November 22, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Economists, Obama administration at odds over role of mortgage debt in slow recovery (Zachary A. Goldfarb, November 22, 2012, Washington Post)

One year and one month before President Obama won reelection, he invited seven of the world's top economists into a private meeting in the Oval Office for their advice on what do to fix an ailing economy. "I'm not asking you to consider the political feasibility of things," he told them in the previously unreported meeting.

There was a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, a Nobel laureate, one of the world's foremost experts on financial crises and the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund , among others. Nearly to a tee, they said Obama should introduce a much bigger plan to forgive part of the mortgage debt owed by millions of homeowners underwater on their properties. [...]

The meeting highlighted what today is the biggest disagreement between some of the world's top economists and the Obama administration. The economists say the president could have significantly accelerated the slow economic recovery if he had better addressed the overhang of mortgage debt left burdening Americans when housing prices collapsed. Obama's advisers say that they did all they could on the housing front and that other factors better explain why the recovery has been slow.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Egyptian President and Obama Forge Link in Gaza Deal (PETER BAKER and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 11/22/12, NY Times)

President Obama skipped dessert at a long summit meeting dinner in Cambodia on Monday to rush back to his hotel suite. It was after 11:30 p.m., and his mind was on rockets in Gaza rather than Asian diplomacy. He picked up the telephone to call the Egyptian leader who is the new wild card in his Middle East calculations.

Over the course of the next 25 minutes, he and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt hashed through ways to end the latest eruption of violence, a conversation that would lead Mr. Obama to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the region. As he and Mr. Morsi talked, Mr. Obama felt they were making a connection. Three hours later, at 2:30 in the morning, they talked again.

The cease-fire brokered between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday was the official unveiling of this unlikely new geopolitical partnership, one with bracing potential if not a fair measure of risk for both men. After a rocky start to their relationship, Mr. Obama has decided to invest heavily in the leader whose election caused concern because of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, seeing in him an intermediary who might help make progress in the Middle East beyond the current crisis in Gaza.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM



The Gaza cease-fire deal reached Wednesday marks a startling trajectory for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi: an Islamist leader who refuses to talk to Israelis or even say the country's name mediated for it and finally turned himself into Israel's de facto protector.

The accord inserts Egypt to an unprecedented degree into the conflict between Israel and Hamas, establishing it as the arbiter ensuring that militant rocket fire into Israel stops and that Israel allows the opening of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip and stops its own attacks against Hamas.

In return, Morsi emerged as a major regional player. He won the trust of the United States and Israel, which once worried over the rise of an Islamist leader in Egypt but throughout the week-long Gaza crisis saw him as the figure most able to deliver a deal with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

The Egyptians also reportedly told Netanyahu to knock it off or lose the peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, which he couldn't afford headed into an election.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Abortion rate falls during Obama's first year in office: was it because of Obama? (SUSAN MICHELLE TYRRELL, Nov 22, 2012, LifeSiteNews)

Last month news reports told us this:

Just this year, 17 states set new limits on abortion; 24 did last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit whose numbers are widely respected. In several states with the most restrictive laws, the number of abortions has fallen slightly, pleasing abortion opponents who say the laws are working.

Of 50 states in our nation, 41 of them have passed over 90 new laws supporting LIFE--and now the national CDC statistics prove that we can fight abortion even with a president who doesn't. The report last month continued to note states where abortion rates had fallen (including Texas where pro-life Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature have fought to de-fund Planned Parenthood and push through pro-life laws):

States within the nation's most restrictive region, the midsection, include North and South Dakota, which each have only one abortion clinic and have seen the number of abortions drop slightly since 2008.

And they include Texas, which has the most prescriptive counseling laws -- requiring, among other things, that doctors tell women abortion is linked with breast cancer. A group of scientists convened by the National Cancer Institute in 2003 concluded abortion did not raise the risk of breast cancer.

A Texas law passed last year requires women to get an ultrasound and their doctors to describe the fetus. Texas abortions also have dropped every year since 2008.

The Associated Press story notes:

The decline, detailed on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Both the number of abortions and the abortion rate dropped by the same percentage.

[T]he truth is simple: if the new laws didn't effect the abortion rate, Planned Parenthood wouldn't have spent oodles of money fighting these laws since federal law supersedes state law, and federal law hasn't changed. The numbers speak for themselves, and the Associated Press reports says, "Abortions have been dropping slightly over much of the past decade. But before this latest report, they seemed to have pretty much leveled off."

Notable facts include the state of Mississippi, with only one abortion facility, which hovers on the verge of being closed. The report says:

Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate, at 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The state also had only a couple of abortion providers and has the nation's highest teen birth rate. New York, second to California in number of abortion providers, had the highest abortion rate, roughly eight times Mississippi's.

New York, it should be noted, has fewer abortion restrictions and many abortion facilities.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Only 1 in 5 think Israel 'won' the eight-day battle against Hamas (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 22, 2012)

Only a fifth of Israelis think Israel "won" the eight day conflict with Hamas that ended on Wednesday, and fewer than two fifths feel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handled the conflict well, according to an opinion poll taken Thursday. [...]

In the survey, for Channel 2 news, 29% of those polled felt Hamas had been the winner in the conflict, 20% said Israel, 46% chose neither, and 5% had no answer.

Meanwhile, Hamas 'victory' gives West Bank a fighting spirit (ELHANAN MILLER, November 22, 2012, Times of Israel)

In the Muslim Quarter, Gaza was the talk of the day. Inside a falafel shop, three men watched Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh deliver a victory speech on a TV latched to the ceiling.

"We want a final resolution of the Palestinian issue," said one of the men, as he glanced away from the screen. "These temporary solutions that drag on for years while the West Bank is swallowed up by settlements are unacceptable."

The man was referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his continued advocacy of peace negotiations with Israel. Twenty years of talks have left West Bank Palestinians with little, Jerusalem residents say today, and Hamas's steadfastness during operation Pillar of Defense has provided them with a new source of inspiration. [...]

The Palestinian street is quickly slipping into combat mode, inspired by the fighting words emanating from Gaza. Jibril Rajoub, a former Palestinian security chief who speaks fluent Hebrew, appealed to Israel on Channel 2 News Thursday to stop that process by re-engaging the PA, which has favored negotiations over violence.

"For eight years, we've not thrown a stone at you from the West Bank," he said. "What have we gotten from you? We want our state on the 1967 borders ... that will live in peace alongside the state of Israel."

Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM


Challah, canned cranberries and 'peanuts' -- Americans in Israel give thanks slightly differently : From celebrating a day late to sending pizzas to families in the south, how to mark Turkey Day in the 51st state (JESSICA STEINBERG November 22, 2012, Times of Israel)

For North Americans living in Israel, celebrating Thanksgiving comes with a certain amount of baggage for some, and is a fast-and-firm tradition for others. There are specific challenges this food-oriented holiday entails, from acquiring fresh or canned cranberries, pumpkin and a fresh, whole turkey to deciding whether to include non-Americans in the dinnertime celebration. (It's a curious thing that while Thanksgiving has always been mistakenly seen as a separation of sorts from the British homeland, it was in fact rooted in an age-old English tradition.)

Yet it's the quirky aspects of celebrating Thanksgiving in Israel that have made it as important a holiday as any others in my family's calendar year. Perhaps it's the opportunity to bring some of our traditions to this country where we're still immigrants, no matter how long we've been living here. I like that my butcher teases me each year about the size of the turkey, and I like knowing that someone coming from the US, at some point in September or October, will stuff bags of fresh cranberries in their suitcase. There's the pleasure in taking out our annual T-day decorations, and taping a massive cardboard turkey on our front door, much to the amusement of our Moroccan neighbor.

This year, it will about feeling thankful for some peace and quiet, while knowing that not everyone has managed to get back to his own home. And so, this week's top five ways to feel thankful...

Check out the Turkey Challah.
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Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


The 50 Free Apps We're Most Thankful For (Whitson Gordon, 11/22/12, Lifehacker)

It's the time of year where we all give thanks, and among many other things, we here at Lifehacker are thankful for all the free apps out there that improve our lives (and the developers that make them!). Here are 50 of our favorites.

We asked you which free apps you're most thankful for, you offered hundreds of suggestions both classic and new. Here, we've taken your votes (and added a few of our own) and ranked our 50 apps using those votes as a guide. So without further ado, here are 50 free apps for your downloading feast.

ADP has a fantastic app--if you use their payroll system--that allows you to punch your timecard, check benefits, etc.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Thanksgiving Gains Popularity in Iceland (Iceland Review, 11/22/12)

An increasing number of Icelanders are joining Americans and Canadians in celebrating Thanksgiving, which is today.

Turkey is also growing in popularity, according to Jón Magnús Jónsson, the manager of the biggest turkey farm in Iceland. "[Thanksgiving] was almost non-existent ten years ago, at least there was very little of it, but this has changed and people celebrate it as a new festival."
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Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


Thanksgiving, 1789 (Melanie Kirkpatrick, 11/22/12, Wall Street Journal)

Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, also of South Carolina, raised two further objections. "Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?" he asked. "If a day of thanksgiving must take place," he said, "let it be done by the authority of the several States."

Tucker's second reservation had to do with separation of church and state. Proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving "is a religious matter," he said, "and, as such, proscribed to us." The Bill of Rights would not be ratified until 1791--but Congress had just approved the wording of First Amendment, and that debate was fresh in everyone's mind.

It fell to a New Englander to stand up in support of Thanksgiving. Connecticut's Roger Sherman praised Boudinot's resolution as "a laudable one in itself." It also was "warranted by a number of precedents" in the Bible, he said, "for instance the solemn thanksgivings and rejoicings which took place in the time of Solomon, after the building of the temple."

In the end, the Thanksgiving resolution passed--the precise vote is not recorded--and the House appointed a committee. The resolution moved to the Senate, which passed it and added its own members to the committee.

The committee took the resolution to the president, and on Oct. 3 George Washington issued his now-famous Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, he designated Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 as "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer." He asked Americans to render their "sincere and humble thanks" to God for "his kind care and protection of the People of this Country."

It was his first presidential proclamation, and it was well heeded.
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Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM


Hamas declares 'victory' after cease-fire (KHALED ABU TOAMEH, 11/21/2012, Jerusalem Post)

Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the Hamas leadership instructed its members to abide by the cease-fire and to stop firing at Israel.

"History will mention that Gaza once hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with rockets," boasted a Hamas activist in Gaza City.

"Today we triumphed. This is a victory from Allah."

Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official, welcomed the cease-fire agreement.

"The resistance groups have achieved a historic victory and paved the way for the battle of liberating Palestine," he said.

Mashaal: I accept a Palestinian state on '67 borders (Jerusalem Post.11/22/2012)

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared a position on Palestinian statehood that is nearly identical to that of his Fatah rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with CNN aired Wednesday.

"I accept a Palestinian state according [to] the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return," the Hamas leader told Christine Amanpour in Cairo.

Pushed about his party's refusal to recognize Israel, Mashaal said such a declaration could only be made once a Palestinian state has been created.

Bibi Netanyahu would not have behaved any differently this month if he were pro-Hamas.
Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


This year, as every year, we're thankful for all the usual stuff, not least that so many of you still stop by the blog to read and comment.  

But what about all the more trivial things we have to be thankful for?  Here are 5:

Sirius/XM Radio in the car--how did we spend so much time waiting for kids to finish after-school activities before we had satellite radio?

The Camera on your phone--I've done almost an entire year of daily cloudspotting photos with just the phone in my pocket.

Spotify--especially useful for the dabbler, allowing you to check artists out before you buy and to summon up almost any tune from your murky past.

College Hockey--Dartmouth home games aren't just massively entertaining as sport, they're also a singularly kid-friendly social event.

Double Bubble Gum--$7 for a 380 count bucket at BJs

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


'Borgen,' 'The Thick of It,' Bond: What to Watch During the Thanksgiving Weekend (Jace Lacob,  Nov 21, 2012, Daily Beast)

Borgen (LinkTV and online at

If you haven't yet fallen under the spell of Danish political thriller Borgen, here is the perfect opportunity to watch a marathon of Seasons 1 and 2 as LinkTV will air all 20 episodes of this penetrating and intelligent series over the holiday weekend, from Thursday to Sunday.  Revolving around the political, moral, and ideological struggles of Denmark's first female prime minister, Borgen is hands down the best television show of 2012, and the women at the show's center--Sidse Babett Knudsen's sympathetic statsminister Birgitte Nyborg and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen's ambitious journalist Katrine Fønsmark--deliver two of television's strongest and most nuanced performances in a show that holds up a microscope to the political and media spheres in Denmark. The result is an unforgettable and insightful drama that will have you forgetting that you're reading subtitles. 

Bonus tip: Don't worry if you don't have DirecTV or Dish or if you're away from your television this weekend: you can watch the episodes online at for two weeks after the on-air marathon.

Stream On: The Danish West Wing (June Thomas, June 1, 2012, Slate)

[A]nd for the first time ever, I got so stuck on a show that I absolutely, positively had to know how it all worked out. As soon as I got home, I ordered up the Region 2 DVD from, and I didn't leave the couch for an entire weekend.

That show was Borgen, a Danish drama about that nation's first female prime minister--a sort of Scandinavian West Wing meets Commander in Chief meets ... well, there is no U.S. analog for a show that allows a beloved character to have an abortion and regret it but apparently recover just fine, thank you very much.

I had a fabulous weekend on the sofa, but it was a solitary pleasure--since most of my friends couldn't watch the DVDs even if I had gone door-to-door proselytizing for the show, there was no chance for the kind of spirited back-and-forth conversations among friends that are such a fun part of the TV-watching experience.

And then I learned that Link TV is airing the show in the United States right now. Link TV, which bills itself as "the first nationwide television channel and website dedicated to providing global perspectives on news, events and culture," is available on satellite via the Dish Network and DirectTV, and a few cable providers around the country run some of its programming. Unfortunately, my cable system is Link-less, but for a limited time, Link is streaming the first season of Borgen on its website, and it will start airing and streaming Season 2 on Sunday, June 3. (Get the full scoop on the Link TV website.)

Borgen--the title is translated as Government, though borgen means castle, which is the nickname for Denmark's parliamentary building--is a rumination on power, ambition, integrity, love, and the art of making a deal. (Hero Birgitte Nyborg's first task is to form a coalition and thereafter to keep it together.)  It's a grown-up story about a strong, smart, funny woman who is responsible for the fate of her country and its people but is still hot for her husband and worried about her kids.

The show is beautifully plotted. The many intrigues in the worlds of politics, journalism, business, and PR are given just enough twists and turns to be surprising, but never so many that they become tiresome. It also provides a deliciously sneaky peek at Danish life. Did you know that Danish vicars wear Hamlet-like neck ruffles, that Scandinavians really do eat those hard old crisp breads (sometimes even in bed), or that Danes often hold meetings standing around tall tables? I've been to Denmark twice, and I didn't.

Borgen: The Best TV Show You've Never Seen (Andrew Romano, Jul 30, 2012, Daily Beast)

Think of Borgen as The Anti-Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin's gourmet drama about a cable-news anchor on a "mission to civilize" the masses was supposed to inherit The West Wing's mantle--until it turned out to be a preachy mess. The good news is that everything Sorkin gets wrong, Borgen gets right. (In the States, the Season 2 finale airs Aug. 5 on LinkTV; the show is already a hit in Europe, and a U.S. remake is in the works.) While The Newsroom is stuck in the past, bathing its grouchy male hero, Will McAvoy, in beatific lightbeams every time he grumbles about the good old days--you know, when "real newsmen" bestrode the earth--Borgen dramatizes the cutting-edge struggles of a woman who wouldn't even exist in the world Sorkin wants to revive: Birgitte Nyborg, the first female prime minister of Denmark.

She is a riveting protagonist. McAvoy is only powerful because Sorkin says so; Nyborg must take power from a bunch of bulbous male politicians who refer to her as "Mommy" whenever she leaves the room. McAvoy is brilliant because everyone keeps calling him brilliant; Nyborg, in contrast, actually does a lot of brilliant things (thwarting an ambitious rival, outwitting a dangerous dictator). For McAvoy, every problem has an easy, righteous answer, but Nyborg has to learn the hard way: one day, she and her rangy husband, who has put his career on hold for her, are boffing and bantering like a Nordic Bogart and Bacall; the next day, his sense of self has eroded and their perfect post-feminist "deal"--he runs the household, she runs the country--begins to collapse. The difference between the two shows is the difference between reading an overwrought op-ed about the sorry state of politics and actually living out those complexities in real time. Guess which is more compelling.

Borgen isn't the first show about a female politician; Commander in Chief, Parks and Recreation, Veep, and Political Animals all put women in positions of power. But by obsessing over the delicate, seesawing balance between what its characters do at the office and what they do at home, Borgen digs deeper. How should Nyborg respond when the company that has just hired her spouse, a sought-after CEO, also stands to profit from one of her policy decisions? Does she risk her marriage and force him to resign, even though he's going stir-crazy at home? Or does she put her husband ahead of her government?

The supporting storylines are equally nuanced. What happens when the spin doctor in charge of Nyborg's message and the star reporter covering her ascent are exes? Does the former deny the latter access? Does the reporter flirt to get the story? And how do their colleagues react? On Borgen, every public decision has private consequences, and vice versa, which is something that Hollywood usually ignores and that actual politicians, operatives, and journalists have to hide. Finally getting to see these secret repercussions spool out and spill over is spellbinding; they raise the stakes on everything that happens, suffusing even the most quotidian moments with suspense.

As a result, Borgen tends to keep its characters in a constant state of flux--a cinematic trick that's especially rewarding because it's so rarely attempted on TV.
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 AM


Mayflower Compact : 1620

Agreement Between the Settlers at New Plymouth : 1620

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Mr. John Carver,
Mr. William Bradford,
Mr Edward Winslow,
Mr. William Brewster.
Isaac Allerton,
Myles Standish,
John Alden,
John Turner,
Francis Eaton,
James Chilton,
John Craxton,
John Billington,
Joses Fletcher,
John Goodman,
Mr. Samuel Fuller,
Mr. Christopher Martin,
Mr. William Mullins,
Mr. William White,
Mr. Richard Warren,
John Howland,
Mr. Steven Hopkins,
Digery Priest,
Thomas Williams,
Gilbert Winslow,
Edmund Margesson,
Peter Brown,
Richard Britteridge
George Soule,
Edward Tilly,
John Tilly,
Francis Cooke,
Thomas Rogers,
Thomas Tinker,
John Ridgdale
Edward Fuller,
Richard Clark,
Richard Gardiner,
Mr. John Allerton,
Thomas English,
Edward Doten,
Edward Liester.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:47 AM


Thanking the Puritans on Thanksgiving (With, of Course, the Help of Tocqueville) (Peter Lawler, 11/24/10, First Things)

There's little less fashionable today than praising the Puritans, especially for their egalitarian political idealism, their promotion of genuinely humane and liberating learning, and their capacity for enjoyment and human happiness. Praising the Puritans is especially difficult for us because even most of our Protestants have abandoned them. When a European calls us Puritanical we don't say, "yes, thanks a lot, you're right." Instead, we either deny it, saying we're way beyond those days. Or we admit it, saying that, "yes, we should be less capitalistic, less repressed, and more free thinking, just like you." But the truth is that the Puritans remain the chief source of the American difference-our ability to live freely and prosperously without unduly slighting the longings of our souls. It's the Puritans' idealism that made and even makes Americans civilized.

Tocqueville's Democracy in America almost begins by showing us how much our democracy owes the Puritans. [...]

[T]he Puritans established colonies without lords or masters --without, in fact, economic classes. They weren't out to get rich or even improve their economic condition; they were in no way driven by material necessity. They "belonged to the well-to-do-classes of the mother country" and would have been better off in the most obvious ways staying home. Their lives were structured by resources and by morality; they came to America as family men, bringing their wives and children. They were models of social virtue. They were also extremely educated men--on the cutting edge, in many ways, of European enlightenment. They were, Tocqueville observes, animated by "a purely intellectual need." They aimed "to make an idea triumph" in this world.

The Puritans were, in fact, singularly distinguished by the nobility of their idealistic, intellectual goal. They willingly imposed themselves to "the inevitable miseries of exile" to live and pray freely as they believed God intended. Those called "the pilgrims," Tocqueville observes, were that way because their "austere principles" caused them to be called Puritans. Their pure standards-their excessive claims for freedom from the alleged corruption of bodily need and pleasure-caused them to be insufferable to all the governments and societies now in existence. The Puritans always seem to others to be "enemies of pleasures" (DA,2,3,19).

Puritan principles could become real only in a new world carved out of the wilderness, where they are the founders of "a great people" of God. They had no choice, they thought, but to be "pious adventurers," combining the spirits of religion, morality, family, and education with something like the restlessness that drove other "small troop[s] of adventurers going to seek fortune beyond the seas." Unlike the Americans Tocqueville observed himself, their restlessness led them to their true home and didn't leave them isolated or disoriented.

The first Americans of the North chose exile in America not for prosperity or physical liberty, but to satisfy an intellectual need that has nothing to do with their bodies. The Virginians, by contrast, were extremely moved by singularly materialistic-really, criminal-pursuits. (Most colonies, Tocqueville notices, originate in the lawless greed characteristic of pirates.) But that's not to say the men of New England thought of themselves as too good or too pure for this world.

All those democratic political freedoms that we Americans often trace to the social contract theory of the philosopher Locke the Puritans adopted "without discussion and in fact." Being clearly derived from Biblical principle, they didn't depend on or exist merely in the speculative dialogue of the philosophers. Even the Americans Tocqueville saw for himself in his visit understood that accepting some religious dogma "without discussion" turns out to be an indispensable foundation of the effective exercise of political freedom.

Because the Puritan conception of political freedom wasn't based on the apolitical, selfish, rights-obsessed, and duty negligent Lockean individual, it both not only demanded virtuous civic participation but also connected political freedom with the creature's charitable duty to the unfortunate. It set a high or virtuous standard for political competence and incorruptibility, and it didn't seem to need to rely on institutions with teeth in them to restrain the spirit of faction and boundless ambition of leaders.

Peace, Love and Puritanism (DAVID D. HALL, 11/23/10, NY Times)
[I]n Hawthorne's day, some people realized that he had things wrong. Notably, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French writer who visited the United States in 1831. Tocqueville may not have realized that the colonists had installed participatory governance in the towns they were founding by the dozens. Yet he did credit them for the political system he admired in 19th-century America.

After all, it was the Puritans who had introduced similar practices in colony governments -- mandating annual elections, insisting that legislatures could meet even if a governor refused to summon a new session and declaring that no law was valid unless the people or their representatives had consented to it. Well aware of how English kings abused their powers of office, the colonists wanted to keep their new leaders on a short leash.

Tocqueville did not cite the churches that the colonists had organized, but he should have. Like most of their fellow Puritans in England, the colonists turned away from all forms of hierarchy. Out went bishops, out went any centralized governance; in came Congregationalism, which gave lay church members the power to elect and dismiss ministers and decide other major matters of policy. As many observed at the time, the Congregational system did much to transfer authority from the clergy to the people.

Contrary to Hawthorne's assertions of self-righteousness, the colonists hungered to recreate the ethics of love and mutual obligation spelled out in the New Testament. Church members pledged to respect the common good and to care for one another. Celebrating the liberty they had gained by coming to the New World, they echoed St. Paul's assertion that true liberty was inseparable from the obligation to serve others.

For this reason, no Puritan would have agreed with the ethic of "self-reliance" advanced by Hawthorne's contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Instead, people should agree on what was right, and make it happen.

Albert J. Nock

Burke touches [the] matter of patriotism with a searching phrase. 'For us to love our country,' he said, 'our country ought to be lovely.' I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

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[originally posted: 11/24/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 AM


On Liberty (John Winthrop, 1645)

For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all of the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be. Whatsoever crosseth this is not authority but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The women's own choice makes such a man her husband; yet, being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom and would not think her condition safe and free but in her subjection to her husband's authority. Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ, her king and husband; his yoke is so easy and sweet to her as a bride's ornaments; and if through forwardness or wantonness, etc., she shake it off, at any time, she is at no rest in her spirit, until she take it up again; and whether her lord smiles upon her and embraceth her in his arms, or whether he frowns, or rebukes, or smites her, she apprehends the sweetness of his love in all, and is refreshed, supported, and instructed by every such dispensation of his authority over her. On the other side, ye know who they are that complain of this yoke and say, Let us break their bands, etc.; we will not have this man to rule over us. Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates. If you want to stand for your natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you, in all the administrations of it, for your good. Wherein, if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing (by God's assistance) to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God; so shall your liberties be preserved in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:09 AM


Plymouth Oration (Daniel Webster, December 22, 1820)

Standing in relation tour ancestors and our posterity, we are assembled on this memorable spot, to perform the duties which that relation and the present occasion impose upon us. We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and to establish. And we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places, some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles and private virtue, in our veneration of religion and piety, in our devotion to civil and religions liberty, in our regard for whatever advances human knowledge or improves human happiness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin.

There is a local feeling connected with this occasion, too strong to be resisted; a sort of genius of the place, which inspires and awes us. We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were first places; where Christianity, and civilization, and letters made their first lodgement, in a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness, and peopled by roving barbarians. We are here, at the season of the year at which the event took place. The imagination irresistibly and rapidly draws around us the principal features and the leading characters in the original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and we see where the little bark, with the interesting group upon its deck, made its slow progress to the shore. We look around us, and behold the hills and promontories where the anxious eyes of our fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. We feel the cold which benumbed, and listen to the winds which pierced them. Beneath us is the Rock, on which New England received the feet of the Pilgrrims. We seem even to behold them, as they struggle with the elements, and, with toilsome efforts, gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in council; we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation; we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience, and we see, what a painter of our own has also represented by his pencil, chilled anbd shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mother's arms, couchless, but for a mother's breast, till our own blood almost freezes. The mild dignity of CARVER and of BRADFORD; the decisive and soldierlike air and manner of STANDISH; the devout BREWSTER; the enterprising ALLERTON; the general firmness and thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for dangers escaped; their deep solicitude about danger to come; their trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of confidence and anticipation; all of these seem to belong to this place, and to be present upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admiration...

The nature and constitution of society and government in this country are interesting topics, to which I would devote what remains of the time allowed to this occasion. Of our system of government the first thing to be said is, that it is really and practically a free system. It originates entirely with the people and rests on no other foundation than their assent. To judge of its actual operation, it is not enough to look merely at the form of its construction. The practical character of government depends often on a variety of considerations, besides the abstract frame of its constitutional organization. Among these are the condition and tenure of property; the laws regulating its alienation and descent; the presence or absence of a military power; an armed or unarmed yeomanry; the spirit of the age, and the degree of general intelligence. In these respects it cannot be denied that the circumstances of this country are most favorable to the hope of maintaining a government of a great nation on principles entirely popular. In the absence of military power, the nature of government must essentially depend on the manner in which property is holden and distributed. There is a natural influence belonging to property, whether it exists in many hands or few; and it is on the rights of property that both despotism and unrestrained poppular violence ordinarily commence their attacks. Our ancestors began their system of government here under a condition of comparative equality in regard to wealth, and their early laws were of a nature to favor and continue this equality.

A republicon form of government rests not more on political constitutions, than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. Governments like ours could not have been maintained, where property was holden according to the principles of the feudal system; nor, on the other hand, could the feudal constitution possibly exist with us. Our New England ancestors brought hither no great capitals from Europe; and if they had, there was nothing productive in which they could have been invested. They left behind them the whole feudal policy of the other continent. They broke away at once from the system of military service established in the Dark Ages, and which continues, down even to the present time, more or less to affect the condition of property all over Europe. They came to a new country. There were, as yet, no lands yielding rent, and no tenants rendering service. The whole soil was unreclaimed from barbarism. They were themselves, either from their original condition, or from the necessity of their common interest, nearly on a general level in respect to property. Their situation demanded a parcelling out and division of hte lands, and it may be fairly siad, that this necessary ace fixed the future frame and form of their government. The character of their political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting property. The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters. The right of primogeniture, at first limited and curtailed, was afterwards abolished. The property was all freehold. The entailment of estates, long trustss, and the other processes for fettering and tying up inheritances, were not applicable to the condition of society, and seldom made use of.

The true principle of a free and popular government would seem to be, so to construct it as to give to all, or at least to a very great majority, an interest in its preservation; to round it, as other things are rounded, on men's interest. The stability of government demands that those who desire its continuance should be more powerful than those who desire its dissolution. This power, of course, is not always to be measured by mere numbers. Education, wealth, talents, are all parts and elements of the general aggregate of power; but numbers, nevertheless, constitute ordinarily the most important consideration, unless, indeed, there be a military force in the hands of the few, by which they can control the many. In this country we have actually existing systems of government, in the maintenance of which, it should seem, a great majority, both in numbers and in other means of power and influence must see their interest. But this state of things is not brought about solely by written political constitutions, or the mere manner of organizing government; but also by the laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. The freest government, if it could exist, would not be long acceptable, if the tendency of the laws were to create a rapid accumulation of property in few hands, and to render the great mass of the population dependent and penniless. In such a case, the popular power would be likely to break limit and control the exercise of popular power. Universal suffrage, for example, could not long exist in a community where there was great inequality of property. The holders of estates would be obliged, in such case, in some way to restrain the right of suffrage, or else such right of suffrage would, before, long, divide the property. In the nature of things, those who have not property, and see their neighbors possess much more than they think them need, cannot be favorable to laws made for the protection of property. WHen this class becomes numerous, it glows clamorous. It looks on property as its prey and plunder, and is naturally ready, at all times, for violence and revolution.

It would seem, then, to be the part of political wisdom to found government on property; and to establish such distribution of property, by the laws which regulate its transmission and alienation, as to interest the great majority of society in the support of the government. This is, I imagine, the true theory and the actual practice of our republican institutions...

I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest, that the land is not yet wholly free from the contamination of a traffic, at which every feeling of humanity must for ever revolt, - I mean the African slave-trade. Neither public sentiment, nor the law, has hitherto been able entirely to put an end tohis odious and abominable trade. At the moment when God in his mercy has blessed the Christian world with a universal peace, there is reason to fear, that, to the disgrace of the Christian name and character, new efforts are making for the extension of this trade by subjects and citizens of Christian states, in whose hearts there dwell no sentiments of humanity or of justice, and over whom neither the fear of God nor the fear of man exercises a control. In the sight of our law, the African slave-trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt. There is no brighter page of our history, than that which records the measures which have been adopted by the government at an early day, and at different times since, for the suppression of this traffic; and I would call on all the true sons of New England to cooperate with the laws of man, and the justice of Heaven. If there be, within the extent of our knowledge or influence, any participation in this traffic, let us pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer. I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this work of hell, foul and dark, as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and torture. Let that spot be purified, or let it cease to be of New England. Let it be purified, or let it be set aside from the Christian world; let it be put out of the circle of human sympathies and human regards, and let civilized man henceforth have no communion with it...

The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be passed. Neither we nor our children can be expected to behold its return. They are in the distant regions of futurity, they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand here a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims and to survey, as we have now surveyed, the progress of their country, during the lapse of a century. We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate and partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of New England's advancement. On the morning of that day, although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude, commencing on the Rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.

We would leave for consideration of those who shall then occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and religious liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back uopn us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed affections, which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of being.

Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our own human duration. We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritence which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to me treasures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!!

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 AM


(via ef brown):
On Hating the Jews: The inextricable link between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. (NATAN SHARANSKY, November 17, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

[I]srael and the Jewish people share something essential with the United States. The Jews, after all, have long held that they were chosen to play a special role in history, to be what their prophets called "a light unto the nations." What precisely is meant by that phrase has always been a matter of debate, and I would be the last to deny the mischief that has sometimes been done, including to the best interests of the Jews, by some who have raised it as their banner. Nevertheless, over four millennia, the universal vision and moral precepts of the Jews have not only worked to secure the survival of the Jewish people themselves but have constituted a powerful force for good in the world, inspiring myriads to fight for the right even as in others they have aroused rivalry, enmity and unappeasable resentment.

It is similar with the United States--a nation that has long regarded itself as entrusted with a mission to be what John Winthrop in the 17th century called a "city on a hill" and Ronald Reagan in the 20th parsed as a "shining city on a hill." What precisely is meant by that phrase is likewise a matter of debate, but Americans who see their country in such terms certainly regard the advance of American values as central to American purpose. And, though the United States is still a very young nation, there can be no disputing that those values have likewise constituted an immense force for good in the world--even as they have earned America the enmity and resentment of many.

In resolving to face down enmity and hatred, an important source of strength is the lesson to be gained from contemplating the example of others. From Socrates to Churchill to Sakharov, there have been individuals whose voices and whose personal heroism have reinforced in others the resolve to stand firm for the good. But history has also been generous enough to offer, in the Jews, the example of an ancient people fired by the message of human freedom under God and, in the Americans, the example of a modern people who over the past century alone, acting in fidelity with their inmost beliefs, have confronted and defeated the greatest tyrannies ever known to man.

Fortunately for America, and fortunately for the world, the United States has been blessed by providence with the power to match its ideals. The Jewish state, by contrast, is a tiny island in an exceedingly dangerous sea, and its citizens will need every particle of strength they can muster for the trials ahead. It is their own people's astounding perseverance, despite centuries of suffering at the hands of faiths, ideologies, peoples, and individuals who have hated them and set out to do them in, that inspires one with confidence that the Jews will once again outlast their enemies.

Due to the problems of demographics and assimilation, we're less sanguine than Mr. Sharansky about the future of Judaism, but Judaism is so central to the West and to Christianity that so long as America remains Western/Christian, Judaism's legacy will endure.

[originally posted: 11/17/03]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 AM


America The Valiant: Giving thanks for our prosperous, resilient and free nation. (Claudia Rosett, 11.26.09, Forbes)

[F]or America to choose decline would be to break faith with what this country is. America did not set out to become a great power and engineer a system to achieve it. Rather, America is built on principles of freedom that allow its citizens to make the most of their individual talents, energies and dreams. That is what earned America its place as No. 1.

There is nothing in that to apologize for, and everything to be proud of. How to translate that basic truth into action is a matter of individual choice. But here's one place to begin: It's time to luxuriate in patriotism and not be ashamed to spin legends again--not about our current politicians, who are already involved in quite enough spinning, but about American heroes, adventurers, the out-sized figures who years ago, imagined or real, populated American lore. [...]

I did some foraging on the bookshelves this week (though the Internet will also serve) and came away much refreshed by such classics as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the midnight ride of Paul Revere. The verses might not meet the brooding standards of the psychoanalytically inclined critics of our day. But they can still thrill and inspire, as the rider sets out to raise the alarm that the British are coming:

...a spark
Struck out by the steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet through the gleam and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night,

Longfellow had a marvelous confidence that this spirit would endure. He ended that poem with the lines:

... Borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

The days of legend and valor need not be over. To be American is to be part of an extraordinary and noble adventure on the frontiers of freedom. From that arises the immense bounty for which Americans, over turkey and pie, give thanks. If that seems too proud and simple a message for complex times, it is anything but. It is the real bottom line and rallying point for a better world.

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[originally posted: 11/26/09]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 AM


King Arthur Flour's Heavenly Pumpkin Pie Recipe (Susan Fogwell, November 24, 2010, HuffPo)

Guaranteed Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Hands-on time: 30 to 40 minutes
Baking time: 45 to 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hr 15 mins to 1 hr 30 mins.
Yield: 8 Servings

Your favorite single pie crust

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, optional
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups (or one 15-ounce can) pumpkin purée.
1 ¼ cups light cream or evaporated milk

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt, and spices.

In a large measuring cup, beat together the eggs, pumpkin, and cream or evaporated milk. Whisk into the dry ingredients. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate the filling overnight before baking.

Lightly grease a 9" pie pan at least 1 ½" deep. Roll out the crust, place it in the pan, and crimp the edges above the rim: this will give you a little extra headroom to hold the filling. Refrigerate the crust while the oven preheats to 400 degrees.

When the oven is hot, place the pie pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is set 2" in from the edge; the center should still be wobbly. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a rack; the center will finish cooking through as the pie sits. Refrigerate the pie until you're ready to serve it.

[originally posted: 11/25/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 AM


An English Thanksgiving, 1942: American soldiers followed in the footsteps of 17th-century Pilgrims and sat in the pew of Miles Standish. (THOMAS FLEMING, 11/24/11, WSJ)

Helping to win them over was an extraordinary act of generosity very much in keeping with the spirit of the holiday. Merchant ships had carried tons of frozen turkey across the submarine-infested Atlantic for the big day. Then the Yanks announced they would donate all of it to the thousands of British war wounded in hospitals. Instead they would dine on roast pork and eat plum pudding for desert, alas without the standard rum sauce. "The quartermaster failed to deliver the rum," a newsman reported.

Americans also took advantage of their holiday abroad to walk in the footsteps of the Pilgrims who created the first Thanksgiving in the New England wilderness in 1621. One officer sat in the pew once occupied by the legendary Miles Standish, the Pilgrim's military leader, in the small parish church at Chorley, in the county of Lancashire. The Chorley town hall flew an American flag on Thanksgiving Day--the first time in their long history that the citizens had ever honored the flag of another nation.

The Lord Mayor of Boston, in Lincolnshire, invited 100 American servicemen to be his guests for a modest wartime dinner. Afterward, a senior officer laid a wreath on a memorial to five pre-Revolutionary War royal governors who had been born in the historic city. An American private laid another wreath in the cold dark cells where some Pilgrims were confined in 1607 while trying to escape to religious freedom in Holland.

Even more thrilling to those with a sense of history was a visit to Southhampton, where a U.S. Army detachment stood at attention before the pier where the old freighter, Mayflower, was fitted out for her trans-Atlantic voyage. At Plymouth they visited the quay from which the Pilgrims boarded. Not far away, the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a service in the ruins of St. Andrew's Church, where some of the Mayflower's passengers prayed before they began their 3,000-mile voyage. Virginia-born Lady Astor was on hand for these ceremonies, calling Americans "my compatriots" and joking with a Southerner from Georgia, Private Billy Harrison, about their superiority to "damn Yankees" from New York.

The most dramatic ceremony was in London's Westminster Abbey, where English kings and queens have been crowned for centuries. No British government had ever permitted any ritual on its altar except the prescribed devotions of the Church of England. But on Nov. 26, 1942, they made an exception for their American cousins.

[Originally posted: 11/24/11]
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 AM


Eat, Drink, and Relax: Think the Pilgrims would frown on today's football-tossing, turkey-gobbling Thanksgiving festivities? Maybe not. (Elesha Coffman, November 2001, Christianity Today)

I'm sure Thanksgiving Day church services are lovely, but I have to admit that I've never been to one. In my family, Thanksgiving means watching parades and football games, cooking, eating, and maybe playing a few games of pinochle. Aside from the pre-dinner prayer, it's not an overtly religious celebration.

Neither was the so-called "First Thanksgiving" in 1621. [...]

In the Separatist worldview, shared in almost all particulars by the wider Puritan community, nothing fell outside the experience of faith. As Leland Ryken wrote in Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Zondervan, 1986):

"Puritanism was impelled by the insight that all of life is God's. The Puritans lived simultaneously in two worlds-the invisible spiritual world and the physical world of earthly existence. For the Puritans, both worlds were equally real, and there was no cleavage of life into sacred and secular. All of life was sacred."

In other words, whether you go to church on Thanksgiving or not, the day can be seasoned with what Puritan divine Richard Baxter called "a drop of glory." As Paul and David said, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1, 1 Cor. 10:26).

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 AM


Thanksgiving and American Exceptionalism (Mark Tooley, 11.24.10, American Spectator)

The left-of-center Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Brookings Institution have released a post-election survey showing nearly 60 percent of Americans believe God has assigned America a "special role" in human history. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals believe in this special role for America, as do two thirds of minority Christians. Majorities of white Mainline Protestants and Catholics also agree. Two thirds of the religiously unaffiliated disbelieve in any special role for America.

Probably the surveyors were discomfited by the results, especially that the devotees of American exceptionalism were not confined to white evangelicals but were nearly as numerous among minority Christians, which presumably mostly means blacks and Hispanics. American exceptionalism essentially originated with the ancestors of Mainline Protestantism, who were America's earliest European settlers and America's primary religious pillars for most of our history. A half century of leftward drift by Mainline church elites unsurprisingly has dampened their confidence in exceptionalism, but most still adhere. Likewise for most Catholics. The survey frustratingly does not provide a detailed break-down, but almost certainly most religiously active Mainline Protestants and Catholics are more prone to American exceptionalism than the nominally affiliated.

Much and perhaps most of American exceptionalism originated with the Calvinist English religious dissenters who settled New England, the first wave of whom landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. With Thanksgiving, America celebrates those dissenters' founding holiday. Later waves of Puritan immigrants conceived of their American adventure as an "errand in the wilderness." And some metaphorically likened their new civilization to the Chosen People of the Old Testament, with special blessings but also special obligations, always under both God's gracious care and sometimes severe judgment. Subsequent immigrants were not always as religiously devout. But the Puritan conception of America on a special mission from God that would benefit not just Americans but all peoples was reinforced by the heroic and spiritually animated struggle for American independence. Later immigrants, though far removed from the British Protestant tradition, still often comfortably embraced the notion of America as a sort of Promised Land, especially when compared to the travails of the old country. The Calvinist conception of American exceptionalism expanded to include other Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

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[originally posted: 11/24/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 AM


Religious Freedom and Pluralism (Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Spring 2002, Markets & Morality)
Although no given religion is established in the United States, our national traditions are heavily imbued with religion. Abraham Kuyper, lecturing in 1874, maintained that the people of the United States "bear a clear-cut Christian stamp more than any other nation on earth." The separation between Church and State, he said, had a very different meaning for Americans than it did for Cavour. It stemmed "not from the desire to be liberated from the Church but from the realization that the well-being of the Church and the progress of Christianity demand it."

We have had in the United States a kind of "civil," "political," or "public" religion that neither affirms the particular beliefs of any denomination nor seeks to compete with any Church or synagogue. It does not deify the State but inculcates reverence to a God by whom all States are judged. This common patrimony has some affinities with the "natural religion" of the deists but goes beyond deism in professing various biblical beliefs: for example, that God is to be worshiped and obeyed, that he hears our prayers, rewards virtue, punishes vice, has mercy on the repentant, and governs the world with his providential care.

This "civil religion," as I call it, is not legally imposed but is officially encouraged. It makes regular appearances at the time of Presidential inaugurations, Thanksgiving Day proclamations, and State funerals. Incumbents of public office are regularly sworn in with their hand on the Bible. They are expected to profess the articles of civil religion and are, at the same time, limited by it insofar as, in their public pronouncements, they are cautioned against asserting a more specific faith. Not all citizens are required to share the civil religion, but it has hitherto enjoyed solid public support. It provides a kind of protective umbrella under which, more specific religious faiths can flourish. Another feature of the American system, which distinguishes it from the laicism of nineteenth-century Europe, is the limited scope of the national government. The First Amendment originally applied only to the Federal government; it did not prevent individual States from having established churches. Even when the First Amendment was applied to individual States through the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, allowance was made for schools, hospitals, and welfare agencies to maintain their specific religious identities.

The government, while not professing any particular form of theism, favored a situation in which religious groups had an effective cultural presence. Religious groups could take advantage of the institutions of free speech and a free press to disseminate their convictions. Many immigrant groups coming from Europe brought their denominational identity with them and settled in religiously homogeneous neighborhoods, whether Jewish or Christian. Thus, the environment in which Americans grew up was permeated with religious influences. Practically speaking, Americans reaped the benefits without the deficits of an established religion. [?]

The current retreat from engagement with truth exacts a heavy price. The American proposition, as Richard John Neuhaus reminds us, is no longer proposed. People do not know why they ought to be doing what the laws say that they should be doing. "The popularly accessible and vibrant belief systems and worldviews of our society are largely excluded from the public arena in which the decisions are made about how the society should be ordered."

Society, in the classical sense, presupposed a common purpose. The citizens of the State (or the vast majority of them) were expected to share a common vision concerning the good life. As diversity deepens, this consensus breaks down. Cognitive minorities go off in their own directions and cease to be concerned about the values dear to others. In the absence of a shared vision, shared meanings, and a common vocabulary, civil discourse collapses. Many Americans no longer adhere to the consensus enshrined in their founding documents. This alienation contributes to a weakening of patriotism and to what some refer to as an "eclipse of citizenship."

According to Michael Sandel, in his well-known Democracy's Discontent, the dominant tendency in political theory today is to exclude moral and religious arguments from the public realm for the sake of political harmony. The assumption is that reasonable people will always disagree about the nature of truth and justice; there are no criteria for deciding which of two contradictory opinions is true. This pragmatic relativism is manifest, Sandel reports, in the works of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Robert Nozick, and Bruce Ackerman. The minimalist liberalism of these theorists, in Sandel's view, reduces all rights to the merely procedural rather than the substantive; it engenders what he calls "the procedural republic," in which toleration, freedom, and fairness are the supreme values. This procedural republic, he points out, leads to a moral void in which the citizens are deprived of the moral and intellectual vision needed to sustain a sense of national purpose and even to safeguard freedom itself.

To illustrate how minimalist liberalism fails to protect the most elemental human rights, issues such as slavery and abortion come to mind. Unless one acknowledges the inviolable value of the individual person-a postulate that defies justification on pragmatist grounds-it cannot be shown why slavery should not be legitimized by the will of the majority. The recent trend to sanction abortion when the mother chooses to do away with an unborn child violates the principle of the right to life-a principle that the Founding Fathers regarded as grounded in the eternal law of God. The sanctity of human life is further jeopardized by campaigns for infanticide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. The American experiment started with a national consensus that offered, in the name of liberty, a common ground allowing for a good measure of religious diversity. The constitutional right to freedom, by allowing different positions to be held and propagated without external interference, protected and enhanced pluralism, but we now face the danger that extreme and unreconciled pluralism may turn against the principles that undergird religious freedom itself.

In the absence of any standard of truth by which right and wrong can be measured, decisions have no objective point of reference. Rights cease to have a firm foundation in the inviolable dignity of the person. Decisions about matters of right become, in the end, matters of self-interest or mere arbitrary whim. Nobody is secure, because everyone's rights become negotiable. As John Paul II puts it, "Freedom negates itself and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with truth."

In the world of agnostic relativism, religion loses its true character as a way of relating the human family to God. God himself is treated as a mere projection of human fantasy, to be exploited insofar as the idea proves interesting and socially useful. Religion becomes a psychological exercise-perhaps a form of therapy or entertainment. In the absence of a realist epistemology, in which God can be apprehended as a power beyond and above us, religion itself becomes as insecure as freedom. Religious freedom lacks any firm grounding because religion has lost its roots in transcendent reality.

Popes of the past century have often been criticized for their expressed reservations about religious freedom. They were referring to the militant secularism of their own day, but much of their criticism is applicable to the agnostic pragmatism that prevails in American society today. It is hard to refute the logic of the following words from Leo XIII:

The nature of human liberty, however it be considered, whether in individuals or in society, whether in those who command or in those who obey, supposes the necessity of obedience to some supreme and eternal law, which is no other than the authority of God, commanding good and forbidding evil. And, so far from this most just authority of God over men diminishing, or even destroying their liberty, it protects and perfects it; for the real perfection of all creatures is found in the prosecution and attainment of their respective ends. But the supreme end to which liberty must aspire is God.

If pluralism is taken to mean that the human mind will never be able to encompass the mystery of the divine, it is inevitable and justified. There will always be different points of view, different perspectives, limited insights, but where pluralism is cultivated for its own sake, as if all points of view were equally legitimate, the line must be drawn. We must agree with Murray that religious pluralism implies error and is "against the will of God." Pluralism, if it is not to become destructive, must be accompanied by fundamental agreements such as those embodied in what I have described as the American civil religion. Unless a solid majority of the citizens accept some such basic core of agreement, the prognosis for religion in the American republic is poor.

Those of us who have come to believe in the God of the Bible and of Judeo-Christian tradition, even without fully agreeing among ourselves about other points of doctrine, have an urgent, common task. We must join forces to give common testimony to the basic truths of natural and biblical religion. We must confess together the importance of declaring that God exists, that his goodness can be known, and that we have certain specifiable duties toward him. We must also insist on our right to bear witness to the further truths that we believe on the basis of Jewish and Christian revelation, as understood within our respective traditions. If many Americans fail to believe, it is partly because believers have failed to present their faith as something credible and important. If the question of religious truth is bracketed for the sake of a consensus that excludes no one, or is short-circuited by a lazy agnosticism, our pluralism may fall into suicidal excesses. Both freedom and religion are jeopardized by the skeptical relativism that threatens to become the dominant ideology of the nation.

This maintenance of fundamental truths seems the one project that any conservatism worthy of the name has to entail or we'll not be able to conserve anything. This does not mean that we need a less tolerant society but one that is based on a more traditional understanding of toleration, that practices toleration as a means to achieving a decent society without elevating the idea of tolerance to a purpose of the society. It is the difference between accepting that people believe things we must disagree with and pretending that their beliefs are as valid as ours. (originally posted: 5/03/03)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 AM


Fit for a Pilgrim: Pure in flavor, heritage birds are taking a place at the table (Regina Schrambling, Special to the Los Angeles Times)

Only in the food world is reverse evolution a good thing. Every November, turkey, the all-important element of the most unifying American meal, gets a little closer to what the Pilgrims ate at that very first feast when they were grateful just to be alive. And every November it gets better.

In the last 20 years, frozen Butterballs have given way even in supermarkets to fresh turkeys, then free-range turkeys and most recently organic turkeys. Now all those relatively tame birds bred to sameness over the last half a century are very slowly starting to be supplanted by turkeys with stunning flavor and texture that may not be totally wild but are much richer and more nuanced than the usual tom or hen.

Known as heritage turkeys ("heirloom" was apparently taken by tomatoes and apples), these birds are truly the essence of Thanksgiving. Everything about them takes you back in time to a purer world of food.

Unlike the Broad-Breasted Whites developed to dominate the holiday (representing 99.9% of what is sold each season, according to Heritage Foods USA, which markets American Bronze and Bourbon Red breeds), they have sturdy legs and flatter, longer breasts with stunning flavor. Their white meat would never be mistaken for chicken, and their dark meat is rich and sensuous as duck.

(originally posted: 11/22/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 AM


A Pilgrim in Provincetown--Four Centuries Later: Immigration waters the dry garden of the Pilgrim story, keeping it from fossilizing into mere historical relic. (BORIS FISHMAN , 11/27/10, WSJ)

From JFK 22 years ago, we were ferried to the home of friends in south Brooklyn. It was somebody's birthday. So much about the table was reassuringly familiar: herring, salad Olivier, beet vinaigrette. But why was there a giant bird in the middle of it all? That was when we learned about Thanksgiving.

Our first week, we visited friends who shared their tables, casually showed off their English, and bragged a little about what they'd achieved in America. We felt crushingly inept by comparison.

Alone at last in our cramped, peeling apartment, my mother and grandmother burst into tears. We had left relative material comfort, familiar streets, a known tongue, and for what? These low-slung, characterless Brooklyn blocks? But we stayed. Grandmother went to wash floors for three dollars an hour, my father to paint room after room in freshly built high-rises, and I to school to learn how to speak English.

It may seem frivolous and disrespectful to compare the relative ease of our assimilation to what the Pilgrims experienced, but the difference is in degree rather than kind. Like the Pilgrims, my parents immigrated to escape harassment for their religious beliefs. On account of the Soviet information freeze, my parents also knew almost nothing about what awaited them in America. And like the Pilgrims, they knew they could never return.

Watching that video, I saw myself and my family. Immigration waters the dry garden of the Pilgrim story, keeping it from fossilizing into mere historical relic or branding fodder. In turn, the Pilgrim experience redeems immigration as that most American of rites.

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[originally posted: 11/27/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 AM


The Pilgrims' Financial Crisis (Peter Ferrara, 11.26.08, American Spectator)

By 1623, four additional ships of settlers had arrived. The colony had initially prospered just collecting wild growing food, and securing plentiful game such as turkeys and deer providing venison, supplemented by their own agriculture. Given their religious devotion, their concern for personal wealth was not a top issue for them, and even in that time idealistic notions of communal property and sharing communal resources as offering an ideal society of happiness had a strong appeal for those striking out to start a new civilization from scratch.

But as the colony grew, this initial quasi-socialist community of share and share alike was not working to produce enough for essential basic needs, let alone the prosperity that was expected in the new world. Available wild supplies of food, in particular, were no longer enough. Bradford again wrote in his dairy,

All this while no supply [of wild corn] was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefist amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end....This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

As indicated, this experiment in private agriculture was hugely successful, with the colony's agricultural output soaring. But the settlers still increasingly complained that the colony's remaining communal practices and lack of complete private property were constraining and unfair. Bradford wrote further in his diary in 1623,

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded of by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God. For this community...was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice....And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery....Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course [meaning communal policy] itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

Thus was capitalism born in America, sentimental notions of socialism having been tried and failed, not only as a matter of economics, but also because it was seen as a regime of unjust restrictions on personal liberty. The colony adopted private property and free trade, ending its own critical financial crisis, and creating the trademark bountiful American prosperity, which drew waves of new settlers seeking the American dream that had already been born.

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{originally posted: 11/26/08]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


THANKSGIVING (Mark Steyn, November 18th 2007, The Orange County Register)

A lot has changed since I wrote these words, but I'll stand by them. Enjoy the turkey, and count your blessings: [...]

Even in a supposedly 50/50 nation, you're struck by the assumed stability underpinning even fundamental disputes. If you go into a bookstore, the display shelves offer a smorgasbord of leftist anti-Bush tracts claiming that he and Cheney have trashed, mangled, gutted, raped and tortured, sliced'n'diced the Constitution, put it in a cement overcoat and lowered it into the East River. Yet even this argument presupposes a shared veneration for tradition unknown to most Western political cultures: When Tony Blair wanted to abolish in effect the upper house of the national legislature, he just got on and did it. I don't believe the U.S. Constitution includes a right to abortion or gay marriage or a zillion other things the Left claims to detect emanating from the penumbra, but I find it sweetly touching that in America even political radicalism has to be framed as an appeal to constitutional tradition from the powdered-wig era. In Europe, by contrast, one reason why there's no politically significant pro-life movement is because, in a world where constitutions have the life expectancy of an Oldsmobile, great questions are just seen as part of the general tide, the way things are going, no sense trying to fight it. And, by the time you realize you have to, the tide's usually up to your neck.

So Americans should be thankful they have one of the last functioning nation states. Because they've been so inept at exercising it, Europeans no longer believe in national sovereignty, whereas it would never occur to Americans not to. This profoundly different attitude to the nation state underpins in turn Euro-American attitudes to transnational institutions such as the U.N. But on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens -- a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan -- the U.S. can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply. Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in -- shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy -- most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base. If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.

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[originally posted: 11/26/09]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


Oration at Plymouth (Delivered at Plymouth Mass. December 22, 1802
in Commemoration of the Landing of the Pilgrims by John Quincy Adams)

Among the sentiments of most powerful operation upon the human heart, and most highly honorable to the human character, are those of veneration for our forefathers, and of love for our posterity.
They form the connecting links between the selfish and the social passions. By the fundamental principle of Christianity, the happiness of the individual is interwoven, by innumerable and imperceptible ties, with that of his contemporaries.
By power of filial reverence and parental affection, individual existence is extended beyond the limits of individual life, and the happiness of every age is chained in mutual dependence upon that of every other. Respect for his ancestors excites, in the breast of man, interest in their history, attachment to their characters, concern for their errors, involuntary pride in their virtues.
Love for his posterity spurs him to exertion for their support, stimulates him to virtue for their example, and fills him with the tenderest solicitude for their welfare. Man, therefore, was not made for himself alone.
No, he was made for his country, by the obligations of the social compact; he was made for his species, by the Christian duties of universal charity; he was made for all ages past, by the sentiment of reverence for his forefathers; and he was made for all future times, by the impulse of affection for his progeny.
Under the influence of these principles, "Existence sees him spurn her bounded reign." They redeem his nature from the subjection of time and space; he is no longer a "puny insect shivering at a breeze"; he is the glory of creation, formed to occupy all time and all extent; bounded, during his residence upon earth, only to the boundaries of the world, and destined to life and immortality in brighter regions, when the fabric of nature itself shall dissolve and perish.
The voice of history has not, in all its compass, a note but answers in unison with these sentiments. The barbarian chieftain, who defended his country against the Roman invasion, driven to the remotest extremity of Britain, and stimulating his followers to battle by all that has power of persuasion upon the human heart, concluded his persuasion by an appeal to these irresistible feelings: "Think of your forefathers and of your posterity."
The Romans themselves, at the pinnacle of civilization, were actuated by the same impressions, and celebrated, in anniversary festivals, every great event which had signalized the annals of their forefathers.
To multiply instances where it were impossible to adduce an exception would be to waste your time and abuse your patience; but in the sacred volume, which contains the substances of our firmest faith and of our most precious hopes, these passions not only maintain their highest efficacy, but are sanctioned by the express injunctions of the Divine Legislator to his chosen people.
The revolutions of time furnish no previous example of a nation shooting up to maturity and expanding into greatness with the rapidity which has characterized the growth of the American people.
In the luxuriance of youth, and in the vigor of manhood, it is pleasing and instructive to look backward upon the helpless days of infancy; but in the continual and essential changes of a growing subject, the transactions of that early period would be soon obliterated from the memory but for some periodical call of attention to aid the silent records of the historian.
Such celebrations arouse and gratify the kindliest emotions of the bosom. They are faithful pledges of the respect we bear to the memory of our ancestors and of the tenderness with which we cherish the rising generation. They introduce the sages and heroes of ages past to the notice and emulation of succeeding times; they are at once testimonials of our gratitude, and schools of virtue to our children.
These sentiments are wise; they are honorable; they are virtuous; their cultivation is not merely innocent pleasure, it is incumbent duty. Obedient to their dictates, you, my fellow-citizens, have instituted and paid frequent observance to this annual solemnity. and what event of weightier intrinsic importance, or of more extensive consequences, was ever selected for this honorary distinction?
In reverting to the period of our origin, other nations have generally been compelled to plunge into the chaos of impenetrable antiquity, or to trace a lawless ancestry into the caverns of ravishers and robbers.
It is your peculiar privilege to commemorate, in this birthday of your nation, an event ascertained in its minutest details; an event of which the principal actors are known to you familiarly, as if belonging to your own age; an event of a magnitude before which imagination shrinks at the imperfection of her powers.
It is your further happiness to behold, in those eminent characters, who were most conspicuous in accomplishing the settlement of your country, men upon whose virtue you can dwell with honest exultation.
The founders of your race are not handed down to you, like the fathers of the Roman people, as the sucklings of a wolf. You are not descended from a nauseous compound of fanaticism and sensuality, whose only argument was the sword, and whose only paradise was a brothel.
No Gothic scourge of God, no Vandal pest of nations, no fabled fugitive from the flames of Troy, no bastard Norman tyrant, appears among the list of worthies who first landed on the rock, which your veneration has preserved as a lasting monument of their achievement.
The great actors of the day we now solemnize were illustrious by their intrepid valor no less than by their Christian graces, but the clarion of conquest has not blazoned forth their names to all the winds of heaven.
Their glory has not been wafted over oceans of blood to the remotest regions of the earth. They have not erected to themselves colossal statues upon pedestals of human bones, to provoke and insult the tardy hand of heavenly retribution.
But theirs was "the better fortitude of patience and heroic martyrdom." Theirs was the gentle temper of Christian kindness; the rigorous observance of reciprocal justice; the unconquerable soul of conscious integrity.
Worldly fame has been parsimonious of her favor to the memory of those generous companions. Their numbers were small; their stations in life obscure; the object of their enterprise unostentatious; the theatre of their exploits remote; how could they possibly be favorites of worldly Fame--that common crier, whose existence is only known by the assemblage of multitudes; that pander of wealth and greatness, so eager to haunt the palaces of fortune, and so fastidious to the houseless dignity of virtue; that parasite of pride, ever scornful to meekness, and ever obsequious to insolent power; that heedless trumpeter, whose ears are deaf to modest merit, and whose eyes are blind to bloodless, distant excellence?
When the persecuted companions of Robinson, exiles from their native land, anxiously sued for the privilege of removing a thousand leagues more distant to an untried soil, a rigorous climate, and a savage wilderness, for the sake of reconciling their sense of religious duty with their affections for their country, few, perhaps none of them, formed a conception of what would be, within two centuries, the result of their undertaking.
When the jealous and niggardly policy of their British sovereign denied them even that humblest of requests, and instead of liberty would barely consent to promise connivance, neither he nor they might be aware that they were laying the foundations of a power, and that he was sowing the seeds of a spirit, which, in less than two hundred years, would stagger the throne of his descendants, and shake his united kingdoms to the centre.
So far is it from the ordinary habits of mankind to calculate the import of events in their elementary principles, that had the first colonists of our country ever intimated as a part of their designs the project of founding a great and mighty nation, the finger of scorn would have pointed them to the cells of Bedlam as an abode more suitable for hatching vain empires than the solitude of a transatlantic desert.
These consequences, then so little foreseen, have unfolded themselves, in all their grandeur, to the eyes of the present age. It is a common amusement of speculative minds to contrast the magnitude of the most important events with the minuteness of their primeval causes, and the records of mankind are full of examples for such contemplations.
It is, however, a more profitable employment to trace the constituent principles of future greatness in their kernel; to detect in the acorn at our feet the germ of that majestic oak, whose roots shoot down to the centre, and whose branches aspire to the skies.
Let it be, then, our present occupation to inquire and endeavor to ascertain the causes first put in operation at the period of our commemoration, and already productive of such magnificent effects; to examine with reiterated care and minute attention the characters of those men who gave the first impulse to a new series of events in the history of the world; to applaud and emulate those qualities of their minds which we shall find deserving of our admiration; to recognize with candor those features which forbid approbation or even require censure, and, finally, to lay alike their frailties and their perfections to our own hearts, either as warning or as example.
Of the various European settlements upon this continent, which have finally merged in one independent nation, the first establishments were made at various times, by several nations, and under the influence of different motives. In many instances, the conviction of religious obligation formed one and a powerful inducement of the adventures; but in none, excepting the settlement at Plymouth, did they constitute the sole and exclusive actuating cause.
Worldly interest and commercial speculation entered largely into the views of other settlers, but the commands of conscience were the only stimulus to the emigrants from Leyden. Previous to their expedition hither, they had endured a long banishment from their native country.
Under every species of discouragement, they undertook the voyage; they performed it in spite of numerous and almost insuperable obstacles; they arrived upon a wilderness bound with frost and hoary with snow, without the boundaries of their charter, outcasts from all human society, and coasted five weeks together, in the dead of winter, on this tempestuous shore, exposed at once to the fury of the elements, to the arrows of the native savage, and to the impending horrors of famine.
Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. These qualities have ever been displayed in their mightiest perfection, as attendants in the retinue of strong passions.
From the first discovery of the Western Hemisphere by Columbus until the settlement of Virginia which immediately preceded that of Plymouth, the various adventurers from the ancient world had exhibited upon innumerable occasions that ardor of enterprise and that stubbornness of pursuit which set all danger at defiance, and chained the violence of nature at their feet. But they were all instigated by personal interests.
Avarice and ambition had tuned their souls to that pitch of exaltation. Selfish passions were the parents of their heroism. It was reserved for the first settlers of new England to perform achievements equally arduous, to trample down obstructions equally formidable, to dispel dangers equally terrific, under the single inspiration of conscience.
To them even liberty herself was but a subordinate and secondary consideration. They claimed exemption from the mandates of human authority, as militating with their subjection to a superior power. Before the voice of Heaven they silenced even the calls of their country.
Yet, while so deeply impressed with the sense of religious obligation, they felt, in all its energy, the force of that tender tie which binds the heart of every virtuous man to his native land.
It was to renew that connection with their country which had been severed by their compulsory expatriation, that they resolved to face all the hazards of a perilous navigation and all the labors of a toilsome distant settlement.
Under the mild protection of the Batavian Government, they enjoyed already that freedom of religious worship, for which they had resigned so many comforts and enjoyments at home; but their hearts panted for a restoration to the bosom of their country.
Invited and urged by the open-hearted and truly benevolent people who had given them an asylum from the persecution of their own kindred to form their settlement within the territories then under their jurisdiction, the love of their country predominated over every influence save that of conscience alone, and they preferred the precarious chance of relaxation from the bigoted rigor of the English Government to the certain liberality and alluring offers of the Hollanders.
Observe, my countrymen, the generous patriotism, the cordial union of soul, the conscious yet unaffected vigor which beam in their application to the British monarch: "They were well weaned from the delicate milk of their mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange land.
They were knit together in a strict and sacred bond, to take care of the good of each other and of the whole. It was not with them as with other men, whom small things could discourage, or small discontents cause to wish themselves again at home."
Children of these exalted Pilgrims! Is there one among you ho can hear the simple and pathetic energy of these expressions without tenderness and admiration?
Venerated shades of our forefathers! No, ye were, indeed, not ordinary men! That country which had ejected you so cruelly from her bosom you still delighted to contemplate in the character of an affectionate and beloved mother. The sacred bond which knit you together was indissoluble while you lived; and oh, may it be to your descendants the example and the pledge of harmony to the latest period of time!
The difficulties and dangers, which so often had defeated attempts of similar establishments, were unable to subdue souls tempered like yours. You heard the rigid interdictions; you saw the menacing forms of toil and danger, forbidding your access to this land of promise; but you heard without dismay; you saw and disdained retreat.
Firm and undaunted in the confidence of that sacred bond; conscious of the purity, and convinced of the importance of your motives, you put your trust in the protecting shield of Providence, and smiled defiance at the combining terrors of human malice and of elemental strife.
These, in the accomplishment of your undertaking, you were summoned to encounter in their most hideous forms; these you met with that fortitude, and combated with that perseverance, which you had promised in their anticipation; these you completely vanquished in establishing the foundations of New England, and the day which we now commemorate is the perpetual memorial of your triumph.
It were an occupation peculiarly pleasing to cull from our early historians, and exhibit before you every detail of this transaction; to carry you in imagination on board their bark at the first moment of her arrival in the bay; to accompany Carver, Winslow, Bradford, and Standish, in all their excursions upon the desolate coast; to follow them into every rivulet and creek where they endeavored to find a firm footing, and to fix, with a pause of delight and exultation, the instant when the first of these heroic adventurers alighted on the spot where you, their descendants, now enjoy the glorious and happy reward of their labors.
But in this grateful task, your former orators, on this anniversary, have anticipated all that the most ardent industry could collect, and gratified all that the most inquisitive curiosity could desire.
To you, my friends, every occurrence of that momentous period is already familiar. A transient allusion to a few characteristic instances, which mark the peculiar history of the Plymouth settlers, may properly supply the place of a narrative, which, to this auditory, must be superfluous.
One of these remarkable incidents is the execution of that instrument of government by which they formed themselves into a body politic, the day after their arrival upon the coast, and previous to their first landing.
That is, perhaps, the only instance in human history of that positive, original social compact, which speculative philosophers have imagined as the only legitimate source of government.
Here was a unanimous and personal assent, by all the individuals of the community, to the association by which they became a nation. It was the result of circumstances and discussions which had occurred during their passage from Europe, and is a full demonstration that the nature of civil government, abstracted from the political institutions of their native country, had been an object of their serious meditation.
The settlers of all the former European colonies had contented themselves with the powers conferred upon them by their respective charters, without looking beyond the seal of the royal parchment for the measure of their rights and the rule of their duties.
The founders of Plymouth had been impelled by the peculiarities of their situation to examine the subject with deeper and more comprehensive research. After twelve years of banishment from the land of their first allegiance, during which they had been under an adoptive and temporary subjection to another sovereign, they must naturally have been led to reflect upon the relative rights and duties of allegiance and subjection.
They had resided in a city, the seat of a university, where the polemical and political controversies of the time were pursued with uncommon fervor. In this period they had witnessed the deadly struggle between the two parties, into which the people of the United Provinces, after their separation from the crown of Spain, had divided themselves.
The contest embraced within its compass not only theological doctrines, but political principles, and Maurice and Barnevelt were the temporal leaders of the same rival factions, of which Episcopius and Polyander were the ecclesiastical champions.
That the investigation of the fundamental principles of government was deeply implicated in these dissensions is evident from the immortal work of Grotius, upon the rights of war and peace, which undoubtedly originated from them.
Grotius himself had been a most distinguished actor and sufferer in those important scenes of internal convulsion, and his work was first published very shortly after the departure of our forefathers from Leyden.
It is well known that in the course of the contest Mr. Robinson more than once appeared, with credit to himself, as a public disputant against Episcopius; and from the manner in which the fact is related by Governor Bradford, it is apparent that the whole English Church at Leyden took a zealous interest in the religious part of the controversy.
As strangers in the land, it is presumable that they wisely and honorably avoided entangling themselves in the political contentions involved with it.
Yet the theoretic principles, as they were drawn into discussion, could not fail to arrest their attention, and must have assisted them to form accurate ideas concerning the origin and extent of authority among men, independent of positive institutions.
The importance of these circumstances will not be duly weighed without taking into consideration the state of opinion then prevalent in England. The general principles of government were there little understood and less examined. The whole substance of human authority was centred in the simple doctrine of royal prerogative, the origin of which was always traced in theory to divine institution.
Twenty years later, the subject was more industriously sifted, and for half a century became one of the principal topics of controversy between the ablest and most enlightened men in the nation. The instrument of voluntary association executed on board the "Mayflower" testifies that the parties to it had anticipated the improvement of their nation.
Another incident, from which we may derive occasion for important reflections, was the attempt of these original settlers to establish among them that community of goods and of labor, which fanciful politicians, from the days of Plato to those of Rousseau, have recommended as the fundamental law of a perfect republic.
This theory results, it must be acknowledged, from principles of reasoning most flattering to the human character. If industry, frugality, and disinterested integrity were alike the virtues of all, there would, apparently, be more of the social spirit, in making all property a common stock, and giving to each individual a proportional title to the wealth of the whole. Such is the basis upon which Plato forbids, in his Republic, the division of property.
Such is the system upon which Rousseau pronounces the first man who inclosed a field with a fence, and said, "This is mine," a traitor to the human species. A wiser and more useful philosophy, however, directs us to consider man according to the nature in which he was formed; subject to infirmities, which no wisdom can remedy; to weaknesses, which no institution can strengthen; to vices, which no legislation can correct.
Hence, it becomes obvious that separate property is the natural and indisputable right of separate exertion; that community of goods without community of toil is oppressive and unjust; that it counteracts the laws of nature, which prescribe that he only who sows the seed shall reap the harvest; that it discourages all energy, by destroying its rewards; and makes the most virtuous and active members of society the slaves and drudges of the worst.
Such was the issue of this experiment among our forefathers, and the same event demonstrated the error of the system in the elder settlement of Virginia. Let us cherish that spirit of harmony which prompted our forefathers to make the attempt, under circumstances more favorable to its success than, perhaps, ever occurred upon earth.
Let us no less admire the candor with which they relinquished it, upon discovering its irremediable inefficacy. To found principles of government upon too advantageous an estimate of the human character is an error of inexperience, the source of which is so amiable that it is impossible to censure it with severity.
We have seen the same mistake committed in our own age, and upon a larger theatre. Happily for our ancestors, their situation allowed them to repair it before its effects had proved destructive. They had no pride of vain philosophy to support, no perfidious rage of faction to glut, by persevering in their mistakes until they should be extinguished in torrents of blood.
As the attempt to establish among themselves the community of goods was a seal of that sacred bond which knit them so closely together, so the conduct they observed toward the natives of the country displays their steadfast adherence to the rules of justice and their faithful attachment to those of benevolence and charity.
No European settlement ever formed upon this continent has been more distinguished for undeviating kindness and equity toward the savages. There are, indeed, moralists who have questioned the right of the Europeans to intrude upon the possessions of the aboriginals in any case, and under any limitations whatsoever.
But have they maturely considered the whole subject? The Indian right of possession itself stands, with regard to the greater part of the country, upon a questionable foundation.
Their cultivated fields; their constructed habitations; a space of ample sufficiency for their subsistence, and whatever they had annexed to themselves by personal labor, was undoubtedly, by the laws of nature, theirs.
But what is the right of a huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he has accidentally ranged in quest of prey?
Shall the liberal bounties of Providence to the race of man be monopolized by one of ten thousand for whom they were created?
Shall the exuberant bosom of the common mother, amply adequate to the nourishment of millions, be claimed exclusively by a few hundreds of her offspring?
Shall the lordly savage not only disdain the virtues and enjoyments of civilization himself, but shall he control the civilization of a world?
Shall he forbid the wilderness to blossom like a rose?
Shall he forbid the oaks of the forest to fall before the axe of industry, and to rise again, transformed into the habitations of ease and elegance?
Shall he doom an immense region of the globe to perpetual desolation, and to hear the howlings of the tiger and the wolf silence forever the voice of human gladness?
Shall the fields and the valleys, which a beneficent God has formed to teem with the life of innumerable multitudes, be condemned to everlasting barrenness?
Shall the mighty rivers, poured out by the hand of nature, as channels of communication between numerous nations, roll their waters in sullen silence and eternal solitude of the deep?
Have hundreds of commodious harbors, a thousand leagues of coast, and a boundless ocean, been spread in the front of this land, and shall every purpose of utility to which they could apply be prohibited by the tenant of the woods?
No, generous philanthropists!
Heaven has not been thus inconsistent in the works of its hands. Heaven has not thus placed at irreconcilable strife its moral laws with its physical creation.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth obtained their right of possession to the territory on which they settled, by titles as fair and unequivocal as any human property can be held.
By their voluntary association they recognized their allegiance to the government of Britain, and in process of time received whatever powers and authorities could be conferred upon them by a charter from their sovereign.
The spot on which they fixed had belonged to an Indian tribe, totally extirpated by that devouring pestilence which had swept the country shortly before their arrival. The territory, thus free from all exclusive possession, they might have taken by the natural right of occupancy.
Desirous, however, of giving amply satisfaction to every pretence of prior right, by formal and solemn conventions with the chiefs of the neighboring tribes, they acquired the further security of a purchase. At their hands the children of the desert had no cause of complaint.
On the great day of retribution, what thousands, what millions of the American race will appear at the bar of judgment to arraign their European invading conquerors! Let us humbly hope that the fathers of the Plymouth Colony will then appear in the whiteness of innocence.
Let us indulge in the belief that they will not only be free from all accusation of injustice to these unfortunate sons of nature, but that the testimonials of their acts of kindness and benevolence toward them will plead the cause of their virtues, as they are now authenticated by the record of history upon earth.
Religious discord has lost her sting; the cumbrous weapons of theological warfare are antiquated; the field of politics supplies the alchemists of our times with materials of more fatal explosion, and the butchers of mankind no longer travel to another world for instruments of cruelty and destruction.
Our age is too enlightened to contend upon topics which concern only the interests of eternity; the men who hold in proper contempt all controversies about trifles, except such as inflame their own passions, have made it a commonplace censure against your ancestors, that their zeal was enkindled by subjects of trivial importance; and that however aggrieved by the intolerance of others, they were alike intolerant themselves.
Against these objections, your candid judgment will not require an unqualified justification; but your respect and gratitude for the founders of the State may boldly claim an ample apology.
The original grounds of their separation from the Church of England were not objects of a magnitude to dissolve the bonds of communion, much less those of charity, between Christian brethren of the same essential principles. Some of them, however, were not inconsiderable, and numerous inducements concurred to give them an extraordinary interest in their eyes.
When that portentous system of abuses, the Papal dominion, was overturned, a great variety of religious sects arose in its stead in the several countries, which for many centuries before had been screwed beneath its subjection.
The fabric of the Reformation, first undertaken in England upon a contracted basis, by a capricious and sanguinary tyrant, had been successively overthrown and restored, renewed and altered, according to the varying humors and principles of four successive monarchs.
To ascertain the precise point of division between the genuine institutions of Christianity and the corruptions accumulated upon them in the progress of fifteen centuries, was found a task of extreme difficulty throughout the Christian world.
Men of the profoundest learning, of the sublimest genius, and of the purest integrity, after devoting their lives to the research, finally differed in their ideas upon many great points, both of doctrine and discipline.
The main question, it was admitted on all hands, most intimately concerned the highest interests of man, both temporal and eternal.
Can we wonder that men who felt their happiness here and their hopes of hereafter, their worldly welfare and the kingdom of heaven at stake, should sometimes attach an importance beyond their intrinsic weight to collateral points of controversy, connected with the all- involving object of the Reformation?
The changes in the forms and principles of religious worship were introduced and regulated in England by the hand of public authority. But that hand had not been uniform or steady in its operations.
During the persecutions inflicted in the interval of Popish restoration under the reign of Mary, upon all who favored the Reformation, many of the most zealous reformers had been compelled to fly their country. While residing on the continent of Europe, they had adopted the principles of the most complete and rigorous reformation, as taught and established by Calvin.
On returning afterward to their native country, they were dissatisfied with the partial reformation, at which, as they conceived, the English establishment had rested; and claiming the privilege of private conscience, upon which alone any departure from the Church of Rome could be justified, they insisted upon the right of adhering to the system of their own preference, and, of course, upon that of non-conformity to the establishment prescribed by the royal authority. The only means used to convince them of error and reclaim them from dissent was force, and force served but to confirm the opposition it was meant to suppress.
By driving the founders of the Plymouth Colony into exile, it constrained them to absolute separation irreconcilable. Viewing their religious liberties here, as held only by sufferance, yet bound to them by all the ties of conviction, and by all their sufferings for them, could they forbear to look upon every dissenter among themselves with a jealous eye?
Within two years after their landing, they beheld a rival settlement attempted in their immediate neighborhood; and not long after, the laws of self- preservation compelled them to break up a nest of revellers, who boasted of protection from the mother country, and who had recurred to the easy but pernicious resource of feeding their wanton idleness, by furnishing the savages with the means, the skill, and the instruments of European destruction. Toleration, in that instance, would have been self-murder, and many other examples might be alleged, in which their necessary measures of self-defence have been exaggerated into cruelty, and their most indispensable precautions distorted into persecution. Yet shall we not pretend that they were exempt from the common laws of mortality, or entirely free from all the errors of their age. Their zeal might sometimes be too ardent, but it was always sincere. At this day, religious indulgence is one of our clearest duties, because it is one of our undisputed rights. While we rejoice that the principles of genuine Christianity have so far triumphed over the prejudices of a former generation, let us fervently hope for the day when it will prove equally victorious over the malignant passions of our own.
In thus calling your attention to some of the peculiar features in the principles, the character, and the history of our forefathers, it is as wide from my design, as I know it would be from your approbation, to adorn their memory with a chaplet plucked from the domain of others.
The occasion and the day are more peculiarly devoted to them, and let it never be dishonored with a contracted and exclusive spirit. Our affections as citizens embrace the whole extent of the Union, and the names of Raleigh, Smith, Winthrop, Calvert, Penn and Oglethorpe excite in our minds recollections equally pleasing and gratitude equally fervent with those of Carver and Bradford.
Two centuries have not yet elapsed since the first European foot touched the soil which now constitutes the American Union. Two centuries more and our numbers must exceed those of Europe itself.
The destinies of their empire, as they appear in prospect before us, disdain the powers of human calculation. Yet, as the original founder of the Roman State is said once to have lifted upon his shoulders the fame and fortunes of all his posterity, so let us never forget that the glory and greatness of all our descendants is in our hands.
Preserve in all their purity, refine, if possible, from all their alloy, those virtues which we this day commemorate as the ornament of our forefathers. Adhere to them with inflexible resolution, as to the horns of the altar; instil them with unwearied perseverance into the minds of your children; bind your souls and theirs to the national Union as the chords of life are centred in the heart, and you shall soar with rapid and steady wing to the summit of human glory.
Nearly a century ago, one of those rare minds to whom it is given to discern future greatness in its seminal principles, upon contemplating the situation of this continent, pronounced, in a vein of poetic inspiration, "Westward the star of empire takes its way." Let us unite in ardent supplication to the Founder of nations and the Builder of worlds, that what then was prophecy may continue unfolding into history--that the dearest hopes of the human race may not be extinguished in disappointment, and that the last may prove the noblest empire of time.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


Why I'm Thankful for America's Future: It's easy to be gloomy about the current state of the U.S. economy, but the nation retains numerous advantages over rivals (Frank Aquila, 11/22/11, Bloomberg)

The late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, author of the legislation that created the eponymous Pell Grants, once pointed out that America's strength "is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people." Our system of higher education is unequaled anywhere in the world. The alma maters of many of the global economic leaders currently in the spotlight--from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (MIT) to Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa (University of Chicago), Bank of England Governor Mervyn King (Harvard), Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (MIT), and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (Yale)--attest to the strength of U.S. higher education.

Americans and those who aspire to live in the U.S. share a desire to create better lives for themselves and their families. Luckily we have the building blocks to achieve all that we dare to dream. As Warren Buffet wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders this year, "the prophets of doom have overlooked the all-important factor that is certain: Human potential is far from exhausted, and the American system for unleashing that potential ... remains alive and effective."

The U.S. take on this "human potential" is often seen in the proverbial garage from which a tinkerer with an idea periodically emerges with a product or service that changes the world. That innovative spark finds a home in America that is unlike almost anywhere else. To the entrepreneur in America, business failure is not a shameful calamity; indeed, it is often a proving ground for one's resilience and a crucible in which an idea improves.

[originally posted: 11/23/11]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 AM


The Impossibility of Thanksgiving: Why gratefulness is more gift than duty. (Mark Galli, 11/25/2009, Christianity Today)

Several biblical passages talk about thanksgiving, but few get to the heart of the matter better than Ephesians 5:20, where the apostle Paul says we should be " ... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The idea of giving thanks is central to Paul's entire ministry. We see it not only here, but in many of his letters.

For example, to the Colossians he writes, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father ... " (1:11-12) To the Thessalonians he says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Many other examples abound.

And he practices what he preaches. To the Romans, he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" (1:8). In his first letter to Corinth, he writes, "I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus" (1:4). To the Ephesians he explains, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (1:16). And on it goes.

Paul is a thanksgiving junkie. And he is so because he understands that thankfulness is not one of many virtues that characterize the Christian life, but the characteristic of faith.

To look at it from the other side: It is not pride nor greed nor lust but ungratefulness that he says has caused so much confusion and despair on the planet: "For although they knew God," Paul writes of humanity, "they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:21). From there, he describes how things just got worse and worse and worse, so that in the end, he can only describe humankind as "foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (1:31). And it all begins with ungratefulness.

So, when Paul summarizes the nature of the Christian life, and thus the fundamental activity of the church, he frames it in terms of gratefulness. "Therefore," he tells the Colossians, "as you received Christ Jesus the Lord" [how the Christian life gets started], so walk in him [how the Christian life is made manifest--how exactly?], rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (2:6-7).

He is very much in sync with the entire biblical witness. Gratefulness is the most characteristic act of the people of God, as witnessed by the Psalms, the Old Testament's hymnal: "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!" (Ps. 147:7). It's practically a cliché.

[originally posted: 11/26/09]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 AM


Private Enterprise Regained (Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty)

Governor Bradford�s own history of the Plymouth Bay Colony over which he presided is a story that deserves to be far better known�particularly in an age that has acquired a mania for socialism and communism, regards them as peculiarly "progressive" and entirely new, and is sure that they represent "the wave of the future."

Most of us have forgotten that when the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the shores of Massachusetts they established a communist system. Out of their common product and storehouse they set up a system of rationing, though it came to "but a quarter of a pound of bread a day to each person." Even when harvest came, "it arose to but a little." A vicious circle seemed to set in. The people complained that they were too weak from want of food to tend the crops as they should. Deeply religious though they were, they took to stealing from each other. "So as it well appeared," writes Governor Bradford, "that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented."

So the colonists, he continues, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length [in 1623] after much debate of things, the Gov. (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. . . .

"And so assigned to every family a parcel of land. . . .

A Great Success

"This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Gov. or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content.

"The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that among godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato�s and other ancients, applauded by some of later times;�that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a commonwealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort."

How different might the bloody history of the Enlightenment have been were rationalists as open-minded?

(originally posted: 11/25/04)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 AM


The faith of our fathers (Jay Tolson, Jun 19, 2004, US News)

Some say the mystery of American religiosity is contained in a paradox: America is a godly nation because it has kept church and state separate, at least in the sense set forth by the Constitution. "Congress," the First Amendment famously begins, "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . . " Perhaps the greater mystery, though, is that those two clauses did not produce conflicts during most of our history, even though religious sentiments and symbols liberally suffused the public square and much of civic life. But if most Americans have long approved of their civil religion, why have some in recent years found it so objectionable?

Much confusion and litigation have arisen from the perception that America's founders intended religion to be strictly a matter of private choice that should never impinge upon public life. That may be as much a misunderstanding of the founders' intent as the view that the founders intended to create an explicitly Christian nation. According to Purdue University historian Frank Lambert, in his book The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America, both extremes fail to acknowledge that America had two different sets of spiritual fathers. The "Planting Fathers," particularly the Puritans of New England, sought both to practice their own brand of Christianity and to found a Christian state. Establishing Congregationalism, they supported it with taxes and compelled their chief magistrates to govern "according to the rule of the word of God." The southern colonies, meanwhile, generally enforced Anglicanism, while the middle colonies worked out more pluralistic arrangements. But some 150 years after the Puritans signed their charters, a different group of national leaders, the Founding Fathers, hammered out a new national compact, this one guaranteeing that the state would have no voice in determining matters of conscience.

Clearly, much had happened in the years separating the Planting Fathers from the Founding Fathers. While many of the colonial elite had been touched by the skeptical scientific rationalism of the Enlightenment, even greater numbers of common folk were transformed by a powerful religious revival that swept through the colonies in the 1740s. Called the First Great Awakening, it emphasized individual religious experience and subtly challenged the authority of the established sects. By the time the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia, most of them knew that the people of the new United States were too diverse to be forced into conformity with a national church.

Yet the founders never sought to drive religion from the public realm. The words they spoke, the symbols they embraced, and the rituals they established--from state-declared days of thanksgiving to prayers at the start of Congress to military chaplaincies--all made clear that even semiofficial acknowledgment of divine providence was not only acceptable but good. This public piety was distinctly nonsectarian and centered upon what might be called a benevolent theism. But as James Hutson, chief of the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, argues in his Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, whether they were old-line Calvinists or liberal deists, the Founders believed divine will legitimized their institutions and laws and made citizens more willing to respect them. Even Thomas Jefferson, who thought most Americans would become rationalist Unitarians within a generation or two, considered the acknowledgment of providential authority essential to public virtue.

Contrary to Jefferson's rationalist prediction, Americans became even more enthusiastically religious. [...]

Secularists often ignore the fact that civil religion has long served as a prod to civic conscience and as a check on national hubris. As McClay points out, "Expressions like 'under God' in the pledge suggest that the nation is under judgment and subject to higher moral principles. Even people deeply suspicious of civil religion ought to appreciate some sort of higher restraint."

In his classic, Democracy and Leadership, the great Irving Babbitt put the point well:
Not the least singular feature of the singular epoch in which we are living is that the very persons who are least willing to hear about the veto power are likewise the persons who are most certain that they stand for the virtues that depend upon its exercise--for example, peace and brotherhood. As against the expansionists of every kind, I do not hesitate to affirm that what is specifically human in man and ultimately divine is a certain quality of will, a will that is felt in its relation to his ordinary self as a will to refrain. The affirmation of this quality of will is nothing new: it is implied in the Pauline opposition between a law of the spirit and a law of the members. In general, the primacy accorded to will over intellect in Oriental. The idea of humility, the idea that man needs to defer to a higher will, came into Europe with an Oriental religion, Christianity. This idea has been losing ground in almost exact ratio to the decline of Christianity. Inasmuch as the recognition of the supremacy of will seems to me imperative in any wise view of life, I side in important respects with the Christian against those who have in the Occident, whether in ancient or in modern times, inclined to give first place either to the intellect or to the emotions.
Suffice it to say, Mr. Babbitt would have understood this phenomenon perfectly.

-LECTURE: Irving Babbitt and Cultural Renewal (James Seaton, April 13, 2002, The Philadelphia Society)
-REVIEW: of Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt (John Attarian, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty)

(originally posted: 6/23/04)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 AM


Footnote on Reagan�s �City on a Hill� phrase (L. John VanTil, 06/19/2004, Z Wire)

In recent days many Americans were deeply moved by the week-long farewell ceremony in honor of President Ronald Reagan. Among the many tributes were frequent references to his vision for America. Numerous speakers, including Vice President Cheney and Supreme Court Justice O�Connor, specifically referred to, and even quoted, John Winthrop�s lay-sermon on board the Arbella in 1630 as the prime example of President Reagan�s vision for America. Winthrop challenged his fellow settlers to work hard, to do the right thing and to carry out the purpose of their mission as they settled in New England. And why? Because, he said, �we shall be as a city upon a hill,� continuing with the observation that all the world would be watching to see how they did in their little experiment in America, ready to mock them if they failed. The networks replayed President Reagan�s delivery of this quotation many times during the week and numerous pundits cited the line as well. Every one of the dozens who quoted or commented on Winthrop�s phrase during the memorial events referred to him as a �Pilgrim� leader.

In the interest of historical accuracy it must be pointed out that John Winthrop was not a Pilgrim and that stating so on any decent history test would result in points being lost. Well, then, who was Winthrop if not a Pilgrim? It is no small point to state that he was, in fact, a Puritan and that Pilgrims and Puritans were not the same settlers at all. And, it must be said that Pilgrims are admired by Americans, even admired in some history texts, while queries about Puritans generally result in a frown and a negative opinion. [...]

If Winthrop was not a Pilgrim, how did it happen that he came to be called one by President Reagan and then by dozens who quoted him or quoted Winthrop from their own experience during the memorial ceremonies? The likely answer to this question involves a long-standing erroneous reputation of the Puritans.

During the first half of the twentieth century, history textbooks that commented on Puritans and Puritanism had a decidedly negative tone in their interpretation. This negative tone probably arose from the writer�s personal dislike for the strict Christian views held by the Puritans, but that is a topic beyond the scope of this piece. Puritanism has been rehabilitated by an outstanding group of Harvard and Yale historians beginning with the work of Samuel E. Morison in the 1930s (�The Builders of the Bay Colony�), continuing with major works by Perry Miller (�The New England Mind�) and Yale historian Edmond S. Morgan (The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop). Their students and their students� students have carried on this restoration of Puritanism, therein creating an accurate picture of it. Indeed, I would count my own �Liberty of Conscience: The History of a Puritan Idea� as a chapter in this reconstruction of Puritanism. In brief, it is clear that Puritans were generally witty, educated, hard working, and devout Christians. They certainly were not prudes as Edmond Morgan has pointed out.

�Cultural lag� and simple obstinacy, not to mention a continuing revisionism of American history, have prevented the more accurate picture of John Winthrop�s Boston from becoming the prevailing view of Puritanism. Hence, it is likely that whoever first gave President Reagan this quotation did not know the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans. Or, more likely, this person thought that using the name Puritan would undermine whatever positive message the �city on a hill� phrase had.

Heck, there are still folks who haven't figured out that Jonathan Edwards was one of our most important Founders.

Interesting to note though that when Ronald Reagan first famously used the "city on a hill" phrase, back when he was writing all his own material, he didn't make the Pilgrim mistake, We Will Be A City Upon A Hill (Ronald Reagan, January 25, 1974, First Conservative Political Action Conference):

Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, �We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.� Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom.

He did though err when he had speechwriters, Farewell Address (Ronald Reagan, January 11, 1989):
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the 'shining city upon a hill.' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

(originally posted: 6/25/04)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


The way of the Pilgrims (H.D.S. Greenway, 11/29/2002
IT WAS SCARCELY more than a couple of hundred words, written, signed, and sworn to in the cabin of a battered ship heaving in a cold November sea, at anchor in what is now Provincetown Harbor; Nov. 11, 1620. The Mayflower Compact, as it was called, was a revolutionary document for its time.

The signers promised to ''combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation.'' They promised to ''enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.''

Thus did the Mayflower Pilgrims create the continent's first government by social contract - a precedent for the founding of our nation in 1776.

Of course, the Pilgrims were not founding a new nation. They were ''loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, king and defender of the faith.'' ''The greatest question ... ever debated in America,'' as John Adams would later write - whether to be free from Britain - was far in the future. But the Pilgrims would not accept the established faith that King James was defending. And the equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices that would follow laid the groundwork for the great republic that was to come. The civil body politic that they swore to on that cold, November day is one that Americans now take for granted.

They were not a tolerant crowd. The equality that Abraham Lincoln would later speak of did not apply then to all races and creeds - an omission that haunts us even now. But the act of submission and obedience to just and equal laws, the determination to live self-governing lives, was a new concept then, and all too rare in the world even today. ''We must never forget this,'' the historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, ''for in the colonies of other European nations the will of the prince, or his representative, was supreme.''

You read a lot of vile nonsense about the Pilgrims these days, from people who seem not to comprehend the direct relationship between the ideas they carried and the system of government we enjoy. Here�s a nice corrective. (originally posted: 11/29/02)
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


What Were The Pilgrims And Their Thanksgiving Like? (Edward M. Eveld, 21 November, 2007, The Kansas City Star)

Nathaniel Philbrick had these two fuzzy, competing and faulty impressions of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.

There was the sweet, childhood image, a bountiful table in a bucolic setting with feasting Englishmen in the foreground and American Indians looking on.

And there was the grown-up, cynical perspective: the Pilgrims as 17th-century English conquerors, and the Plymouth feast little more than a myth.

Philbrick, author of 'Mayflower', spent three years researching the Pilgrims' voyage and what came after, including the complex and evolving relationships between settlers and American Indians. He found not the caricatures of his fuzzy impressions but real humans capable of kindness and murder, of lasting conciliation and sudden treachery, of charity and the ugliest of greed.

Philbrick, 51, will be in Kansas City on Thursday to discuss his book, which was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in history. He lives on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. [...]

Q. But then came King Philip's War, when things fell apart. What went wrong?

What I saw in doing this book was how much the personal commitment of the leaders matters. Diplomacy is hard work, especially when there are such cultural differences. The tragedy of the story is that with the second generation, they lose that appreciation so quickly.

King Philip's War is the war that American history has forgotten. We start with the Pilgrims and in most histories leapfrog to the American Revolution. New England had changed radically in 55 years. As more and more English survived, land became a big part of this. Land had gone into English hands in a huge way. From the native perspective, they said, "What good was this alliance? We've lost our birthright." And with the leaders not liking each other much, it leads to war.

This was an extraordinarily brutal conflict when you look at the percentage of the populations killed, more than twice as bloody as the Civil War.

You can say the English won, but one-third of the towns in New England were burned and abandoned, and they would pay for the war for decades. Until then, they had remarkable independence from the mother country, but afterward they had to throw themselves on the mercy of England. You could say this created the tensions that would erupt 100 years later in the American Revolution.

For Indians who were not killed or forced to leave the region, many were captured and crowded on ships, sent to the West Indies and sold as slaves.

And for me, this is how the story of the Pilgrims becomes ultimately relevant to us as Americans. We think of the Indian wars as 19th century, the winning of the West. But it all happened in the Plymouth colony.

That "could say" is awfully precious. Consider that had the Indians won they'd still be muddling along at subsistence level with a life expectancy in the early 30s and no culture.

[originally posted 11/22/07]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Green bean bake--uncanned! (LEZLI BITTERMAN , December 18, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
Everyone has his or her own favorite dishes to serve at the holidays. I wouldn't want to mess with tradition, especially one that has been in your family for years. But with Thanksgiving out of the way, now is the time to try a couple of recipes that may rival those old standbys.

Dorcas Reilly, former manager of the kitchens at Campbell's Soup, created classic green bean bake in 1955 and it has been a staple on many holiday tables ever since. In fact, Reilly, now 76, recently presented the original recipe to the archives of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

Eve Felder, associate dean for advanced cooking at the Culinary Institute of America, has created a contemporary version of this dish. It appeared in the November 2002 issue of Fine Cooking magazine, and I think it's worth a try.

Felder's green beans with mushrooms, cream and toasted bread crumbs uses fresh green beans in place of frozen or canned and replaces condensed cream of mushroom soup with fresh mushrooms and real whipping cream. Instead of canned fried onions, Felder creates a refreshing crunchy topping made with homemade coarse bread crumbs baked in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. [...]

Green beans with mushrooms, cream and toasted bread crumbs


Bread crumbs:

1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Green beans:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and


10 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the bread crumbs in a bowl with olive oil and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reserve.

To prepare green beans, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions. Increase heat to high to reheat the pan, then drop the heat back to medium. When mushrooms are slightly golden, in about 7 minutes, add salt. Saute until mushrooms are deep golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, green beans and pepper. Add broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove beans and mushrooms from liquid and keep warm. Increase heat and reduce liquid until only 1/2 cup remains. Add cream and return green bean-mushroom mixture back to pan.

Continue to simmer until cream has thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve beans and sauce topped with toasted bread crumbs.

Cook's Illustrated

Nutrition facts per serving: 403 calories, 29 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 30 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 943 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

This is the kind of senseless "progress" that's wrecking this country.
(originally posted: December 19, 2002)
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 AM


Scholars aim to dispel the Puritans' prudish image (Mark O'Keefe, Nov. 23, 2002, Religion News Service)
[T]here is something Puritan about America as we've always known it, argues Charles Haynes, senior scholar of the First Amendment Center, a research group in Arlington, Va. He cites politics, and the influence of John Winthrop, as just one example.

Winthrop, Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, gave a 1630 sermon called "A Model of Christian Charity." Winthrop used a phrase from the New Testament's Matthew 5:14, referring to America as a "city on a hill" that would inspire and lead the world.

It has become customary for American presidential candidates to give at least one "city on a hill" speech, Haynes said, noting that Ronald Reagan repeatedly used the phrase as his overarching vision for the country. Similarly, Bill Clinton used the Puritan language of "new covenant" to describe his political agenda.

"We are all Puritans today in how we see the world and how we see America's place in the world," Haynes said.

There's nothing more curious to me than our insistence, against all common sense, on believing that our ancestors must have been miserable. [originally posted: 12/01/02]
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's Letter
My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives.

So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends.

Ronald Reagan

In one of those inordinately gracious moments that marked his grace-filled life, Ronald Reagan turned the announcement that he had Alzheimer's into a "Thank You" letter. He spoke, as he had so often, of an America infused with light, an America with a "bright dawn ahead". Perhaps his most famous such evocation came in his 1974 speech at the First Conservative Political Action Conference, when he summoned John Winthrop's image of America as a "City upon a Hill", an image Mr. Reagan returned to often and used finally in his 1989 Farewell Address:
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

After family and friends, I think that's what I'm most thankful for, that we are blessed to live in the land that does remain Man's beacon of freedom, that does remain, for all its problems, the City upon a Hill. And so, on this Thanksgiving, as we thank all of you for your patronage, your comments, your e-mails, and your consideration, we offer the words of John Winthrop himself, his vision and his warning, City upon a Hill (John Winthrop, 1630):
Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in eache other, make others Condicions our owne rejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, allwayes haveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body, soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us,
as his owne people and will commaund a blessing upon us in all our wayes, soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome power goodnes and truthe then formerly wee have beene acquainted with, wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when hee shall make us a prayse and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the lord make it like that of New England: for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces ofmany of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going: And to shutt upp this discourse with that exhortacion of Moses that faithfull servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israell: Beloved there is now sett before us life, and good, deathe and evill in that wee are Commaunded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walke in his wayes and to keepe his Commaundements and his Ordinance, and his lawes, and the Articles of our Covenant with him that wee may live and be multiplyed, and that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whether wee goe to possesse it: But if our heartes shall turne away soe that wee will not obey, but shall be seduced and worshipp other Gods our pleasures, and proffitts, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whether wee passe over this vast Sea to possesse it;

Therefore lett us choose life,

that wee, and our Seede,

may live; by obeyeing his

voyce, and cleaveing to him,

for hee is our life, and

our prosperity.

(originally posted: November 28, 2002)
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


Turkey Is Basic, but Immigrants Add Their Homeland Touches (KIM SEVERSON, 11/25/04, NY Times)

For all those struggling to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table, consider the plight of Yaser Baker, a restaurateur in this city's Arabic shopping district.

First Mr. Baker had to find a turkey that was slaughtered according to Islamic dietary law, a challenge because some local halal butchers decided not to sell turkeys this year. Then he had to adapt the traditional American recipe to Arabic tastes, which meant bathing it in lemon and olive oil and stuffing it with rice, beef and pine nuts.

Finally he had to brace for reaction from his Muslim neighbors, some of whom are either too devout or too upset about the war in Iraq even to acknowledge Thanksgiving.

But for Mr. Baker, Thanksgiving is all about the bird.

"Believe me, I don't look at it as an American holiday or a holiday that is not for Muslims," said Mr. Baker, a Palestinian and naturalized American who has been in the United States for 24 years. "I live in America. You tell me to eat turkey, I'm going to eat turkey."

The desire to celebrate Thanksgiving was so strong for Leticia Maravilla, a Mexican immigrant, that she roasted her first turkey before she had her green card, struggling through a newspaper recipe in English.

"I wanted to do it the same way Americans did it," she said, speaking from Los Angeles though an interpreter.

Suffice it to say, there is no "Dutch way."

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


-EXCERPT: An American in Africa from Out of America : A Black Man Confronts Africa (1997) (Keith B. Richburg)

I WATCHED THE DEAD float down a river in Tanzania. It's one of those apocryphal stories you always hear coming out of Africa, meant to demonstrate the savagery of "the natives." Babies being pulled off their mothers' backs and tossed onto spears. Pregnant women being disemboweled. Bodies being tossed into the river and floating downstream. You heard them all, but never really believed.

And yet there I was, drenched with sweat under the blistering sun, standing at the Rusumo Falls bridge, watching the bodies float past me. Sometimes they came one by one. Sometimes two or three together. They were bloated now, horribly discolored. Most were naked, or stripped down to their underpants. Sometimes the hands and feet were bound together. Some were missing limbs. And as they went over the falls, a few got stuck together on a little crag, and stayed there flapping against the current, as though they were trying to break free. I couldn't take my eyes off of the body of a baby.

We timed them: a body or two every minute. The Tanzanian border guards told us it had been like that for a couple of days now. These were the victims of the ethnic genocide going on across the border in Rwanda.

For the three long years that I spent covering Africa as a reporter for the Washington Post I had to live with images--countless images--like this one. Three years of watching pretty much the worst that human beings can do to one another. Revulsion. Sorrow. Pity at the monumental waste of human life. These sentiments began nagging me soon after I first set foot in Africa in late 1991. It's a gnawing feeling that I was really unable to express out loud until the end, as I was packing my bags to leave, a feeling I felt pained to admit, a sentiment that, when uttered aloud, might come across as callous, even racist.

And yet I know exactly this feeling that haunts me; I've just been too embarrassed to say it. So let me drop the charade and put it as simply as I know how: There but for the grace of God go I.

You see, I was seeing all of this horror a bit differently because of the color of my skin. I am an American, but a black man, a descendant of slaves brought from Africa. When I see these nameless, faceless, anonymous bodies washing over a waterfall or piled up on the back of trucks, what I see most is that they look like me.

Maybe 400 or so years ago, one of my ancestors was taken from his village, probably by a local chieftain. He was shackled in leg irons, kept in a holding pen or a dark pit, possibly at Goree Island off the coast of Senegal. And then he was put in the crowded, filthy cargo hold of a ship for the long and treacherous voyage across the Atlantic to the New World.

Many of the slaves died on that voyage. But not my ancestor. Maybe it was because he was strong, maybe just stubborn, or maybe he had an irrepressible will to live. But he survived, and ended up in slavery working on plantations in the Caribbean. Generations on down the line, one of his descendants was taken to South Carolina. Finally, a more recent descendant, my father, moved to Detroit to find a job in an auto plant during the Second World War.

And so it was that I came to be born in Detroit and that 35 years later, a black man born in white America, I was in Africa, birthplace of my ancestors, standing at the edge of a river not as an African but as an American journalist--a mere spectator watching the bloated bodies of black Africans cascading over a waterfall. And that's when I thought about how, if things had been different, I might have been one of them--or might have met some similar fate in one of the countless ongoing civil wars or tribal clashes on this brutal continent.

We are told by some supposedly enlightened black leaders that white America owes us something because they brought our ancestors over as slaves. And Africa--Mother Africa--is often held up as a black Valhalla, where the descendants of slaves would be welcomed back and where black men and women can walk in true dignity.

Sorry, but I've been there. I've had an AK-47 rammed up my nose. I've seen a cholera epidemic in Zaire, a famine in Somalia, a civil war in Liberia. I've seen cities bombed to near rubble, and other cities reduced to rubble because their leaders let them rot and decay while they spirited away billions of dollars--yes, billions--into overseas bank accounts.

I've also seen heroism, honor, and dignity in Africa, particularly in the stories of ordinary people--brave Africans battling insurmountable odds to publish an independent newspaper, to organize a political party, to teach kids in some rural bush school, and usually just to survive. But even with all the good, my perceptions have been hopelessly skewed by the bad. My tour in Africa coincided with two of the world's worst tragedies--Somalia and Rwanda. I've had friends and colleagues shot, stabbed, beaten to death by mobs, left to bleed to death on a Mogadishu street--one of them beaten so badly in the face that his friends could recognize him only by his hair and his clothes.

So excuse me if I sound cynical, jaded. I'm beaten down, and I'll admit it. And it's Africa that has made me this way. I feel for her suffering, I empathize with her pain, and now, from afar, I still recoil in horror whenever I see yet another television picture of another tribal slaughter, another refugee crisis. But most of all I think: Thank God my ancestor got out, because, now, I am not one of them.

In short, thank God that I am an American.

Mr. Richburg's book is marvelous

(originally posted: 7/10/04)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM


How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims: When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they established a system of communal property. Within three years they had scrapped it, instituting private property instead. (Tom Bethell, Winter 1999, Hoover Digest)
Having tried what Bradford called the "common course and condition"-the communal stewardship of the land demanded of them by their investors-Bradford reports that the community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice. And this among "godly and sober men." In short, the experiment was a failure that was endangering the health of the colony.

Historian George Langdon argues that the condition of early Plymouth was not "communism" but "an extreme form of exploitative capitalism in which all the fruits of men's labor were shipped across the seas." In this he echoes Samuel Eliot Morison, who claims that "it was not communism . . . but a very degrading and onerous slavery to the English capitalists that was somewhat softened." Notice that this does not agree with the dissension that Bradford reports, however. It was between the colonists themselves that the conflicts arose, not between the colonists and the investors in London. Morison and Langdon conflate two separate problems. On the one hand, it is true that the colonists did feel "exploited" by the investors because they were eventually expected to surrender to them an undue portion of the wealth they were trying to create. It is as though they felt that they were being "taxed" too highly by their investors-at a 50 percent rate, in fact.

But there was another problem, separate from the ?tax? burden. Bradford?s comments make it clear that common ownership demoralized the community far more than the tax. It was not Pilgrims laboring for investors that caused so much distress but Pilgrims laboring for other Pilgrims. Common property gave rise to internecine conflicts that were much more serious than the transatlantic ones. The industrious (in Plymouth) were forced to subsidize the slackers (in Plymouth). The strong "had no more in division of victuals and clothes" than the weak. The older men felt it disrespectful to be "equalized in labours" with the younger men.

This suggests that a form of communism was practiced at Plymouth in 1621 and 1622. No doubt this equalization of tasks was thought (at first) the only fair way to solve the problem of who should do what work in a community where there was to be no individual property: If everyone were to end up with an equal share of the property at the end of seven years, everyone should presumably do the same work throughout those seven years. The problem that inevitably arose was the formidable one of policing this division of labor: How to deal with those who did not pull their weight?

The Pilgrims had encountered the free-rider problem. Under the arrangement of communal property one might reasonably suspect that any additional effort might merely substitute for the lack of industry of others. And these "others" might well be able-bodied, too, but content to take advantage of the communal ownership by contributing less than their fair share. As we shall see, it is difficult to solve this problem without dividing property into individual or family-sized units. And this was the course of action that William Bradford wisely took.

It's damned annoying that Thomas Jefferson substituted that pabulumistic phrase, "pursuit of happiness", for "property". (originally posted: 8/26/03)
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Got the Puritan blues (Jeff Jacoby, November 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

Ah, yes, the blue laws -- those rules and regulations imposed by New England's 17th-century Puritan theocrats to govern moral conduct and ensure proper observance of the Sabbath. The product of an era when ''witches" were hanged, blue laws dictated what people could wear, forbade travel on Sunday, and made it an offense to miss church. The Puritans ''carried their efforts to control private activities in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to extremes unknown elsewhere," notes the Family Encyclopedia of American History. For example, church doors were bolted during Sunday services to prevent restless congregants from leaving early.

It is hard to imagine how these laws could have survived the ratification of the Bill of Rights. But survive they did, some of them for centuries. In Massachusetts, Chapter 136 long barred most commercial activity on Sundays and legal holidays. Not even Cotton Mather would have been able to make sense of the anachronistic crazy quilt of definitions and loopholes that the law turned into over time. The same statute that barred shops and businesses from operating on ''common days of rest" also listed dozens of exceptions to the rule, including the sale of nitrogen, the operation of garden centers and public bathhouses, and the transportation of ice, bees, or Irish moss. Supermarkets weren't allowed to sell groceries, but convenience stores were. Buying a painting at an art gallery was OK. Buying paint at Home Depot was forbidden.

In 1994 Massachusetts voters finally made it lawful for all stores to open on Sunday and the summer holidays -- Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July. But the old restrictions, as illogical as ever, still apply on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

''Thanksgiving is not like any other day," Reilly insists. ''It's been the one day when people didn't have to work. People should be allowed to be off that one day, to have a day to spend with their family. This is one of those issues where tradition wins over for me."

Tradition is a fine thing, and Thanksgiving is suffused with it. But what Reilly is defending is not tradition but coercion. Americans are able to decide for themselves how to spend Thanksgiving. Given a choice, some will opt for family and turkey. Others will grab the chance to go to work for double pay. It isn't for the attorney general of Massachusetts, or any other state official, to make that choice for them.

The blue laws are and always have been obnoxious deprivations of liberty.

Not only is this the most anti-consrvative thing ever written by a putative conservative, but it betrays a moronic understanding of liberty. MA should return to stricter Blue Laws, not relax what little good is left.

(originally posted: 11/23/05)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Despite historians' efforts, Thanksgiving misconceptions endure (Lisa Anderson, 11/23/06, Chicago Tribune)

For starters, there is no conclusive evidence that turkey was on a menu that more likely starred venison, ducks, geese and shellfish. There might have been stewed pumpkin, but certainly no pumpkin pie in the then almost certainly ovenless Plymouth Colony. Cranberry sauce was as yet unknown to the colonists and the Indians, and neither yams nor white potatoes were grown yet in the New World. There is nothing to suggest the Native Americans popped corn and bestowed it on their colonizers. And there likely was no groaning board around which diners gathered.

"Did they even have a table? Maybe," said Elizabeth Pleck, a historian at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who has written extensively on the history of Thanksgiving.

The modern Thanksgiving tradition is rooted in a 165-year-old historical misunderstanding that goes far beyond the question of whether turkey was served. There was no connection made between Pilgrims and Thanksgiving until 1841, when Alexander Young published a book in Boston containing a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth Colony leaders, on Dec. 11, 1621.

(originally posted: 11/23/07)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM


Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving: Of Puritans, prayer, and the Capitol dome. (David Gelernter, 11/28/2005, Weekly Standard)

FOUR THEMES FLOW TOGETHER AT one of the most remarkable points in American history--the evening when Abraham Lincoln for the last time proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving. It was April 11, 1865: two days after the Civil War ended with Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox; four days before the president was murdered. Our national Thanksgiving Day is a good time to remember the president who had more to do with the institution of Thanksgiving and the actual practice of thanking God than any other, and to recall his last public speech.

On that misty April evening, the world had a rare glimpse of the symbolism of a powerful prophecy literally fulfilled, if only for a few moments. The brilliant "city on a hill" that the 17th-century Puritan settlers spoke of seemed embodied in Washington, as the capital sprang to life in a blaze of gaslight. The president spoke of the nation's long-sought victory in terms not of triumph but of reconciliation, and of the nation's debt to God.

Some of Lincoln's friends and admirers, recalling that night, remembered the president as if he were Moses looking "into the Promised Land of Peace from the Pisgah summit," as one of them, the journalist Noah Brooks, wrote. Lincoln like Moses stood at the very brink of the promised land he would never enter. (It's hard not to see Lincoln as the greatest religious figure this country has ever produced.)

Thanksgiving itself is theme number one.

Except that Lincoln was no Jonathan Edwards.

(originally posted: 11/23/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thanksgiving's Simple Meaning (Ken Masugi, November 24, 2004, Precepts)

We are all familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday as a time for family, feasting, and football. All of these are great American institutions, but we forget too easily the meaning of this national holiday as it was first established by George Washington on October 3, 1789 and reaffirmed as we know it today by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years later. A mere glance at their Thanksgiving proclamations reminds us of the noblest purposes of government, including its greatest ends�fighting war and educating its citizens�which fulfill all the objects of peace.

Moreover, the simplest meaning of Thanksgiving reminds us�contrary to secularist courts and professors�that these presidents were proclaiming a holy day, a day for prayer and recognition of Almighty God's authority over man. We are most human when we honor our duties, to our country and to our Creator, and the wisdom that unifies these duties. No understanding of the First Amendment, however crabbed, can possibly gainsay this official government acknowledgement of the power of the sacred in our lives.

A close reading of these two messages reveals a careful and subtle teaching about the higher purposes of government and of human life.

(originally posted: November 24, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Give thanks -- it's good for you (Bruce Chapman, 11/22/07, The Seattle Times)

When a family member learned not long ago that he was dying of cancer, he visited a church he hadn't much seen and, while leaving, he picked up a tract on the topic of facing death. The very first suggestion was to give thanks. Initially, it seemed perverse to him; after all, he was counting his impending losses, not his blessings.

But, he followed the advice and it literally transformed him, and, among other things, gave him new courage and hope.

Gratitude has been called the gateway to the virtues. As Cicero put it, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all others," opening the heart to deeper appreciation, compassion, repentance, forgiveness, generosity and wisdom. Giving thanks should be cultivated as a habit. It is a kind of therapy for the spirit.

[originally posted: 11/22/07]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Turkey dinner crosses cultures (MARICEL E. PRESILLA, 11/18/04, Miami Herald)

I recall with startling clarity my first Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. It was 1970, and my family had been in Miami for only four months, staying with relatives. This was to be the first important family gathering in our own new home, a graceless, sparsely furnished old house in the city's southwest section.

I was heartbroken, in no mood to celebrate. The pain of leaving behind my beloved aunts, grandmother and boyfriend was compounded by the unfriendliness of our new neighborhood, an odd, sad place with few sidewalks where nobody seemed to walk.

Still, the golden turkeys of television commercials and magazine ads beckoned, reminding me of our traditional New Year's feasts back in Cuba. More poignantly, the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims began to resonate in my mind as a symbol of hope in the face of our own tribulations.

Like most newcomers to this country, we turned Thanksgiving into our own hybrid feast. Used to our own homegrown turkeys, we succumbed to the easy charm of a plump-breasted Butterball bird, which we dutifully defrosted and marinated Cuban-style with plenty of garlic and bitter orange (naranja agria) juice.

Instead of braising the turkey in a large cauldron as we had done back home, we roasted it in the oven. We served it with congr�, the rice and red kidney bean dish traditional to my hometown of Santiago de Cuba, plus canned yams and cranberry sauce -- concessions to what we considered true Thanksgiving fare that also satisfied our Cuban penchant for mixing sweet and sour flavors.

Teary-eyed, we toasted our good fortune and those we had left behind. I felt a surge of gratitude for the roof over my head, and, for the first time since our arrival, my mood lightened with a real sense of optimism. That same night, as we cleared the table, we got news that the man who is now my husband had managed to swim across Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. Naval base and freedom.

Since that day, Thanksgiving has symbolized crossover and arrival for my husband and me. Wherever we happen to be, we gather with family or friends for a heartfelt feast. The canned stuff of old has been replaced by fresh sweet potatoes and cranberries, but our menu continues to be a paean to the best of two worlds, with foods rooted in history and tradition.

My feast is always anchored by turkey, the only important domestic animal of pre-Columbian Mexico and Central America and the sine qua non of the American Thanksgiving table since the 19th century.

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


On the origin of the species: Where did today's bird come from? The answer may surprise you. (John Bemelmans Marciano, November 25, 2010, LA Times)

The first Europeans to lay eyes on the bird we today call a turkey were likely Christopher Columbus and the crew of his fourth American voyage. They called the animal gallina de la tierra, or land chicken. In Mexico, Spanish conquistadors came across a domesticated version of the bird that they sent back home, to wide culinary success. By 1530, the bird was common on Spanish poultry farms, and not long after in British barnyards as well. It was there that this New World creature became confused with another, somewhat similar-looking species of bird.

This avian doppelganger was an African species known to Europeans as far back as Aristotle and the great naturalist Pliny, who called the bird meleagris. The English had two names for this animal, both having to do with where the bird was thought to come from. The first was guinea fowl, after the Guinea region of Africa, from which Portuguese traders imported the birds. The other was Turkey cock, for reasons that are today mysterious. Was there some Turkish merchant who brought the animals to England? Or were the English just atrocious with geography? The confusion got sorted out in utterly arbitrary fashion, with the Old World species taking the name guinea fowl and the newcomers winning sole English-language possession of the word turkey.

About 100 years after the New World turkey arrived in Europe, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. There, they found an animal that bore a strong resemblance to the turkey they knew back home, although this wild variety did not take kindly to attempts at being domesticated. None of this deterred the natives, for whom the animal was a chief food source and their favorite bird to hunt. It is by no means certain that these wild northern turkeys were served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but it is quite possible.

...provided it ends up in your belly?

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[originally posted: 11/25/11]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Feasting on Thanksgiving History (ROGER MILLER, November 22, 2006, NY Sun)

When you sit down to your sumptuous feast this Thanksgiving, if you spare a thought or a prayer for those who brought you the holiday, make sure you're remembering the right people. It was the Pilgrims, not those sour Johnnies-come-lately, the Puritans, who celebrated the first American Thanksgiving.

We confuse them all the time. I was reminded of this in rereading a classic of American historical writing, "Saints and Strangers," by George F. Willison. This splendid amalgam of research and writing, first published in 1945 by Reynal & Hitchcock, reveals a lot of truths and puts straight a lot of errors concerning these ancestors of ours. [...]

All right, then, we do know that they sailed straight from Plymouth in England to Plymouth in the New World and that they were all good, solid, middle-class burghers who set up democracy straightaway. Correct? No, they sailed from the Netherlands, where they had spent several years in rancorous religious infighting. Saint or Stranger, they were all from the lower classes, some desperately poor.

The past is ironic prologue: The Dutch tolerance that allowed the Separatists to worship as they pleased also upset them because it tended to "corrupt" their children into non-Separatist ways. If the Saints sound similar to the Muslim "separatists" in the Netherlands today, then bear in mind that the Saints, when they got to Plymouth, formed a government only a little less exclusionary than the one they had fled in their native England.

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[originally posted: 11/23/06]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thank You. No, Thank You: Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up (Melinda Beck, 11/23/10, WSJ)

It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.

A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don't, studies show.

"A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them," says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has conducted much of the research with children.

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[originally posted: 11/23/10]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


The Truth About Squire Romolee (LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH, November 28, 2002, NY Times)
As I unbag a free-range turkey bought at my local grocery store, I think of the description of a Thanksgiving dinner in a now-forgotten
novel. "Northwood, A Tale of New England," published in Boston in 1827, launched Sarah Josepha Hale's literary career. More than three decades later, as the influential editor of Godey's Lady's Book, she helped persuade Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

The Thanksgiving dinner in "Northwood" takes place in the home of a prosperous New Hampshire farmer whom Hale calls Squire Romolee. On two tables pushed together in the parlor a roasted turkey keeps company with a succulent goose, a pair of ducklings, a sirloin of beef, a leg of pork, a joint of mutton and an immense chicken pie.

Surrounding this culinary menagerie is a colorful array of vegetables, pickles and preserves. A slice of wheat bread sits on the glass tumbler at the head of each plate. A separate table displays cake, plum pudding, custards, pies of every description, sweetmeats, currant wine, cider and ginger beer.

When a visiting Englishman asks Squire Romolee how he can claim the virtue of temperance in the face of such a feast, the happy farmer exclaims, "Well, well, I may at least recommend industry, for all this variety you have seen before you on the table, excepting the spices and salt, has been furnished from my own farm and procured by our own labor and care."

Hale's Yankee farmer, more than Pilgrims in stiff white collars, epitomizes the American Thanksgiving. It is our most authentic national holiday. Each November, Americans push tables together, gathering friends and families around them to acknowledge, among other gifts, the essential American blessings--material abundance and the ability to enjoy the product of "our own labor and care." We still watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, but the oratory and civic parades that once marked the nation's birthday have largely faded. The Thanksgiving feast endures.

Ms Hale also wrote a lovely hymn, suitable to the day:

Our Father in heaven, we hallow Thy Name;
May Thy kingdom holy on earth be the same;
O give to us daily our portion of bread;
It is from Thy bounty that all must be fed.

Forgive our transgressions, and teach us to know
That humble compassion which pardons each foe;
Keep us from temptation, from evil and sin,
And Thine be the glory, forever! Amen!

(originally posted: November 28, 2002)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Thanksgiving for immigrants (Marvin Olasky, November 19, 2002, Townhall)
Let's look at the four major types of anti-immigration arguments.

Type one criticizes not the immigrants themselves but a culture no longer committed to helping them assimilate. [...]

Type two arguments emphasize homeland security. [...]

Type three arguments that favor restricting immigration to limit population growth are not as strong. [...]

Type four anti-immigration arguments are really anti-immigrant arguments. We don't want those people, some conservatives say or suggest: They're not our kind. Among the murmurs: They're not used to democratic government, so they'll be easy prey for potential dictators. They're used to big government, so they'll vote for Democrats. They'll undermine America's Christian traditions. [...]

Conservatives should pay more attention to surveys showing that three-fourths of Latinos, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall, say that religion (almost always Christianity) provides considerable guidance in their lives. Korean-Americans are 10 times more likely to be Christian than Buddhist, and other immigrants from Asia also often have Christian backgrounds.

We need to tend carefully to the concerns that underlie "type one" but then let them come. (originally posted: November 19, 2002)