This is a time to be thankful for what we have. We gather with family or friends and celebrate the bounty of a great and prosperous Promised Land. The material wealth of North America has always been obvious, as it was demonstrated to the first Europeans by the natives.
But this is not a Promised Land for many people who live here. The systems that we have set up, often credited with our wealth, do not always work. When we are thankful on these days, it is rightly for the great gifts of our Democratic Republic – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Hapiness. But as we have seen in the last few days, none of these are guaranteed to all by our system.
It is impossible to be truly thankful for our great gifts when we know that they are jealously kept from others.
The lack of an indictment of the police for killing is hardly an unusual event, nor is it surprising. But it highlights the terrible grip of fear that holds our world. Police are believed by a grand jury over everyone else, getting the benefit of the doubt that a young black man in the middle of the street would never get.
The catechism of our nation is a simple one:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
These are not stated as goals of our society or as an agreement that we have come to. They are given to us as fundamental rights of everyone – without mention of the color of skin or wealth. When we fail to deliver these to everyone, we fail to properly appreciate the gifts of a loving God that, in our catechism, gave these gifts to us.
This has nothing to do with wealth or the orgy of shopping that comes with Thanksgiving, blotting out the original intentions. The holiday as we know it was born as a prayer for peace that was answered as our Revolution ended. It was crystalized in the passage of our Constitution that guarantees our rights and spells out in an inviolate law how the great gifts will be forever preserved.
We are mere mortals, and we rarely live up to the expectations that our greater sense of the grace of the universe teaches us. That much we can expect.
But we are not truly thankful for our gifts when we so pointedly refuse them.
And those who legitimately fear for their lives at every encounter with the authorities can hardly be thankful for anything.
This Thanksgiving, I ask everyone to say a special prayer to whatever understanding of the great forces of the universe they may have. Say a prayer for peace, that we may all live together. Say a prayer for justice, because without it there can be no peace. And say a prayer of thanks for the great gifts that we have, asking that they truly be given to everyone in this great land. Say a prayer to end fear.
The great gifts of this Promised Land of plenty and freedom must be for all of us. With Liberty there must Brotherhood and Unity. The alternative is to surrender our precious gifts to those who we think will “protect” us from the fellow citizens that we have chosen to fear rather than love.
It is only through fear that forget these gifts and refuse that which we truly should be thankful for.
A thankful people are not afraid. Be not afraid.