Under the Liberty Tree

November 22, 2018 Updated: November 23, 2018


Each year, we gather—together—for the quintessentially American holiday: Thanksgiving.

We celebrate our community, endurance, and historic success in the face of struggle. May we remember to pay obeisance to our common deity as the essential thread of our success.

Yet today, we seem particularly divided in both perceptions of ourselves and of our goals. The proverbial serpent seems to slither among us, offering not a slice of pumpkin pie but a bright, shiny apple of ageless deceit, dissolution, and chaos from the Garden of Good and Evil.

The very nature of our holiday seems questioned today among so many family and friends, along with the true nature of our origin, culture, and community. Divisive politics intrudes, lurks, bites—seemingly as seldom before. The very thought can cause withdrawal from a holiday temperament.

Yet we must not be distracted and deflected by this deceit. It is time to reach up. Our time is not uniquely threatening and divisive. Struggle is our common human condition. Thanksgiving itself was borne of struggle, overcome. And faith is the very essence of victory—personal, social, and cultural faith.

Thanksgiving is not a back slap, fist bump, or “atta-boy” to each other, to a social order, or to a singular culture, but, rather, to God. Remember this, and we shall elevate our understanding, properly orient our order and aspiration, and indeed reach up to personal, family, and cultural success. Fail, or mis-order our priorities, and we shall fall further into the night and fade from our own fulfillment. History has abundant and instructive precedent.

At the apex of the British Empire that stretched from Island to India, Queen Victoria stood to be honored at her Royal Diamond Jubilee. Celebrated poet Rudyard Kipling, himself a “colonial” born in India, was asked to write a commemorative poem. Yet, at this zenith of power and majesty, foreboding overtook the poet’s temper. This premier bard abjured the triumphalism of Imperial arrogance, and instead penned a poem of solemn, prescient warning, titled “Recessional.”

The sober verses warned of arrogance and called on the Empire to remember its roots—and to look up, to the “Lord God of Hosts”—”Lest we forget.” In mere years following the publication of “Recessional,” ageless cities and millions lay dead in trenches, gas, and the devastation of war.

Yet less than a generation forward from that warning would follow yet another world war, multiplying the suffering, devastation, and death of the first. Lest we forget.

Less than 15 years later, all the world would be consumed in a war of yet another horror unprecedented in human history. So much good, beauty, and stability was again lost forever. Uncounted millions would die in horror. Another poet saw in this a Second Coming of evil, “slouching toward Bethlehem” to a new age of darkness. Following socialist nightmares consumed the lives, liberty, property, and cultures in ideological predations, hate-icide, and gulags in Stalinist Russia; cultural “revolution” atrocities in China; and Facista slitherings of that ageless serpent that continue today. Darkest evil, clothed within the shiny apple—”Lest we forget.”

Our own American president, Abraham Lincoln, spoke to us after Gettysburg of our “unfinished work” in deciding if a nation conceived and dedicated to liberty could survive. The answer is never final. We each decide—personally, daily—what we bring to the ageless struggle.

Some speak derisively of Pax Americana and some of a world hegemony following World War II. Conveniently overlooked, too often, are the countless yearning multitudes preserved from struggle, secured in peace, and enlightened by the lamp of liberty to guide their way to a new prosperity and to the open doors and opportunities for self-actualizing growth inherent to freedom.

Overlooked also is a deep darkness in Korea, genocides on two continents, and a Cold War that threatened to engulf a world in new horror weapons and weaponized science. Techniques of terrorism and chaos are that ageless serpent’s new sharp tooth in response to any “Pax” on the world. Pax of Romana and Britannica were nonetheless deceptive. We remain human, indeed.

Lest we forget.

And so, we must face a “Thanksgiving” this year with new and personal commitment. Not confrontation, not argument nor aggression, but principle. Yes, we are thankful and pay obeisance to the God who shows us the way … yet we must seek and see the way, walk the path, and face the inevitable, ruthless consequences of free choice. We either act rightly, or we face the inevitable consequences of mis-action—or inaction. The essential struggle is ever personal. It is written upon each human heart.

Formulate character; perceive properly; choose rightly, wisely, prudently—and at times with courage. Do this, and we shall survive and thrive and enjoy an earned “Thanksgiving.” … Lest we forget.

We do face a time of historic challenge this Thanksgiving. Yet I think, ever was it so. Never was there an era of detached innocence, outside the Garden. “Impossible heroes” of our past strode into battle against far greater odds than that which we face in today’s threatening world. Our path is different. Our struggle is the same. … They prevailed. Lest we forget.

And so, we share our precious Thanksgiving, together—grateful for the mission written on each human heart, and to the liberty and lights of our best character we recommit to our foundational faith, family, and freedom. We accept our good faith differences as routes and lights in a common struggle. We live with, learn, and enable each other to reach our common goal. So much good we have been given; so much we have to give. If someone offers you a bright, shining apple—make applesauce!

Pass the turkey, please …

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.