It starts with a need to get out of England because the ruling class was making life hard for them. It ends up as one of those myths that anyone can insert whatever truth they want into. The story of the Pilgrims is a worth a hard look because we have a lot in common with them right now – a kind of blind faith that is dangerous not because it comes from optimism or morality but in something even stranger.
The Puritans arrived here expecting that their faith in God would be enough to deliver them to the Promised Land. It took a nasty winter and about half of their number to die before they realized that they were, at the least, going to have to get a little more real about the whole situation. They even asked the natives for help, a tacit recognition that they might not actually know everything about the strange new world they found themselves in.
This may seem like a cynical read of the events that led to the First Thanksgiving, and it is. However, it’s also well documented that the Puritans quickly figured out that Faith was not something blind and passive. Rather than be simply given a kind of Promised Land, they had to hope that they were given the skills to create and realize the Promised Land around them.
Let’s take a long look at what we, as a people, appear to have put our faith in. It’s not something like a deity that will deliver us, but more of a faith in the systems we have built up over the years. They delivered us a good life for a long time, after all, so what’s not to trust? The alternative is to either somehow be self-sufficient or know just about everything, neither of which are all that appealing. So the best thing to do is hold on and trust that, as surely as this is a mild November, we’ll make it through the Winter.
Yes, but if the Winter is a lot longer and harder than many of us are used to?
If you want to really know the nature of the situation that we are in, I urge you to take a lot of time to read this blog post by Mike Shedlock of Sitka. Go ahead, there’s a long holiday coming up, and it’s better than watching the Detroit Lions, I assure you. The long and short of it is that the various bubbles we’ve ridden created no more than about 330k jobs over the last entire decade. We’re now losing about that many each year month. In addition, about 2,500k more young people enter the job market every year as the Millenial Generation comes of age. We are unlikely to fall below 8% unemployment (as measured by the best-case scenario numbers we us, U3) for another decade yet to come.
This may seem like a strange situation to relate to the buckle-hatted league that created Thanksgiving for us, but as usual I have a point. Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates not just a faith in deliverance, but a long litany of sacrifices and hard choices made by people who were forced to huddle together just to survive. If the Puritans had stayed with a narrow definition of faith in deliverance by unseen forces, they wouldn’t have gotten as far as the big meal.
Is the dire situation that Mike Shedlock describes absolutely, for sure, going to happen? The short version is that no, it doesn’t have to go down exactly that way if we pay attention to what’s going on. It should be obvious that, without any action, what’s described here is going to happen. The systems that have worked for us have given us a lot of justified faith, but this is clearly something far bigger of a test than that faith has ever had before.
People who tell me that the Recession is over, or indeed anyone who tells me that there is this thing called a “Recovery” that arrives without a painful “Restructuring”, are living in the early part of the story of the Puritans. They are the ones who aren’t going to make it through the Winter because their story is one of blind faith and little else. I don’t really care what kind of degrees or positions they have, either.
The real story of Thanksgiving is how much more it takes than simple faith to get to the Promised Land. It’s certainly worth noting that, with the right attention to detail, community, and reality that we all can make it. Our own kind of faith, in all the systems that make up our lives, might be comforting in the depths of Winter – but we can’t eat it or burn it for heat. We need a little harder sense of reality and community to get through this. Then, we can celebrate our deliverance together, once we get through this, with a big turkey or something. Perhaps by then the Detroit Lions will even be worth watching.