Friday, November 4, 2016

Electing to honor Native American Heritage

November is Native American Heritage Month. The state of Minnesota provides an acknowledgement and resource links on a Department of Human Rights web page. November is also the month in which the dominant culture celebrates Thanksgiving. Native Americans were giving thanks well before the Pilgrims celebrated their own first Thanksgiving. The Native Self-Sufficiency Center publishes a Thanksgiving Address that goes back thousands of years. The Words Before All Else [Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen] are:
"Spoken as a spiritual address to the powers of the natural world, these words are used to open gatherings in order to bring the minds of the people together as one and align the gathered minds with Nature."
part of Minneapolis' American Indian Cultural Corridor
part of Minneapolis' American Indian Cultural Corridor
Photo by J. Harrington

As our political campaigns wind down, and our Thanksgiving season approaches, I can think of no better words to keep in mind, and in our hearts, than these from the "Thanksgiving Address":
 "...We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things."
I doubt that few of us are as grateful as we could and should be for the blessings we experience in this country. For example, if we behave ourselves, we'll get to choose how we govern ourselves with ballots, not as ISIS and terrorist supporters would have those in Syria do. Closer to home, and less significant, this unseasonably warm weather we're having disgusts the Better Half and leaves me delighted. Such a situation calls for both empathy and sympathy, qualities sadly lacking in today's approach to politics as a scorched-earth blood sport.

Vote, you'll feel better if you do!
Vote, you'll feel better if you do!
Photo by J. Harrington

I've found a close linkage between being thankful and reciprocity. Think about it. If you exploit someone, rather than treat them fairly, you'll often experience pushback, or worse. I think I first formally learned about reciprocity in my fundamentals of sociology course in college with the lesson that "People behave pretty much as you expect them to." Well before I got to college, somewhere around kindergarten, I learned a fundamental version of reciprocity, the Golden Rule. It works pretty well if I remember to follow it.

Think about whether there could be worthwhile and immediate benefits in meeting our duty to live in balance and harmony. I believe we've managed to get ourselves and our only home into some serious shit. I think it's going to take all the skills and resources of all of us to get out of the hole we've dug for ourselves. We're not going to make it if we spend all our time and energy fighting with each other. There are no good jobs (or any profits) on a dead planet. On the other hand, what if we create a better world and we didn't have to? Is that a problem?

Election Day, November, 1884

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.