Is this heaven? No, it’s Thanksgiving in America. To paraphrase a famous line from one of my all-time favorite movies, A Field of Dreams, I decided to write of hope and grace that I believe is sorely lacking in this country and indeed throughout the world. For me the 1989 movie plucks a heartstring, as it does for so many. The momentous plot intertwines our nation’s great pastime, baseball, with a historical theme of American greatness. Uniquely great actor James Earl Jones’ soliloquy purposefully begins with “People will most definitely come.” This in turn recants the movie’s beginning call to action for Academy Award winning actor Kevin Costner—“Build it and they will come.” America’s Founding Fathers had just such a dream. On this day, Thanksgiving 2013, I challenge each and every reader of my words to take heart and believe once again in what we all know to be true in our hearts and souls. “Build it and they will come!” Build an unshakeable fellowship of man—move mountains and the hearts of all mankind will surely follow.
I was reminded today that Thanksgiving Day is a uniquely American holiday because of our remembrance to that historical occasion when our Native American Indians and New World colonists sat together in brotherhood to give thanks for the blessings of peace and prosperity. Though of different cultural backgrounds, skin color, creed and social customs, humanity came together as one in thanks sharing what they had in common—a firm belief their blessings came from a higher being and could only be maintained through a unified respect for each other. The human species could point to no finer moment in history, when despite our differences we were one family of man expressing a common gratitude to our Maker. Therein, we embraced a common goal to care for our fellow man above all else.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis I released his Papacy’s mission statement. The 224-page document, called Evangelii Gaudium, is the first major work written entirely by Pope Francis since he was made pontiff. Pope Francis wrote: “Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.” (Express, 11/26/13) As the richest nation on earth, America must take these words to heart and in the spirit of what Thanksgiving is all about. We must remember to give thanks to our Creator by loving and caring for each other.
In the United States, Thanksgiving Day marks the official beginning of the holiday season leading to Christmas Day and the New Year. Ironically, this American celebration of giving thanks is joined on the calendar for the first time since 1888 by the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Being commonly referred to as “Thanksgivukkah,” this historical convergence of the secular and religious calendars will not occur again for another 79.043 years. That is quite a remarkable event in human history, and I think a quintessential crossroad not to be taken lightly!
In addition, our nation and the world remembered the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination last week. There were an endless number of references to the “Thousand Days of Camelot” that commonly described JFK’s remarkable words of hope and promise for the future of America and the world. The striking tone of that presidency was earmarked by his 1961 Inaugural Address in which he said,
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
In recent years, Americans have become increasingly polarized and significantly more isolationist in our role as leaders of the free world. No doubt this has evolved as a result of two foreign wars over the last eleven years, a shrinking confidence in our economic superiority, and a growing lack of trust in a government riddled with inefficiency, lacklustre leadership, and an apparent inability to competently handle basic services. Therefore, we as a people have acquiesced to the false security comforts of a materialistic society and forsaken our noble obligations as informed citizens. We have allowed ourselves to sink blindly into apathy with regards to our democracy and accepted sub-standards as the norm. The lack of mutual respect and oblivious disregard for higher standards of personal conduct are fostered by a crumbling early education system that fails to prepare our children for the future. Instead of instilling hard work ethics and personal pride, we tend to play the “blame game” and offer endless excuses for our perceived decline as a “beacon to the world.” ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
I am proud to be an American—not a homosexual American; not a white Anglo American; not a physically challenged American. I AM AN AMERICAN pure and simple. I will no longer allow the media, corporate America, or my own government to classify me into a neatly wrapped box for the comfortable convenience of others. TAKE PRIDE AMERICA IN WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE STAND FOR! In doing so, we must accept the responsibility for our fellow man because it is what defines us as Americans. We go where others fear to tread, we dream the impossible dreams, and we accomplish astonishing achievements that change the world!
Therefore, today on Thanksgiving Day, let us raise our heads high shed the false impressions that our finest days are behind us. Let us rise up to take the mantle God has blessed us to wear—leaders among men and our brother’s keeper. Remember the scriptural words of wisdom, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” As we sit down at our overflowing bountiful tables to gorge ourselves into temporary obesity, let us remember those who are not so blessed. In the coming days as we plunge ourselves into gluttonous debt buying endless luxuries we don’t really need, let us pray to remember the homeless, the hungry, the disillusioned, the sick & dying, the lonely, the unemployed, the elderly, the poverty stricken, the mentally ill, and our wounded veterans. They are our neighbors, our brothers & sisters, our fellow human beings to whom we often turn a blind eye because they are harsh reminders of what the future holds for each of us with a twist of fate. We are all a heartbeat away from oblivion. In the end, we must look into every face as if it were a cold reflection. The simple truth is that we’re all God’s creatures and none of us is immune from having to someday walk in the very shoes of those we carelessly disregard. We are all John Does and each of us must be thankful for the adversity that builds our character.