The Plastic Hippo

November 26, 2015


Filed under: Faith,History,Literature,Politics,Rights,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 2:00 am
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The tradition of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest pre-dates the Pilgrim Fathers of Plymouth Rock, all organised religions and probably even the invention of recognisable clothing. After successfully hunter-gathering the roots, berries and mammoth steaks, what better way to celebrate than pulling on the Sunday best and eating until physical activity is rendered impossible.

Fleeing from intolerance, religious oppression, imprisonment and summary execution, England Dissenters migrated first to Holland and then undertook a perilous voyage across treacherous seas to reach a new world offering a land of the free and a home for the brave. Many died in that first harsh winter but, according to legend, the colony managed to survive due to its endurance, toil and by the grace of God. Another version suggests that the local Native Americans took pity and shared their food only to be rewarded with the European gift of smallpox. A third and more likely version tells of a ship arriving from Dublin loaded with supplies. Whatever the circumstances, it seems that first American ceremony of Thanksgiving took place in what is now known as Massachusetts sometime around Michaelmas in 1621.

A lot has changed in nearly 400 years. The colony prospered and grew and eventually formed into an independent nation after a bloody war of liberation. That conflict still allows citizens to carry an array of increasingly powerful weaponry which is increasingly being turned on each other. In the days before Thanksgiving, descendants of migrants in the Senate and in the House screamed for the end of migration and yet another descendant of slaves was gunned down in the street by law enforcement agencies. As sure as winter follows the harvest, Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday when Americans fight each other for trinkets. The American dream is turning into a nightmare.

The poet Emma Lazarus, a native New Yorker of Sephardic Jewish heritage was a Zionist long before Zionism acquired a bad name (or indeed any name at all) and knocked out a rather splendid sonnet in 1883 during the construction of a great big statue on an island in New York Harbor. The poem adorns the pedestal of “La Liberté éclairant le monde” facing Ellis Island and the One World Trade Center.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

By next Thanksgiving, a strange creature called Donald Trump could be the President of the most powerful nation on earth. His ancestors came from Germany and Scotland.

The harvest of 2016 might fail like no other harvest has ever failed before.

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