FINDING GRATITUDE IN 2020

From George Washington to Donald Trump

Image for post
Image for post
A Diverse Flock of Turkeys. Photo by Mikkel Bergmann on Unsplash

Thanksgiving is especially challenging in 2020. The surging pandemic, bitter partisan and racial divides, and collective mourning for the 250,000 victims of Covid-19 have dampened moods and soured appetites. Large family feasts have been canceled or are preceding despite official warnings and significant risk. Yet gratitude is most resonant in hard times. Practicing thankfulness despite intense grief and soul searching is a step towards healing. As we reflect on past challenges and halting steps towards justice, we can begin to mend the brokenness in ourselves, our communities, and the nation.

Despite myriad school pageants and Charlie Brown specials, the encounter with the Wampanoag in 1621 was marked by fear and great tragedy. The early Pilgrims thanked God for surviving the first year in a “howling wilderness.” Because half of their party had died, they were grateful to be alive. The Wampanoags were still reeling from the scourges of smallpox, measles, and plague that began devastating their communities even before the Pilgrims arrived. …


Escaping our ideological bubbles

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The 2020 presidential election proved that Americans have retreated into opposing echo chambers. Even a small farm stand in upstate New York advertises eggs, vegetables, flowers, and Bernie for president. Every aspect of our lives has become politicized. The conflicts have drifted from lawn to social media, to public school classrooms. The question for English and History teachers is how to open students to a more inclusive and just worldview without taking partisan positions.

Our classrooms have become microcosms of larger divides. Partisans have fought to control the narratives in history books for years with high school and college texts telling radically different stories about the nation’s past. Teachers must navigate the conflicting demands of nationally standardized tests, state curricula and testing, in addition to district, administrative, and parental pressures. …


Statue of Mikhail Bulgakov in Kiev
Statue of Mikhail Bulgakov in Kiev
Statue of Mikhail Bulgakov in Kiev Svenkaj / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

“You spoke your words as though you denied the very existence of the shadows or of evil. Think, now: where would your good be if there were no evil and what would the world look like without shadow? Shadows are thrown by people and things. There’s the shadow of my sword, for instance. But shadows are also cast by trees and living things. Do you want to strip the whole globe by removing every tree and every creature to satisfy your fantasy of a bare world? You’re stupid.”

Mikhail Bulgakov — Master and Margarita

The absurdity of American politics propels us deeper and deeper into partisan echo chambers. Corrupt hucksters profit while rigid ideology blinds us to the pain all around us. Presidential debates degenerate into street fights. The civilized world frays as apocalyptic fears metastasize. …


Image for post
Image for post
By Howard Chandler Christy — The Indian Reporter, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=662340

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. . . . It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. …


How Will God Vote Part VI

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 KJV)

Image for post
Image for post
Aldrich Pond in Douglas State Forest, MA Photo by Author

Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes disrupts our identities and partisan passions. What do mercy, meekness, and poverty of spirit have to do with crushing our political enemies? How does electing the president of a superpower help us live lives of self-sacrificial love?

We struggle to draw clear lines between the things of God and the things of Caesar. The Christian’s life is defined by following a crucified Messiah, who calls us to take up our crosses and follow in His path. …


Even when our dreams turn into nightmares, they still contain the seeds of new beginnings.

Image for post
Image for post
Image by Greg Reese from Pixabay

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We can find inspiration from his life and teaching to endure through times of darkness and hopelessness. Yet his many disappointments and assassination remind us of the difficulty of the journey. Many of us are struggling to find relief and new energy during the holiday season. As we seek to heal from Covid-19, extreme partisanship, racial injustice, and the chaos of disrupted lives, King’s words and Biblical promises of justice bring comfort and resolve.

Prophetic words are beacons of light and hope during seasons of deep darkness. The prophets imagined a time when the Divine would interrupt corrupt systems and overturn unjust practices. Dr. King’s dream remains powerful but elusive. He found hope in Biblical accounts of God rescuing His people after long years of oppression. Often deliverance began with the birth of a child. Their expectant mothers expressed the twin hope for justice and national rebirth. …


That the Pilgrims Signed their Lives Away.

Image for post
Image for post
The pilgrims signing the compact, on board the May Flower, Nov. 11th, 1620 / painted by T.H. Matteson ; engraved by Gauthier. Free for public use from the Library of Congress.

November 11, 2020 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing at Provincetown on Cape Cod. (The actual anniversary is November 21st in the Gregorian calendar) While newspapers, politicians, and historians debate the true origins of the United States. Loyal New Englanders have long traced their beginning to the arrival of the Pilgrims and the signing of the Mayflower Compact.

Far from a simple tale of intrepid voyagers in search of religious freedom, the actual pilgrims were a mixed lot who benefited from disease and their distance from England. Wampanoag homelands were devastated by a wave of epidemics between 1614 and 1620. Fishing voyages and earlier waves of exploration had introduced diseases like smallpox and plague. In 1614 Thomas Hunt, seized 10 residents of Patuxet for sale as slaves in Spain. Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, found his way back only to discover that his relatives and neighbors had succumbed to the diseases and that Pilgrims had taken over his village and renamed it Plymouth. …


How Will God Vote? Part VIII

Image for post
Image for post
Syrians and Iraq refugees arrive at Skala Sykamias Lesvos Greece 2.jpg by Ggia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

As we enter the final days of the 2020 election season, I want to end my series on the Beatitudes and the values of Jesus by adding a translation twist to a familiar passage. What if each time we saw the word persecution in the Sermon on the Mount, we replaced it with refugee or outcast?

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10–12…


How will God Vote: Part VII

Image for post
Image for post
Poster Advertising Political Rally in Washington DC. Courtesy Flickr.com Washington Area Spark

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 KJV

Sometimes the shortest passages cause the most trouble. Do you want to be called a child of God? Practice peacemaking.

As Americans we are solely tempted to add qualifiers to the expression. Yes peace, but only on our terms.

“Peace through Victory.”

“Peace Through Strength”

“Peace with Honor”

The qualifiers demolish the simplicity of the message. Jesus did not say we will have peace after we have obliterated our enemies. His crucifixion turned victory upside down. Within the context of his time, Jesus’ death showed his weakness and failure as Messiah. Accounts of his resurrection would take nearly three centuries before they were officially accepted by the Roman Empire. …


The Fourth in a Series on Depolarizing Politics

Image for post
Image for post
The March for Life 2017. James McNellis from Washington, DC, United States / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Writing about depolarizing politics in the middle of the 2020 presidential election feels like bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon. Or worse, I have become Don Quixote tilting at windmills in a war zone. That was before the Supreme Court announced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had lost her fight to cancer.

Without allowing time to grieve or reflect, Republicans have vowed to gain maximum partisan advantage from the death of the liberal icon. After years of scolding liberals not to politicize school shootings, they have proven their hypocrisy again. Apparently only Democrats are supposed to follow rules and precedents. Damn fairness, the health of Democracy, hypocrisy etc. …

About

Meister Käßner

Asking important questions about living well amid the farms and forests North and West of Boston.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store