Personally, I’m thankful for all of my former colleagues and the thousands of students I have had contact with over a fairly long and mostly pleasant career. I like to think that I have accomplished something of at least some value in trying to assist them in achieving whatever goals they had set for themselves, educational or professional.
I like to think that I have made some friends along the way (maybe even including some of those colleagues and/or students as they are not mutually exclusive categories) and I am thankful for that. Whether some of them know it or not, there have been times when these friends have been a comfort to me, just as I hope I have been a comfort to them when they needed a pair of ears to listen, a “shoulder to cry on,” or someone to just “be there.”
I’m also thankful, of course, for family, both my own and “in-law.” They are the ones who make home “home,” the ones you can count on when times are good or, even more importantly, when they are not. They are the ones we know the longest and are always a part of us. They are truly something for which to be thankful.
I’m also thankful that my Pilgrim ancestors (yes, I am also descended from folks who came over on the Mayflower) did not force their rather narrow ideas on the rest of what became the United States, but were willing to find a compromise which said that we, as a nation, would accept and celebrate religions, national origins and ethnicities different from our own and we would allow for the maximum amount of civil liberty to all. Recently, We, the People of the United States, have extended those civil liberties to include sexual preference, gender identity and other areas as well. I think that’s as it should be. I think it fits in with the compromise upon which our country is based.
I confess that it bothers me when some suggest that “security” trumps all of our founding principles and the basic freedoms of the Constitution and Bill of Rights can be simply ignored because it would make us “safe.” “Safe for what?” I have to ask. Safe to be restricted in what we can believe, say, do or be? That’s not why a small group of folks who dissented from the practices of the established Church of England first emigrated to Holland and, later, risked their lives and families to establish a new home in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. They, for all of their own theocratic narrow-mindedness, wanted a country where they could be free to be themselves.
I am not in personal agreement with what they wished to practice, but I do think they were right in wishing to find a place where they could practice it in peace. Moreover, when the times made it right, they were willing to allow others to be themselves. They didn’t try to force their ideas on everyone, at least in establishing a country. They just said that people should have the right to be left alone to be themselves, at least so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others to be themselves.
I have no sympathy for “terrorists,” be they from foreign countries or, as seems more likely to me, home grown. But, we have to be careful as to how we define “terrorism.” To me, terrorism consists of violent acts which are intended to make us do (or become) something which is not really in our character, to make us change into someone else’s idea of what we should do, think, be. I don’t care if that violence is physical or verbal and I don’t care if you think that “it’s for our own safety.” If the idea is to require me to conform to your ideas of what to think, do or be, I am opposed to it! I celebrate the First Amendment. It may be the greatest forty-five words ever assembled in the English language.
Just in case someone may not be aware of them, here they are: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or Prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I’m VERY thankful I can live in a country which values these words.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.