music Matters: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Hodie

Leave a comment

Good Morning Everyone! Christmas is almost here for those of us on the Gregorian and/or Revised Julian Calendars! Those on the Old (Julian) Calendar are looking forward to our Calendar’s January 7.

Today I wanted to share with you a marvelous Cantata written by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

If you are looking for something to provide a wonderful Christmas Eve meditation hour, I can think of few pieces more wonderful. It’s as old as I am, having been penned in 1953-1954, at the same time that The Lord of The Rings began publication.

It is patterned in some ways on the traditional Ceremony of Lessons and Carols of the Anglican Church, but is unique. Vaughan-Williams had the great gift of combining music of soaring beauty with the sounds of working class Britain. It is music with tremendous energy, mystery and joy! One can most certainly hear that Vaughan-Williams and Tolkien are part of the same amazing cultural heritage.

The title Hodie comes from the first word of the Introit for Christmas Day in the Western Liturgy, which we will discuss in a couple of days. It means, “Today.”

I will step out of the way and let you enjoy it.

Here is the complete text. Recordings are widely available.

Here is the whole playlist on You Tube.

To whet your appetite, here is the opening:

Merry Christmas!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

 

 

Christmas Music Matters: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Leave a comment

As another meditation on Christmas Music, I offer for your consideration  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “Christmas Bells,” better known as “I heard the bells on Christmas Day.” It was originally written as a poem in 1863 during the American Civil War, and set to music in 1872 by the English organist, John Baptiste Calkin:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound
The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn
The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Here is the familiar Calkin version:

This hymn has been adapted many, many times, its message is so universal. Here is a particularly moving version for your meditation:

And another:

There’s not much more for me to add. Sing the hymn, meditate on it, and let’s make Peace real.

Merry Christmas!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Christmas Music Matters: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Leave a comment

Christmas Music Matters!

During this Season, we hear Christmas Carols everywhere. We should, however, extract them from the Muzak of Elevator Music and take heed to the very important message many impart. For Christians who celebrate this Feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is, itself, connected to and expressive of the Birth of the New Light at the Winter Solstice, Christmas Music, including the Western Christmas Carol tradition, teaches us the real meaning and impact we are called to implement in the world.

Today, let’s listen to an old favorite, 1849’s “It came upon the midnight clear” by Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,1
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled2
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not3
The love-song which they bring;4
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,5
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,6
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,7
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold8
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,9
And the whole world give back the song10
Which now the angels sing.
— Original five-stanza hymn

Modified renderings:

1Peace on the earth, goodwill to all
2Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
3And warring humankind hears not
4The tidings which they bring
5O hush the noise and cease your strife
6And you, beneath life’s crushing load
7By prophets seen of old
8Shall come the time foretold
9When the new heaven and earth shall own
The prince of Peace their King
10And all the world give back the song

There are two musical settings for the hymn,  “Carol,” composed by Richard Storrs Willis,  the version best known in America:

and “Noel,” adapted from an English melody by A. Sullivan, best known in the U.K.:

We should note that the last stanza alludes to the coming Golden Age, prophesied by the Sibyl and Vergil, which inspired the inscription on the Reverse of the Great Seal of the United States:

Latin English
Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas; Now comes the final era of the Sibyl‘s song;
Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo. The great order of the ages is born afresh.
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna, And now justice returns, honored rules return (or return of Saturn’s reign);
iam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto. now a new lineage is sent down from high heaven.

I don’t think I need to say much more. Sing through this marvelous poem and meditate on its message of Peace that the Logos Incarnate has come to inspire in us.

Merry Christmas!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

"Great Seal of the United States (reverse)" by IpankoninThis vector image was created with Inkscape. - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg#/media/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg

“Great Seal of the United States (reverse)” by IpankoninThis vector image was created with Inkscape. – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg#/media/File:Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(reverse).svg

Mr. Trump: Here’s What’s Up with Daesh and the West

1 Comment

Mr. Trump, the front running Republican Presidential Candidate asked an interesting question in his now-infamous call for all Muslim travel/immigration to the U.S. to be halted until “U.S. Representatives figure out what is going on.”

trump

Well, Mr. Trump, we know very well what is going on, and what the Daesh Pigs, Al Qaida and others are using as excuses and ways to radicalize people. Let’s look at these issues step by step.

And, as an aside, a religious test for entrance into the United States is Unconstitutional. If we follow your plan, we stop being America.

By the way, I am officially adopting ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, = the acronym Da’ish or Daesh (داعش, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]) to speak about these repulsive people. Watch the video below to find out why. From Facebook: ” [They] consider the acronym Da’ish derogatory because with the appropriate grammatical conjugation it sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes, “a bigot who crushes something/someone underfoot”, and Dahes, “one who sows discord” They reportedly use flogging and the cutting out of tongues to punish those who use the term in areas under its control.” Daesh it is!

And I must emphasize at the beginning, nothing here is meant to excuse or defend terrorism. There can be no excuse. This is only a quest for understanding.

Radicalizing the Hopeless

It is relatively simple to radicalize those who are hopeless, or think they are hopeless. David Brooks reminded us recently of a seminal work by Eric Hoffer written in 1951 which still rings true today. In The True Believer, Hoffer demonstrates how people living in a situation they believe is hopeless are very vulnerable to manipulation. Here is an excellent summary of the book’s arguments.

Many in the Arab World, and some in the Non-Arab Muslim World live in this kind of environment. (Some of the causes for this situation will be discussed in the next section.) Add to this the conditions of years of war in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the potential to radicalize people in those environments is very high indeed.

27saudi.600

Most of the Arab Governments are dictatorships of one kind or another, and real freedoms are hard to come by. Jordan and Palestine stand out as more genuine democracies, but the Palestinians, as we know, have a desperate situation which must be solved for the good of both Israel and Palestine.

In the non-Arab Muslim world, such as in Pakistan and Somalia and other parts of Africa, generations of seething resentment and strife make some vulnerable to radicalization. It is easy to make the West a target for their ills. Iran, of course, is a somewhat singular case, and has its own State reasons for disliking America, while the Iranians themselves are very favorably disposed toward the West and America.

In Western Europe, the social conditions of many Muslim immigrants are often difficult. It is easy to become an American, we are a nation of Immigrants. It is not so easy to become French, German, etc. Even living in Western Countries, some Muslim immigrants feel marginalized from the surrounding society, and are seemingly unable to find adequate employment and social acceptance. They are stuck, forever being “the Other.” It does not matter whose fault this is, it is how they experience life.

All of these situations are fertile breeding grounds for legions of new “True Believers,” disempowered, hopeless people looking for a way out.

The_True_Believer_(book)

These factors certainly explain how men and women in these situations can easily be radicalized. But how does a native-born American Muslim like Syed Rizwan Farook of the 2015 San Bernardino massacre get radicalized. How did they convince him?

To answer that, we need to look at History to see what Daesh and other similar groups use as rationales to radicalize those who are not disempowered and in despair.

A Brief Primer in Islamic-Western History

There can be no real doubt that Islam began on a martial path. The Prophet Muhammad was indisputably a leader of armies, and Islam rapidly expanded through conquest in the 7th Century and after.

dde8d54304d44ab47077f1364ddeb801.jpg

As history proceeded, Islam “cooled down,” and gradually become more peaceful. Today, 1,400 years later, it is, as many call the faith, a religion of Peace. The Mystical Paths of Sufism (which some claim transcends Islam) and Ismāʿīlism are deeply spiritual paths, among the most beautiful of world spiritualities.

By comparison, Judaism went through a militant phase (remember all those wars clearing Palestine after the Exodus?), as did Christianity from about 320 – through the 20th century Protestant-Catholic conflicts in Northern Ireland. Violent Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists are still an active threat in the United States. Mainstream Judaism and Christianity have cooled down too.

tumblr_nywyuhbCpV1rncbh7o2_r2_500

The Crusades?

Many point to the Crusades as the primary example of the West’s aggression against Islam. I am not one of those.

Islamic armies had conquered many parts of what had been the lands of the Roman Empire. It was therefore quite natural that the Empire would strike back to reclaim its territory. The Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos appealed to the Roman Pope Urban II in 1095 requesting Western European troops to aid in his project of reconquest of lands lost to Islamic forces.

Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos βασιλεύς Ἀλέξιος Αʹ Κομνηνός

Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos: ὁ Ῥωμαίων βασιλεύς Ἀλέξιος Αʹ Κομνηνός

If the Western armies had been disciplined and loyal to the Imperial Throne, it would have been a very different outcome. Tragically, however, the Westerners were loyal in lip service only, and plundered and pillaged their way to Jerusalem, setting up their own Western Kingdoms. In Jerusalem and elsewhere the Crusaders indiscriminately killed Muslims, Jews and Middle Eastern Christians. The streets ran red with blood.

Naturally, the Crusades are a bitter memory for Middle Eastern Muslims, but they fought back, and because of the internal divisions of the Christians, were able to finally regain all of their territory, and eventually conquer the Roman Empire itself in 1453. They understood at the time that this was simply the Empire Game.

I think that the stigma of the Crusades is largely optics today, and not a real source of recruitment. For that, we must look to the much more recent past.

The Decaying Ottoman Empire and World War I

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Ottoman Empire which had occupied the Roman Capital of Constantinople in 1453 was old and decadent. Its subject peoples were restive.

T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence

During World War I, Sherif Hussein bin Ali led an Arab revolt against Ottoman Rule in 1916. The British and their allies instigated this in the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence of 1916, as part of the general war effort, since the Ottoman Empire was allied with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was a young British Officer who fought with the Arabs. In this alliance, the Triple Entente Allies (The British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) promised the Arabs their own Kingdom or Kingdoms for supporting the Allies in the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence.

At the successful completion of World War I, the British, French, and Russians did not fulfill their bargain. Indeed, they had never intended to do so. In 1916 they had negotiated a secret treaty, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up the Arab Lands as protectorates and territories. The British also occupied and ran Egypt. So they had been lying to the Arabs all the time.

  • Deep Blue: French occupation.
  • Orange: British occupation.
  • Green: Russian occupation.
  • Light Blue: Zone “A” French protectorate.
  • Light Orange: Zone “B” British protectorate.
  • Violet: International zones.

When the Bolsheviks revealed the secret treachery after the Russian Revolution, the Arabs were outraged. But rather than back down, the British and French set up puppet governments in their areas. The United States stood by. The Arabs stewed.

The Anti-Communist West of the Cold War

After World War II, the United States, and the West in general, were gripped with the fear of Communism. Therefore we supported dictatorial leaders in the Middle East, so long as they were anti-Communist. Perhaps the most egregious example was the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He was put on the throne in 1941 following a British-Russian invasion which toppled the government of his father.

The Last Shah of Iran

The Last Shah of Iran

He was a Westernizing reformer, but brutally savage to his own people with his Secret Police. When Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh began in 1951 to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Industry, the West became alarmed. and in 1953, the British MI6 asked the American CIA to intervene. We did, and Mossaddegh was deposed and imprisoned, the Shar regained power, and Western oil interests were safe. But Iran and the rest of the Middle East saw how things were, and how the West acted toward them.

Our support of dictators in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere did not endear us to the Arab peoples.

Maronite Divine Liturgy

Lebanese Maronite Divine Liturgy

Lebanon’s experience was different. When they gained independence from France in 1943, the majority of the country was Christian. Their unwritten National Pact set up a balanced government guaranteeing all parties representation. This all fell apart during the late 20th Century and into the 21st Century due to a number of outside interventions by Syria, Israel, the PLO, Hezbollah, as well as the Lebanese Civil War. This has caused the situation of conflict despair we spoke of first.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and its Aftermath

Finally, of course, there is the case of the Balfour Declaration of 1917:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The basis of this was the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence which had excluded the coastal portions of the Levant (modern-day Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine) from the proposed Arab Kingdom because they were not exclusively Arab or Muslim.

Another motivation was that the movement for Zionism was strong in the United States, including two of President Wilson’s top advisors, and several of the leaders of the Russian Revolution were Jewish. Britain wanted to strengthen its alliance with both in World War I, and they also wanted Jewish support at home. This was a calculated act.

As we know, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” did not exactly work out that way. Thus, another huge Western intervention is still a flash point.

220px-Balfour_Declaration_in_the_Times_9_November_1917

Let me be exceedingly clear on this point:

I fully and unequivocally support the existence and security of the State of Israel. I see this as a parallel with the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches that were lured away from their Orthodox Churches by Roman Catholic economic, political and military means (this then excludes the Russian Byzantine Catholics, the Italo-Greek Catholics, the Maronites, and the Melkite Greek Catholics as these were not coerced unions). I may not agree with the way in which many of the Eastern Catholic Churches, or Israel, were created, but I stand firm on their right to exist today.

I also fully and unequivocally support the existence and security of a sovereign, independent Palestinian State.

090203-jewish-peace-15b15d_med

Israel and Palestine must bury the hatchet (and not in one another’s heads) and realize that they have every reason to be firm allies, business and regional partners. Israel is a lively and fully functioning Western Democracy. Palestine is a nascent democracy. Both are multicultural, multi-religious populations. Both must guarantee the other’s security.

In these two counties, more so than perhaps in any others, the Children of Abraham–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–have the promise of peace and prosperity with one another. Our American role would be to make sure that outside influences, other nations, weapons dealers, et al. stay out of the settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict once and for all, for the benefit of both.

Children_of_Abraham_08_15

Sunni vs Shia

The final piece of this historical primer is the Intrareligious War between Sunis and Shias in Islam.

Sunni-Shia-Divide

I am not an Islamist, and cannot detail all the differences between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Suffice it to make a few points:

  1. The dispute began in 632 at the time of the death of the Prophet. It has to do with the succession as to who would be Caliph after the Prophet. It rages even to the present day, and has been the source of tension and armed conflict for 1,400 years in the Muslim World.
  2. The vast majority of world Muslims are Sunni (85-90%), while some 10-15% are Shia.
  3. As such religious schisms often due, the simple break over the succession produced more divisions on “religious practice, traditions, and customs, often related to jurisprudence. Although all Muslim groups consider the Quran to be divine, Sunni and Shia have different opinions on hadith.” Hadith are the sayings collections attributed to the Prophet.
  4. The Saudis (Wahhabis–radical fundamentalists) are Sunni.
  5. Daesh are Salafis with a Wahabi connection, and therefore Sunni.
  6. Iraq is 65% Shia, and 35% Sunni among its Muslim population (95%).
  7. Sunnis in Iraq feel persecuted and powerless against the Shia majority government, and are therefore potential allies of Daesh.
  8. Iran is majority Shia.

As you can see, this is an intrareligious conflict fueled by 1,400 years of hatred. It rivals anything that Catholic-Protestant, Catholic-Orthodox, and Protestant-Orthodox conflicts ever presented within Christianity. And we are caught in the middle.

The Bush-Cheney régime (the worst Presidency in U.S. History) thoroughly screwed things up in this conflict by lying to us bald-face about WMDs in Iraq and going to war there. Then they proceeded to completely disband the Iraqi Army, many of whom are now in Daesh! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

B-TsFkMCQAAwxH2

We blundered our way right into the middle of a 1,400 year old conflict, and didn’t even arm our men and women in uniform properly with either physical arms or good intel. Good Going! They created Daesh! I guess that is about right, Daesh is what you would expect as the Love-Child of Bush and Cheney!

The Daesh Project

Daesh’s project is very simple. Turn back the clock to the year 622, year 1 of the Islamic Calendar, when the Prophet emigrated from Mecca to Medina and do it all over again, and this time, conquer the world in preparation for the Last Battle that will end the world. They are the ultimate fundamentalists, rejecting any “softening” in Islam (that is, rejecting God’s Grace in reshaping Islam into a Religion of Peace).

The leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

This fits perfectly with Hoffer’s True Believers. In the conflict regions, they are a dime a dozen, ready for the radicalizing. And the seemingly disenfranchised, wandering youth throughout the West are like rats following a Satanic Pied Piper to their enslavement among Daesh. They will get guns, and be able to dominate others!

And as for a dupe like Syed Rizwan Farook who was “living the American Dream,” they use a different tack. The history reported above is used, over and over, to show how the West, and the obvious leader of the West, the United States, is the great enemy of Islam. They play on what fears he may already have, such as homophobia, women’s independence, or any other cultural disagreements he may have with Western society, to inflame him, and give him a very simple answer, as all fundamentalisms do: it’s evil, it’s the devil, and that Great Satan’s face and hammer is the United States. France, Germany, etc.

They hammer away at him relentlessly using the facts of recent history to bolster their story until he too becomes a True Believer and is radicalized.

bilde

The very word radicalized gives us a clue about the process: from French radical, from Late Latin radicalis ‎(of or pertaining to the root, having roots, radical), from Latin radix ‎(root), from Proto-Italic *wrād-ī-, from Proto-Indo-European *wréh₂ds ‎(root). Cognate with Ancient Greek ῥάδιξ ‎(rhádixbranch, twig), Gothic 𐍅𐌰𐌿𐍂𐍄𐍃‎(waurts), Old Irish fren ‎(root) and Old English wyrt ‎(herb, plant) (English wort).

They are literally uprooting him from his native, healthy mental soil and planting him in their squalid, fetid bubbling cesspool of filth and hatred. What now courses up his roots is pure evil and lies. And he embraces the transplanting, so convinced is he.

cesspool-596x283

How Can We Fix This?

So Mr. Trump, how do we fix this? Not by banning all Muslim travel to the U.S. Here are some steps:

  1. Facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian Two State Solution that protects both Countries as explained above. Make sure they understand they have no other option than to settle this now.
  2. As quickly as possible, move the United States to sustainable, green energy, so that we are 100% free from the need of any Foreign Oil or any Energy sources. In the process, the American sustainable, green energy industry will make Billions of dollars, and will assist in controlling Climate Change. This way we have no vested interest in fossil fuel resources in the Middle East.
  3. Big Oil and the Billionaires who keep it going must be soundly defeated and exposed as the world-destroyers they are.
  4. Increase our vetting procedures for all immigrants. We have great technology, we also need more intelligence on the ground.
  5. Stove piping of security data must be 100% eliminated. The CIA, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, and all other Law Enforcement Agencies must stop stove piping immediately. If any official stovepipes, he or she must lose their job if they do not stop after being warned.
  6. The Nations of the West (and this includes Russia) must come clean and admit that we have not always acted in the best interests of the freedom, liberty and rights of Arab peoples, and of Muslims in non-Arab Muslim countries. It’s not all our fault, but we have had a significant role in screwing things up, out of greed, colonialism, and anti-Communist hysteria. We have to apologize and move forward.
  7. We must openly and heavily publicize the MANY protests by responsible Muslims here and around the world who are actively opposing Daesh and terrorism. There’s a lot of such statements and concrete action. We must publicly join in solidarity with these good people, and use our Media Juggernaut to put all peace-loving people on the world stage.
  8. I don’t think we have to worry about The Crusades. That was one Empire fighting another, perfectly normal stuff on a planet that makes the world of A Game of Thrones look like a picnic planet. I’m not a fan of the way the Crusades worked out, but today it is only bad optics.

islamx

Again, I must repeat, we are not the cause of 9/11, or San Bernardino, or any terrorism, and no terrorism is ever justifiable. Nevertheless, some of our actions in the past can be used as excuses the Daesh Pigs and others of their ilk employ to radicalize others, and we have to get out ahead of them and remove them as tools that terrorists can use to enflame and radicalize.

bush-will-kill-for-oil

 

So let’s get to work, everybody!

Thanks for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Read This to Understand What is Going On in the USA

1 Comment

This will be an uncharacteristic Blog Post, since its point is to offer you three amazing resources to understand why our Nation seems to be going crazy right now.

The Four Folkways of America

The first is a ground-breaking, seminal volume of American Colonial History, Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer.

41mk6HtCC0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Using meticulous folkways scholarship (history from the ground-up, the history of real people, not just of princes, kings and presidents), Fischer demonstrates that the four great migrations from Britain and Ireland during Colonial times have decisively shaped the character of our Nation, even down to the present day.

Briefly, and in a much compacted description, here are those groups:

The Puritans of New England, who believed in Ordered Liberty. While originally quite severe religiously, their legacy is one of an ordered society, with freedom, but also justice for all, and a hallmark of care for the poor and the downtrodden. It is an obligation that those who are more well off must assist those who are less-well off. Education was prized. Greater New England is the northern tier, all across the United States. I was initiated into the ways of New England during my time studying in New Haven and Cambridge. Their ways are inspired by their deep Biblical Faith. The entrepreneurial spirit was strong in New England. Sam and John Adams were Founders from New England. Athletic Competition was encouraged in a balanced way, and both Baseball and Football have their origins in New England, especially at Yale and Harvard.

Yale in New Haven, CT

Yale in New Haven, CT

The Quakers of the Delaware Valley, who believed in Reciprocal Liberty. Before Quakerism turned in on itself and withdrew from active society, it was a major religious and social movement in the 17th century Colonies. The Quakers set out to create a deliberately diverse society where I respected your Liberty and you respected mine. Service of the community, and especially of the poor and weak, were powerful ideals, and those who did not do so were punished. They were also avid entrepreneurs. Education was welcome, if not as highly prized as in New England. Their legacy is one of a fair, equitable society, highly competitive in business, and with social supports for all. Benjamin Franklin was a transplanted son of this culture.

The Delaware Valley

The Delaware Valley

The Cavaliers of Virginia, who believed in Hierarchical Liberty. These Royalist Anglicans were often brave men and women, and some of our most revered Founders, such as Washington and Jefferson came from this stock. Their take-away from the culture was that of the heroic leader, the self-made man. However, Virginia Cavalier society had many very dark aspects. Hierarchical Liberty meant that the higher up you were in society, the more liberty you had. The King was the most Free person, and African and Indian Slaves, at the bottom, had no liberty at all. At each rung of society, men had more liberty than women. You were actively encouraged, even obligated, to dominate those beneath you, socially, economically, verbally, and physically. Beatings of underlings were common, and perfectly legal.

The majority of the population were poor white workers. The higher-ups dominated society. The preferred sport was killing. The higher you were in society, the more noble the animal you could hunt. Even race slaves killed animals, who were beneath them. Children were trained to kill insects and small animals, only to graduate to larger game later.

Education was prized for the upper classes, but those same upper classes were terrified of education for the lower classes, and did everything they could to prevent it.

Jefferson's Monticello

Jefferson’s Monticello

The Borderers who prized Natural Liberty. The Borderers came from the Borders of Scotland and England, and also from Northern Ireland. These areas had been in virtually perpetual warfare for hundreds of years. Their areas were known to be hotbeds of thieves, brigands and roving gangs. Coming to North America, they were shunned by the other three groups, and pushed to the Border highlands, the mountains such as the Ozarks and the Appalachians.

For Borderer culture, you could do anything you were strong enough to do. Natural Liberty meant virtually no restraint on personal actions. Andrew Jackson, one of our most horrendous and barbaric Presidents came from this stock. The famed feuds of the hills marked this culture. Education was disdained as a waste of time. Fighting and feuding were sports. This culture gradually moved west throughout the Southwest to Southern California. It was an intensely clannish society, and anyone not from your immediate family and friends was automatically though of as a foe and treated that way. Anyone different in race or culture was the enemy.

Interlocutors on Facebook and elsewhere who champion unlimited and completely unrestrained gun rights are clearly sons and daughters of the Borderers. “My Rights” clearly trump “Your Rights” in this view.

Greatvalley-map

As other immigrants came to the Colonies and later to the United States most imbibed one or more of these cultures. New York, and especially New York City, originally a Dutch Colony, was in some ways separate from this schema, and became a place where all could interact, as it is today.

new_amsterdam_foto1

Fischer traces these folkways through our history, and into the late 80s when the book was published. It is easy to extrapolate to our own day.

american-progressives

Today’s American Progressive factions are the cultural descendants of the New England Puritans and the Delaware Valley Quakers. The aristocratic wing of American Conservatism (Bush, et al.) are the cultural heirs of the Virginia Cavaliers, while the Trump mob, the Tea Party, and their ilk are the societal scions of the Borderer culture.

tea party funding

Fischer convincingly demonstrates that to date, there has been only one time in American History when the four factions came together, united and cooperated fully: World War II. The respective strength of each faction was needed to defeat the great evil of the Axis powers. If you’d like to terrify yourself to see what it would have been like if we’d lost, read Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castleand/or watch the Amazon Series based on the novel.

51117B9VzxL._PI_PJStripe-Prime-Only-500px,TopLeft,0,0_AA160_

One would hope that we could pull together once more to battle the evils of fundamentalism and fanaticism.

The Union Won the War, but Lost the Battle

Two books by James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and Lies Across America, lay bare another seething wound that our Nation has not yet fully recovered from: Racism.

51JbV2jddoL

 

51elf4Ux8PL

These books are about many other things as well in American History, but the most salient point for this discussion is that White Supremacy (=supremacy of the descendants of Northern European immigrants) has been, and still is, an enduring evil in America. Loewen has many other works on similar themes. (Loewen is white, Harvard trained Sociologist.)

(Roediger’s Working Toward Whiteness elucidates how certain other European and other ethnic groups have been included in the designation of “White.”)

In brief, Loewen convincingly shows that the “others” in America, Native Peoples and those of African descent, have routinely been put down. I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip here, we just need to be honest about our own history if we are going to change it.

The tragedy of the extinction of Native peoples and cultures is well-known. Charles Mann’s 1491 explains the unprecedented loss to humanity that the extinction of the Native peoples and cultures of the Americas caused.

slavery

Concerning Race Slavery, and in particular, African Slavery in the U.S., we know that this issue came to a head in the Civil War. And yes, the Civil War was primarily about Slavery. The Union won the War, and African-Americans gained full citizenship, legally and in the Constitution. During Reconstruction (1865-1877) a great deal of progress was made in equality. However, after Reconstruction things began to fall apart. 1890-1940 was the nadir (low point) in race relations in the U.S.

How did this happen? The primary engine of reversing the gains of Reconstruction was the success of the forces of the Neo-Confederacy. Northern Progressives lost interest in supporting equal rights, and the Neo-Confederate forces, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy and others waged a wildly successful campaign of disinformation which transformed the mental landscape of America.

United Daughters of the Confederacy

United Daughters of the Confederacy

They lied bald-faced about the Civil War and Southern Society. The Bizarro World version that they convinced America of lasts to the present day. Here’s how their lies go:

  1. The South was a beautiful and serene culture where loving Plantation Owners cared for their beloved Black Slaves and kept them happy. The Blacks were only too happy to receive this largesse and enjoyed being Slaves.
  2. The Civil War was not about Slavery at all, it was the War of Northern Aggression based on economics and social norms.
  3. Southern Whites and Blacks united to defend their States’ Rights and their Southern Way of Life. Outgunned, this noble endeavor was The Lost Cause. Monuments across the Country commemorate their nobility and bravery.
  4. During Reconstruction, Northern “Carpetbaggers” came to the South to take advantage of the defeated South, and enriched themselves corruptly.
  5. African-Americans, too newly freed, could not handle equality and failed because of this.
  6. American Society settled into a correct balance, with superior Whites leading, and happy “Good Darkies” playing their expected roles.
  7. After more than 100 years of “Freedom,” the problems in the African-American community demonstrate the truth of the Confederate beliefs.
Uncle Jack, the "Good Darkie"

Uncle Jack, the “Good Darkie”

Each of these points is easily disprovable by black-letter history, and Loewen’s work in these volumes and others provides ample evidence of this. Here’s a summary:

  1. Blacks hated being Slaves, and were badly treated. They were literally treated as property. Southern Plantation Owners were cruel and hateful. Gone With the Wind is a big lie. Most of the population of the South were poor Whites. Only the upper classes prospered.
  2. The Civil war was all about Slavery. The documents of succession prove this conclusively.
  3. The South was actively against States’ Rights. They wanted the Federal Government to suppress the Rights of other States to refuse Slavery, and to not enforce laws on the return of run-away Slaves. They insisted that Slavery and all its laws be imposed on all States and Territories. Only a very, very few Blacks fought willingly for the South. Most revolted as soon as they could. There was nothing patriotic or noble about the Confederacy. The monuments erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy and others lie, and honor traitors and racists.
  4. Northern Republicans came to the South and did the right thing. Reconstruction failed because legal and political equality was emphasized over economic parity.
  5. Freed African-Americans did very well with freedom. They excelled.
  6. After Reconstruction, and especially during the Nadir (1890-1940), all means were used to disenfranchise Blacks, especially in the South, to segregate them and keep them down all over the U.S. Persecutions, lynchings, the KKK, et al.made it very clear that Blacks had better stay down, or they would be killed. Amazingly, some remarkable African-Americans succeeded even under those conditions. The “Good Darkie” is a lie. Blacks were (understandably) terrified of Whites.
  7. Even though African Americas had “legal” freedom, it was virtually worthless in any real sense of being able to succeed equally. It was not until 1940 and the War that things really began to change. Even today, people think that the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia (the “Confederate Flag”) stands for the Noble South. It stands for treason, racism and hatred.

hqdefault

The Confederacy had won the propaganda battle. It is time to end the myth of the noble Confederacy and eliminate the idea that descendants of European Whites are superior once and for all. We need everyone to band together to fight the evils of our days.

Please read these books and open your mind to the truth of our history, and what a wonderful world we can build if we face things square on and fight for change.

Thanks for Reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant.

Thoughts on “The First Thanksgiving”

Leave a comment

On this American Thanksgiving Weekend, I wanted to reflect on the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621 in Plymouth Massachusetts with the newly arrived English 50 surviving “Pilgrims” and about 90 members of the Wampanoag people, and in so doing, explore its meaning in historical context, and what it can tell us as a Nation today.

"TraditionalThanksgiving" by Ben Franske - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons -

“Traditional Thanksgiving” by Ben Franske – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons. Click photo for Copyright page.

Before we begin, we need to look at terminology.

“Indian”?

Throughout this post, I will not use the term “Indian” when I am speaking of the Wampanoag people specifically. From what I understand, Native Americans don’t really mind the name, but it’s like calling the Pilgrims “Europeans.” They are, of course, but we know what nation they came from, so why not be more specific.

“Pilgrims”?

Those whom we call Pilgrims were Calvinist Separatist dissenters. That is, they rejected the Church of England (Anglicans) and, unlike the Puritans wanted to be separate from the C of E, rather than to reform it. From their own writings, it is clear that they had religious, and religious freedom motives for their trans-Atlantic voyage, as well as economic ones.

“Settlers”? “Colonists”? “Invaders”?

How should I refer to the Pilgrims? This isn’t about “political correctness,” it’s about the connotations (subtle meanings) of words.

  • If I use “settlers,” the connotation is that they were settling a wilderness. Most of North America (and indeed much of the Americas in general), were definitely not unworked wilderness. North American Natives, Meso American Peoples, and South American Peoples managed the land to a great extent, practicing land, crop, resource management in a number of sophisticated ways that in some cases go beyond what we are capable of today. The landscape that the Pilgrims came to was heavily managed, and had been settled by human beings with a high level of culture. In essence, the land the Pilgrims came to was a highly sophisticated, tended agricultural garden and game reserve. The Indians and Natives of North America were far from “savages.” The earliest Spanish (and English) letters and journals usually were admiring of the American Native peoples. It was only when it was found convenient to demonize them that they became “savages.”
  • If I use “Colonists,” I am guilty of only seeing this from a Eurocentric viewpoint. When people cross into the United States today without going through customs and set up shop, we don’t call them Colonists. We call them Undocumented Immigrants (Left) or Illegal Aliens (Right).
  • If I call them “Invaders,” which essentially they were, it rings a tone I didn’t want for this post, as I want to stay positive here.
  • So, I’ll stay with “The English,” for the most part, which is accurate.

“Chief”? “King”?

Edward Wilson, one of the English, referred to “their greatest king Massasoit.” In reality, Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin was the Great Sachem of the Wampanoag people (Wôpanâak). “Massasoit” is a title, not a name. While he was a great male leader, many of the Natives of the North East had a complex governmental structure which involved both men and women in decision making, leadership and reciprocal work for the community. It would have come as a great surprise to the Great Sachem Ousamequin to be thought of like the King of England. Native society was far more participatory, and much more democratic than European societies of the time. We should recall that Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers and Mothers greatly admired the Haudenosaunee Confederation (commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy), and its founding document, Gayanashagowa or the Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee. This “Constitution” influenced the U.S. Constitution.

massasoit-d-1661-granger

The reason why the English probably called Ousamequin a “King” may be that, coming from a nation with a very stratified hierarchy with hereditary nobility and royalty, it was very hard for them to envision a society that lacked these. Further, Europeans liked having a “king” or “chief” to negotiate with, to give an air of legitimacy to their land purchases. In return, the “chief” gained standing by being friends with the Europeans, as well as guns and metal implements.

"Tribal Territories Southern New England" by Nikater; adapted to English by Hydrargyrum - Wikimedia Commons - Image:Wohngebiet_Südneuengland.png, as of 5 July 2006. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

“Tribal Territories Southern New England” by Nikater; adapted to English by Hydrargyrum – Wikimedia Commons – Image:Wohngebiet_Südneuengland.png, as of 5 July 2006. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

It would appear that the concept of private ownership of land was foreign to Wampanoag people, as it was to many North American indigenous peoples in the 17th century. Each group had its own territory, but not privately owned land. In this, as in the ways of warfare, the influence of the English was to turn civilized Wampanoag to the barbaric ways of the old world.

Myth vs Reality

The myth of the First Thanksgiving I often saw portrayed in my youth were the Civilized English, dressed in their tradition vesture, welcoming scantily clad Indians and feeding them their sophisticated foods. Here is a typical picture:

The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899).

The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899).

What apparently happened was something like this:

When the English landed at what is now Plymouth in 1620, they were ill-equipped for survival. Tisquantum (Squanto), a member of the Patuxet people, a band under the Wampanoag agreed to assist them. He had a long experience with Europeans, having been across the Atlantic six times. He taught them effective agricultural techniques, and became a kind of ambassador with the Wampanoag. His own village of Patuxet, near modern-day Plymouth, had been virtually destroyed by epidemics in 1614 and 1620, brought by European diseases.

European explorers and traders had been frequenting the Northeast throughout the preceding century. The indigenous peoples were well aware of them, and interacted with them, sometimes cooperatively, sometimes not. It may well be that the inhabitants of the Northeast and the Maritimes had stories of the 11th century Viking expedition to “Vineland.” Old World diseases such as smallpox and typhus, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, mumps, yellow fever and pertussis devastated all of the Americas, which in 1491 may have had up to 100 million inhabitants. The epidemics probably killed 80%-90% of the indigenous population of the Americas.

Having successfully followed Tisquantum’s advice, the English had a good harvest in 1621. On April 1, 1621 the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag signed a mutual assistance treaty which the Wampanoag were happy with, as it guaranteed that the English would defend them against their enemies, and the Wampanoag would defend the English and both would live peacefully side by side.

"2011NativeAmericanRev" by United States Mint - United States Mint Historical Image Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“2011NativeAmericanRev” by United States Mint – United States Mint Historical Image Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Probably around Michaelmas (September 29), the traditional English end of the Harvest, the Pilgrims held a Thanksgiving Feast as they were often want to do in the East of England where the majority of the English in New England came from (East Anglia: Suffolk, Essex, and parts of Norfolk and Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Kent).

As people with guns often do, the English shot into the air in celebration and set off cannon fire. The Great Sachem Ousamequin and his people heard the guns and were worried that something might be wrong with their treaty partners. Ousamequin set out with a party of 90 warriors to find out.

When they arrived, they found the 50 or so English celebrating. Probably through the translator Tisquantum, both sides learned what was up. Not having been born yesterday, Ousamequin and his men (there were probably no women, as this was a warrior band) camped nearby for several days to keep an eye on their new neighbors. They sent out hunting parties and brought game to contribute to the feasting, and the two groups ate and feasted together, peacefully but warily.

Probably one of the very few things Ronald Reagan ever said that I agreed with was “Trust but Verify.” This was the situation in 1621 Plymouth. Further, both the English and the Wampanoag cultures had the custom of Thanksgiving festivals, as virtually all human cultures do. Therefore the reason for the Harvest Feast was clear to both.

After the time of Feasting, the Wampanoag returned home, and the two groups continued for a while to live more or less harmoniously. Here is a good, modern Wampanoag memory of the events.

Errors in the Myth

So, to get back to the traditional myth, what are some of the things that are wrong?

  • In Wampanoag culture, the work was divided between men and women. Women ran all of the domestic business, including agriculture. The men fought, when necessary, and hunted. Both functions were seen as equally important. Therefore it is doubtful that there were any Wampanoag women at the Feast, since the Wampanoag expedition was martial in nature.
  • Is is highly unlikely that the Wampanoag warriors wore so little clothes in a late fall New England. In fact, the English very much appreciated the warmth and comfort of Wampanoag clothing and began to imitate their dress.
  • This was not a case of the “civilized” English (symbolized by tables and chairs) inviting their cultural inferiors (seated at their feet on the ground) to a feast. Most of the food they had grown was new to the English, and they probably had learned to prepare it from the Wampanoag. There probably were no turkeys, just game.
  • Our feast of Thanksgiving stems from the pronouncements of two Presidents: Washington and Lincoln. On October 3, 1789, Washington issued this proclamation:

“Now therefore do I recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being…That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for… the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge…”

While there were often Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, this did not become a uniform, annual event throughout the United States at the end of November until October 3, 1863 when Lincoln issued his declaration:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

The connection to the 1621 Thanksgiving is mentioned nowhere in these two declarations. That developed as the holiday sought roots in earlier times.

What Does Thanksgiving Teach Us Today?

Nothing here means that I don’t love Thanksgiving. I believe that it is our most important Holiday in the United States, and that it is quintessentially American. I do despise the stores that open on Thursday evening for their “Black Friday” vigils. Thanksgiving ought to be for family, friends, and charity only.

71DOxyY0FoL

An attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving is essential to the spiritual well-being of us all. A truly great mystic whom I had the honor of meeting back at Yale, Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB. One of his best known works is Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer. The book began a movement that is flourishing.

“Wäre das Wort Danke das einzige Gebet, das du je sprichst, so würde es genügen. If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough,” teaches Meister Eckhart. Thankfulness is essential for us, since all is gift. In the Greek of the New Testament, Thanksgiving is Eucharist, from Middle English eukariste, from Old French, from Late Latin eucharistia, from Ancient Greek εὐχαριστία ‎(eukharistíagratitude, giving of thanks), from εὖ ‎(good) + χάρις ‎(khárisgrace, favor). Eu is an adverbial use of neuter accusative singular of ἐΰς ‎(eǘsgood), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁su- (good). Kháris is from χαίρω (khaíro–to be happy, of good cheer), from Proto-Hellenic *kʰəřřō, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to enclose).

st elia, toronto

Eucharist is the central act of worship in Christianity. The heart of any Faith, Mysticism and Spirituality is Gratitude. We are “wrapped” in gratitude, which is thanks for everything we are and have.

The feast of Thanksgiving is therefore essential for the United States. And its ceremonial foods, mostly from plants and animals from the New World, are practically sacramental.

I very fondly remember having Thanksgiving Dinner at one of my Yale friend’s parents’ home in West Haven. We sat down to a full, wonderful Italian mean. I thought, “Well, it’s not traditional, but it’s good!” I ate my fill. Then the dishes were cleared, and the whole American Thanksgiving Feast was served! Yikes! Why didn’t someone warn me. I did OK though!

Knowing Thanksgiving’s history, and what really happened in 1621 Plymouth can give us hope for our world today.

It was a chance meal with two new allies, neighbors, watching each other’s backs, and watching each other, too. It was a meeting of equals. It was a way of moving forward for mutual security, and giving thanks to God (whether called YHVH or The Great Spirit) for all the gifts of life, including allies in a dangerous world. We celebrate the generosity of the Wampanoag and others who welcomed these strangers onto their land.

Our world is at a very dangerous juncture. We need all peoples of the world to band together to preserve our planet, to refuse to allow terror and war to prevail, and to move forward together, thankfully. In numbers there is strength, as shown by the ancient Roman symbol of the Fasces.

Fasces in the US House of Representatives

Fasces in the US House of Representatives

The acceptance of diversity shown by the Wampanoag, and their willingness to work together with the English are signs for us. The fact that the relationship between Europeans and Natives went horribly, tragically wrong, causing two of the two great karmic stains on our hemisphere (the destruction of indigenous cultures and peoples, and African and Indian Slavery) is a stark reminder of the evils that result from not behaving like neighbors and not seeing one’s self in the other’s face.

Let us finally undo the evils that these failures have caused, and move together, in our Nation, and our World, together in Thankfulness.

Thanks for reading,

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

PS: My source material for much of this post comes from three remarkable books which I highly recommend and will be writing more about:

David Hackett Fischer. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

James W. Loewen. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. Revised Edition. New York: Touchstone Books, 2007.

Charles C. Mann. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.