The origins of Thanksgiving date back to a 1621 feast in which the Wampanoag people helped the Pilgrims to survive in the New World. We can draw inspiration and wisdom from the plight of the first English settlers who colonized this country. If we peel back the sanitized renditions of this narrative we are confronted by unspeakable hardships. These settlers were ravaged by malnutrition and disease and most did not survive their first winter.
This year the COVID-19 pandemic makes this a Thanksgiving like no other. While many Americans are heeding advisories from public health officials and foregoing the usual gatherings, others see this as a political issue that infringes on their personal freedoms. This is a nation that is divided even on issues as fundamental as managing a deadly virus.
The early settlers overcame division with the help of the Mayflower Compact. This was a set of rules for self-governance established by the English settlers who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. Forty-one men signed the Compact and only nine did not sign it.. It was America’s first governing document and a testament to the importance of agreement.
As we look back on 2020 it would be easy to dismiss it as a year from hell. However, despite the devastation we have much to be thankful for not the least of which is renewed interest in America’s democracy. More Americans voted in the 2020 election than ever before. An unprecedented 80 million voters elected Joe Biden defeating the incumbent by a margin of almost 7 million votes (which is 17 million more votes than the incumbent received in 2016). Perhaps most importantly America’s institutions held despite four years of dystopian darkness
and a flagrant attempt to subvert democracy
Like the Pilgrims, our survival depends on our ability to come together. This Thanksgiving many good people are asking how we can move forward? Part of the answer can be found in Americas founding agreements. There are also some improbable issues that can help to unite us.
For most Americans the destruction of the natural world is a shared concern. Although climate action has devolved into a partisan issue, polls show
that both sides of the political divide value the environment and both sides want to see more government action. As with the Mayflower Compact there have always been some who will object, but as repeatedly stated in America’s venerable political documents, they cannot be allowed to override the will of the people.
A new vision is taking hold. as evidenced by an election in which Americans rejected demagoguery and voted for a leader who pays heed to the facts
, People are becoming increasingly concerned about unprecedented storms and fires
and they are worried for their children’s futures. President-elect Biden has vowed to act on climate change
. His plan
prioritizes climate action and promises to provide millions of good jobs.
America arose out of the most horrific adversity starting with the arrival of the Mayflower. So while the COVID-19 pandemic is both a national tragedy and a national disgrace, it can be a womb as well as a tomb. The upside
is that this devastating virus may teach
us something that the pilgrims knew almost 400 years ago. Coming together under the leadership of good men like William Bradford and William Brewster made them stronger. Like them we can come together to build a better world
by turning all our suffering and death into a paradigm changing tipping point