Thursday, November 22, 2007

A day of national thanksgiving; a day of repentance?

If I had the talent of Sam Clemens, I'd write a scathing prayer to match the famous Mark Twain prayer for victory in war. Prompted by the jingoism of the Spanish-American War, it went unpublished until after his death.

I'll content myself with giving thanks for the bounty of this great land and for the opportunity our European founders were given to steal it from its original unworthy inhabitants who didn't know how to exploit its resources to the maximum; and for the means of accomplishing that great transfer -- the guns, steel, and germs that made genocide feasible and a continental empire possible. And the Bible that was used to bless it.

Lest in our tales of Pilgrims and Savages we forget the other great member of the trinity that provided the material foundations of our great nation, I also give thanks for the slavery that enriched both North and South -- the one through wise, enriching participation in the great trans-Atlantic Triangle Trade of slaves, molasses, and rum; the other through the clever use of unpaid labor to build the region's wealth.

Thanks are due, therefore, for theft, genocide, and slavery -- the means to opening up the vast resources that were previously unknown to Europeans, and the foundations for our later prosperity. And for war, to secure our blessings.

I give thanks that the past is past, allowing many to remain serenely indifferent to these things while watching parades and football games and eating overbred birds that are maladapted for living free -- a nation giving thanks and resting up for the ominously named "Black Friday" of extreme shopping.

And I give thanks for the possibility of repentance. Without inward examination, reflection, and repentance, untroubled minds never learn; they, we, keep repeating the old patterns in new ways. Confession is good for the soul: that holds true for the nation, too. A day of national repentance would offer up the possibility, for the clear of mind and contrite of heart, of following a new path. The unexamined life, as a continuous repetition until at last the point of terminal exhaustion is reached, is in the end not worth living.

Words to hear and inwardly digest:

Sherman Edwards, the composer and lyricist of "1776" put these words in the mouth of Edward Rutledge of South Carolina:

Molasses to rum to slaves, oh what a beautiful waltz
You dance with us, we dance with you
Molasses and rum and slaves

Who sails the ships out of Boston
Ladened with bibles and rum?
Who drinks a toast to the Ivory Coast?
Hail Africa, the slavers have come -
New England with bibles and rum

And its off with the rum and the bibles
Take on the slaves, clink, clink
Hail and farewell to the smell
Of the African coast

Molasses to rum to slaves
'Tisn't morals, 'tis money that saves
Shall we dance to the sound of the profitable pound
In molasses and rum and slaves

Who sails the ships out of Guinea
Ladened with bibles and slaves?
'Tis Boston can coast to the West Indies coast
Jamaica, we brung what ye craves
Antigua, Barbados, we brung bibles and slaves!

Molasses to rum to slaves
Who sail the ships back to Boston
Ladened with gold, see it gleam
Whose fortunes are made in the triangle trade
Hail slavery, the New England dream!
Mr. Adams, I give you a toast:
Hail Boston! Hail Charleston!
Who stinketh the most?

Sam Clemens wrote: "O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

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