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Reason and Reasonableness

We have recently gone through another mid-term election, this time with the lowest voter turnout since 1947. Approximately 1/3 of our registered voters actually voted, meaning that almost 70% of registered voters neglected to be responsible for choosing who leads us on both national and local levels. As I and many others mentioned before, we always end up with the kind of political leadership we deserve. In the current situation, we again have elected leaders, the majority of which do not represent the predominant values (according to over 2 decades of research) of our citizens.

Given that reality, recently my good spouse shared with me a note from our local newspaper under the heading “Spiritual Quote.” It is from Dr. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), and it says that “all of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.” It seems to be a human frailty to be reticent to use our reason in a manner that promotes peace and good will among our fellow citizens. In other words, it seems to be difficult to use our reason to be reasonable in our dealings with others, especially those with whom we disagree.

Of course it is easy to expose a human frailty, but more difficult to address it. It always seem to take some effort that is more demanding than we might be willing to expend. We know we have to be able to reason in order to be reasonable. Assuming that is the case, how do we define the ability to reason? The dictionary says that reason is “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” Whoops! That takes effort and time and contemplation and study. I hope you share the perspective that whatever effort and study it takes to reason and to be reasonable, it is worth it all in the hope of improving our track record in search of peace and good will.

…and also this one in a day or two…with THANKS and love, Gramps Dan

BLOG “…knowing things that are not so.”

This is the week of Thanksgiving, and I join you in recognizing the many gifts of this past year that have made our lives among the most pleasant on this planet. Surely the gifts of family and friends and food that unite on this day are testimony to the joys we share in gratitude with and for each other. Happy Thanksgiving!

Virtually every year for the last several decades, however, as this season approaches my thoughts are best summarized by this quote from Dr. Felix Okoye: “It would be better not to know so many things than to know so many things that are not so.” One of the latent “benefits” of increasing education is that one comes to “know so many things that are not so.” I remember well the history that I learned about Thanksgiving as a child and the wonderful first thanksgiving meal that was shared between the early settlers and the “Indians.” We still celebrate that story even though the reality was quite different.

There are currently so very many accurate histories of this time period, and I encourage you to read one or more of them. Because this history is replete with things I simply wish I didn’t know, I will share only a very few of the actual details. The activities cited as the “first thanksgiving,” even if the first for the Pilgrims, was not the first for the Wampanoag peoples of what is now New England. The people we call Pilgrims today were in fact a combination of English adventurers and fleeing Puritans. To the Puritans, Thanksgiving was a religious event and would not have been conducted in a festival like atmosphere that occurred between mid-September and early December of 1621. Plymouth Governor William Bradford invited the local Wampanoag to a three-day gathering where food was shared, a mutual aid treaty was signed, harvest traditions of both cultures were observed, and military demonstrations were conducted by the English/Puritan contingent. The Wampanoag, who as guests of the colony, arrived with their leader Massasoit and 90 men who prepared and delivered most of the food. That is the only historical record of such an event.

In less than 15 years, the Puritans felt strong enough to openly begin cleansing the lands of the “devils in disguise” – known today as Native Americans. Repayment for helping the Puritans through their first years in New England became characterized by the 1637 attack on the Native gathering for the Green Corn Ceremony. Over 700 men, women, and children were killed and, shortly thereafter, the Puritan Governor, John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God, for eliminating their ‘enemies’ so swiftly.” It appears the friendship established in 1620 was short lived.

I know how unsettling it is to have warm and wonderful mythological tales cleansed by the light of truth. I only do so with the hope that the sordid tale of our continuing treatment of the indigenous souls that first inhabited this land might renew our desire in our time to work harder for equality, inclusiveness, justice, and the common good. True thankfulness always leads us to the fulfillment of those values.

Daniel C. Bruch, D.Min., Ph.D., Sc.D.