Monthly Archives: November 2021

A New American Tradition

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  But the choices will vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate. According to the accepted historical version, the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration for the Pilgrims of surviving a hard year and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Of course, that version is completely bogus because we know from historical records that the Pilgrims pushed the Wampanoag and neighboring tribes off the land through what today we call ethnic cleansing.  The tribes of New England, like all other tribes within the territorial borders of the U.S., were systemically decimated by wars and diseases. Indians didn’t become U.S. citizens until federal law changed in 1924.

So why bother celebrating Thanksgiving? 

Every country is held together by its common traditions.  Common traditions give us a point of reference to help us find our place in the world. In a huge, diverse country like America, common traditions had to be created from scratch.  Traditions created from scratch reflected what those with power at the time wanted to showcase; not how it really was. 

George Washington issued the first presidential proclamation calling for a celebration of thanksgiving.  No one asked if his slaves were invited.  Abraham Lincoln called for a day of Thanksgiving in 1863, when the Civil War wasn’t going well for the Union.

Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1942, less than a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.  No one mentioned that Japanese Americans had been unconstitutionally stripped of their property and rights as citizens and then required to prove their loyalty by sending their sons to fight in the war.  (For a real American hero, google “Senator Daniel Inouye”.)

But over time, countries evolve as circumstances change. What was once socially or politically acceptable is no longer so.  Now, the diversity of America’s people calls for a more nuanced view of our history and traditions.  The unpleasant truths behind the origins of Thanksgiving, and so much more in American history, can be acknowledged without damaging our country.

It’s time to create a new common tradition that is a more honest reflection of who we are and what we aspire to become. Our food choices already acknowledge our diversity.  Now, celebrate Thanksgiving by acknowledging the good and bad historical experiences of our diverse population.  An America without our diversity would be uninspiring and the food boring.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Filed under family, History

The Other Side of the Couch – Are We There Yet?

Here & Now

Are We There YET?

I remember as a child taking car trips with my family – I was often buried in a book, but I know I must have asked that dreaded question many times – and I am equally sure that my younger siblings often did the same. Time passes differently in childhood. Days are endless; summers last forever, and it seems that Christmas will never come.

Time moves differently as we age. The rushing river of Time of which we are never outside becomes ever faster. The meandering pace of childhood picks up speed, and time passes in minutes as we grow older.

And yet that question remains – are we there yet? Have we reached our destination? The “there” changes over time, and yet it is still somewhere out there in the far distance. We are moving toward a horizon that always is just out of reach.

Have you considered what “there” is for you, and whether the possibility exists that you are already “there”? If we as humans are constantly focused on the next thing, that which is to come, we miss so much of what is here now.

If I have learned anything from these months of pandemic isolation, it is that now is what we have. The opportunity to slow down, pay attention, spend time with people I love has never been more present and essential, especially given that these months included the loss of beloved family members (my brother, sister, brother-in-law, and aunt – none to COVID, but gone nonetheless) – and the loss of a feline friend who gave us eighteen years of loving presence. We also received the gift of another precious granddaughter and the adoption of another feline friend.

Friends, “there” is a mirage – a desert oasis calling us away from the actual present. I hope that you can find ways to stay fully present with your life today. It really is a gift, and it is all that we have.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Finding Hope

An emergency polio ward in Boston in 1955 equipped with iron lungs. These pressurized respirators acted as breathing muscles for polio victims, often children, who were paralyzed. www.apimages.com

When I graduated from college in 1979, the commencement speaker was none other than Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. I don’t honestly remember much of what he said, but I do remember being in awe. You see my childhood and, for that matter, the childhood of my entire generation, was in large part defined by the polio epidemic. I recall hearing stories about children living in iron lungs. Former President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair. And the father of one of my friends walked with a leg brace following a battle with the disease. A rite of passage was lining up with all the other pre-kindergartners and our parents and siblings to receive the oral polio vaccine in a sugar cube. I was excited to finally be ready for school. My mom cried because we would all finally be protected from the deadly virus.

Polio was finally declared eradicated in the United States in the 1990s. Still today’s children are vaccinated for polio along with mumps, measles, and rubella, among others. In most public-school districts, many summer camps, sports teams, and universities, proof of vaccination is a requirement for enrollment. Recent vaccine developments include meningitis and HPV which are recommended for teens and young adults heading off to college. I don’t recall anyone I know resisting these basic, preventative, yet miraculous scientific developments. I am aware there are some people who are fundamentally opposed to any and all vaccines for a variety of reasons. While I don’t agree with them and believe they are taking risks with their family’s health, I respect their conviction and support their decisions.

There have been many comparisons between the historic polio epidemic and the current COVID19 pandemic. Both are viruses, can be deadly, can lead to long term damage, and both can be eradicated by vaccine. So why is there so much confusion and controversy around the COVID19 vaccine? In an article in Discover Magazine, Carl Kurlander at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote, “Developing the vaccine was a collective effort, from national leadership by President Franklin Roosevelt to those who worked alongside Salk in the lab and the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to be experimentally inoculated.” He goes on to add, “That was a time, said Salk’s oldest son, Dr. Peter Salk, in an interview for our film, when the public trusted the medical community and believed in each other. I believe that’s an idea we need to resurrect today.”

For the past year and a half, like many of us, I have felt the weight of so much pain and loss. I’ve been isolated, sad, lonely, disheartened, and disillusioned. When I was finally able to be vaccinated alongside my husband and two of my children, my daughter and I hugged each other and cried tears of relief and gratitude. I waited anxiously until my son in another state could be vaccinated. I continue to marvel at the rapid development of this life-saving vaccine and the ongoing development of treatments for the virus. But I am also angry. Angry at those who have turned the virus and the vaccine into a political cudgel, to be used on either side of the aisle. I am angry that in this time of unlimited potential for information sharing, there is so much misinformation being weaponized to further any agenda other than ending this scourge that continues to kill. In my darkest thoughts, I feel despair about what this means for the future of our country and of humankind, and I pray I am wrong.

I am not a pessimist. Most people who know me would say I am most definitely a cockeyed optimist, often not seeing the darkness in front of me. So, I will finish with something positive. Ann Frank famously said two things that give me hope.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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