04 September 2006

Books of 2006: Part 11: Mayflower

Nathaniel Philbrick
I began reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower with the same curiosity he did: learning how Thanksgiving began. Of course, as a holiday, Thanksgiving did not begin until 1863 as a "cathartic celebration of nationhood". True, the Pilgrims would’ve been probably horrorfied by it, seeing that most of their puritanical ideas would not allow for such a baffling notion; heck, they did not even celebrate Christmas.

When the Pilgrims reached the shores of America in 1620, they knew not what to expect, but they since they were trying to escape religious persecution in England. They felt that church had become corrupted by "centuries of laity and abuse". They believed that if something was not in the scriptures, it was of a man-made, and thus a distortion of what God intended. These Purtians had no use for the Book of Common Prayer, since they felt it tampered with the meaning of the Bible and prevented "spontaneity", which they felt was "essential to attaining" the "divine".

But if I could time travel back to those early years, when nearly half of the original travelers on the Mayflower lost their lives, I would tell them that they needed to tell their kids and grandchildren to basic need to understand each other. Even the leaders of this Pilgrims realized early on that if they were going to survive beyond the first year, they needed the "Strangers" to help them, and that meant loosening some of Puritans.

But while the first years were hard, with many mis-understandings between them, the Native Indians and England, they were able to balance out a life.

But as history repeats itself, it would be the next generation of Strangers and Pilgrims that would cause a war between them and the Native’s. After 50 years, a conflict would grow as people arriving to the New World felt it was God’s divine right to strip the natives of their land and kill them. Of course, the Indians were no so innocent themselves, but it seems to me that they were wiped out for no other reason than they were a nuisance to America’s westward movement.

Even today, with our current conflict in Iraq, we are still fighting a war based on race. For today we see people like Samuel Moseley who coined the phrase "the only good Indian was a dead Indian" and felt that once you got mad at them, you got even with them.

Then there was Benjamin Church, who felt that instead of hating your enemy, you learn as much as possible from him; that instead of killing them, you tried to bring them around to your way opf thinking.

And "first and foremost, you treat them like human beings".

Because the one lesson that can be learned by King Philip’s War of 1674-75 is that "unbridled arrogance and fear only feed the flames of violence. "

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