A portrait of chosenness, of a chosen people, whose status was not a sign of superiority but a symbol of suffering: of barren fields and broken bodies—of plagues of dust and drought—poisoned by the pestilence of death. Such was America in 1621, 1863, 1934, and 1963.
Such was the first Thanksgiving.
Such was the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. Such was the newly designated date of Thanksgiving by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Such was the Friday before Thanksgiving, the 22nd day of November, when John F. Kennedy died.
None of those presidents would finish his term of office. Two would die as martyrs, while the other would die because of the burdens of the office; a cripple crippled by the weight of history; a political giant felled by forces no fire could repel and no fireside chat could repeal; an aristocrat with mass appeal; a democrat—and a Democrat—whose sons were their own band of brothers in the armed forces.
All three presidents knew war or were sickened by it. The first two waged it on an epic scale, in defense of the Union and against the enemies—both foreign and domestic—of the United States of America. The third was almost drowned by it, in an ocean that was anything but pacific, by a foe whose planes had bombed the Pacific fleet and whose kamikaze pilots killed themselves by dive-bombing our ships.
All three represent the greatness of America: land where their fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride.
It is a land fit for a King, whose greatest speech was a call to let freedom ring. It is a land whose only prince was a Catholic, whose speeches were a testament to the survival and the success of liberty. It is a land whose people were—and are—free to choose.
It is a land older than the Israelites.
It is the land of New Israel, where Jews and Gentiles are one, where blacks and whites are equal, where all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is America.
Like modern-day Israel, we are in—but not of—the roll call of nations.
We refuse to surrender our sovereignty to the unwise, our system of laws to the unjust, our very sanity to the unsound.
We refuse to destroy our nation by pretending we are a people who precede the land, who should relinquish the land, who should forget the land; despite all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s unrequited toil; despite every drop of blood drawn by the lash and another paid by the sword; despite the sin of slavery; despite the sacrifice of 620,000 lives; despite the one man, the 15th successor to the Father of our Country, who made the ultimate sacrifice, whose memory endures—in a temple—as it does in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union.
We proclaim our thanks.
May we all have a happy Thanksgiving.
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