November 23, 2006
O beautiful, for pilgrims' feet . . .
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thy ev'ry flaw
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
Every year since 1961, the Wall Street Journal has carried two editorials on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The first is entitled, "The Desolate Wilderness" and the second, "And the Fair Land." From the first, from the chronicles of Plymouth Colony in 1620:
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.And from the second, a response written by the editorial board in 1961:
But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere--in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.
We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.
Depending on how one counts, this is the 287th or so Thanksgiving in America. If there's one thing I'm grateful for, it is that thus far -- thus far -- we have proven Alexis de Tocqueville wrong:
By such means a kind of decent materialism may come to be established on earth, which will not corrupt souls but soften and imperceptibly loosen the springs of action . . .It is now probably time to prove Tocqueville wrong once again.
The prospect really does frighten me that they may finally become so engrossed in a cowardly love of immediate pleasures that their interest in their own future and in that of their descendants may vanish, and that they will prefer tamely to follow the course of their destiny rather than make a sudden energetic effort necessary to set things right.
Posted by Chester at November 23, 2006 12:47 AM
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