The editorial page of the Houston Chronicle celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time in more than a decade, probably more like twenty years.
The newspaper's usual practice is . . .
. . . to ignore this and other American civic holidays -- to stand aside, to have nothing to do with events so common and distressing.
In recent years, however, the newspaper has tried two other tactics.
One is to condemn America with faint praise: at least women can vote now; at least we don't have slavery any more; things could be worse.
The other is to celebrate insider stuff such as obscure food vendors and frivolous inside-the-loop, taxpayer-financed (in the main) amenities that you and I will never use.
The message: We give thanks (to Gaia? to an empty and meaningless universe?) for our superiority in character and taste over, and for our cleverness in hijacking a holiday of, the bourgeois louts who buy our newspaper.
This year an adult returned to the helm and gave Houston readers a sincere, thoughtful, and reverent essay on Thanksgiving that boldly exposes the Christian roots of the holiday.
Long before this country was mesmerized by the mantra of "hip and cool" and came to worship at the altars of popular culture and celebrity, Americans proudly answered to the labels "striving, god-fearing and humble."
Most of us still do.
The Chronicle is saying, correctly, that most Americans see themselves, correctly, as strivers and religious believers. ("Humble" is problematic. Would an humble person claim humility?)
More remarkably, the word "us" intimates that the Chronicle sees itself -- if only in the person of the unidentified essayist -- as a member of that same community.
I cannot remember the last time our local newspaper so generously treated the people it serves or so unreservedly identified itself with them.
The editorial gets better.
Turkey Day . . . is our annual reminder to give thanks for the bounty of opportunities American still offers, to affirm the centrality of the family and community to our national life and to serve those in lesser circumstances.
It is, in short, the most American of holidays. May it ever be so. . . .
In the aftermath of a divisive national election, Thanksgiving 2012 also offers a moment for reflection on the blessings of our imperfect, often-cussed system of conducting public business. We the People speak through our ballots. No bullets are fired. No monarchs need apply.
For a newspaper that a bit more than a year ago praised the Occupy movement, this is an astonishing return to common sense, decency, and the larger themes of America and American exceptionalism.
Opportunity. Family. Community. Charity. Blessings. Democracy.
Not a word about victimage, to mention but one competing idea.
The best comes last.
It is an irony that the role of those who celebrated the nation's original thanksgiving, the band of Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620, is often caricatured or even derided.
For all of their human frailties and peculiar customs, these 101 sould were heroes, risking their lives in the Mayflower's hazardous passage to worship God in freedom in a new and inhospitable land.
Between feasts and football-watching, Thanksgiving should be a day to spend a moment also reflecting upon the Mayflower Compact, the document that guided the Pilgrim fathers . . . as they organized into a community..
Brief and utterly lacking in rhetorical flourishes, The Mayflower Compact is an accurate reflection of the simple faith and beliefs of the Pilgrims.
While not graced with the elegant prose of the Declaration of Independence or Abraham's Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, it is widely regarded as a foundation of the U.S. Constitution. As such, it has rightly earned a place as one of the significant documents of human freedom that traces back to the Magna Carta . . . .
. . . .
A blessed Thanksgiving to all.
(Editorial, "Giving thanks," Houston Chronicle, November 21/22, 2012)
Below the editorial, the Chronicle ran the text of the Mayflower Compact. Consider these snips:
In the name of God . . . by the grace of God . . . Defender of the Faith . . . for the Glory of God . . . . advancement of the Christian Faith . . . . in the presence of God . . . . Anno Domini 1620 . . . .
So what is going on? Is this a one-off thing, a flash in a dark room?
Or has the Chronicle made a U-turn? Will we now see equally respectful and decent editorials about Christmas and the Fourth of July?
And who deserves the credit? The new managing editor, Steve Proctor? The executive editor of the editorial pages, Jeff Cohen. Or John Wilburn, still listed as opinion director?
Or could it be an anonymous editorial writer, more sympathetic to America and Americans than those in his chain of command, and wiser?
Whatever the answers, let's enjoy and honor the event itself and hope, for the sake of the newspaper and those it serves, that it but the first of many.