Category Archives: US History

Thanksgiving from the turkey’s perspective. Over the river and through thewoods, a nation’s fowl behavior is noted, bemoaned, admonished, challenged.Timely commentary from the cutting edge.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. If you’re a resident of these United States, the fourth Thursday of November will soon be upon us in all its excess, gluttony, and self-congratulation. We know this as Thanksgiving Day, but it most certainly is no day of glorious and heart felt thanksgiving for the crucial centerpiece of this annual event sacred to gourmandizing and loosened belts. In fact, for the family of the genus Meleagris, commonly called turkeys, this date is the darkest day of their lives, their history and their entire existence on this planet… but no longer.

This year for the first time since their majestic ancestors graced the Early Miocene a long, long time ago and after nearly 400 years of unapologetic, systematic execution and intense gobbling launched by New England Pilgrims in the 1660s, turkeys are rallying for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In short, these ancient birds of unmitigated plumage and pluck now demand respect, restitution, and revolution. Due to a special arrangement with a band of their insurgents, I am able to take you inside their headquarters. Thus they acknowledge their need for world-wide recognition and your support for their pressing cause.

Urgency in the air: my interview with the Young Turk leader called “Squawk”, a bird of stark destiny and purpose.

A Message from Squawk.

I was not particularly surprised when I saw the note left under the door last night; indeed given my support over the course of many years for the God-given right to life of polar bears, eagles, monarch butterflies, African elephants and many others, I should have been chagrined not to have been contacted. I have my amor propre too after all. But there it was.

“Be ready. Comrades will make contact precisely at midnight. No cameras. Nothing but pencil and paper.” Then the bold, audacious, even grandiloquent mark already famous: “Squawk” and his proud sign, one blood-red claw print. So… they had chosen me…

… And then it occurred to me. When I booked my Thanksgiving Day reservation at the Sheraton Commander hotel right down the street, the young manager had asked me if I wanted turkey or ham for my main course. Without thinking, I told her that if the glaze would be as deep and resonant as last year’s, my selection was certainly ham. Thus inadvertently by my choice of which dead animal I should feast upon, I became, if anathema to pigs, yet simpatico to turkeys.

In this way I came to know that adherents of the turkeys’ cause can be anywhere, even in the most unexpected of places. Ah, that is what the bright-eyed, chipper serving person meant when she said, “I’m so glad, Dr. Lant” in an especially insinuating manner. Old-goat that I am I thought her come-hither look was for my geriatric charms, and so I thought again “there’s no fool like an old fool.”

Perforce, to my work.

Understanding my task, I readied myself for what could only be a fateful encounter, its salient and urgent points to be brought to a world of the unenlightened. And so I regained myself. I was myself again for in such matters I remain a “Young Turk,” too, deferring to no one, not even Squawk, revolution’s anvil though he be.

The feathered comrades were as good as their word. At the stroke of midnight, I heard the fluttering of wing and heard the unmistakable sound emanating from the fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak. And thus I fell, through professional pride and recognized standing, into the hands of those who, without Squawk’s laissez-passer, in an instant could blind me and shred my fragile flesh. I now felt as they had felt these thousands of years a prisoner, helpless, incarcerated, destined for premature death. Thus did the clan Meleagris signal the new order of their kind… and the resulting new order of mine.

Of the next several minutes, I recall sensations only. Of feathers carefully positioned to extinguish all light; just a little showing, otherwise entirely dark. Of the occasional sharp claw prick, whether by accident or design, no less painful for that. It was an acute reminder that I was in their complete and utter power, perhaps the first man so rendered in the long relations of turkey and human. They said nothing. I said nothing. Where I was, who I was with, what they would do to me would become completely apparent soon enough… and was.

Squawk’s headquarters. We meet and “talk turkey”.

I never did discover just where I was and where we met. But even if I knew, I wouldn’t say. I am a journalist and my sources sacred… So I shall simply say the place had a make shift aura about it, as if this were a temporary abode, one to be quickly occupied, quickly abandoned.

“Good evening, Doctor Lant.” It was Squawk, and I felt his power, strength, and authority at once. Here was a bird who meant business… and who saw me only as a tool to reach his objective. We understood each other, and so our business could proceed, briskly, for time was limited and we both had deadlines…

He motioned me to a chair. He stood. And then he began, the words swift, lucid, hot, each a declaration etched in acid. He meant every one and every one came without difficulty. Here was a subject of paramount importance to every turkey. He knew he spoke for all his breed, was supremely confident of his position, of the need to speak out, of the full justice of his cause, and the need for action now, complete action, long overdue action, and of what would have to be done should this action be deferred by even a single moment.

It was a clarion call… and Squawk looked through me and made me see what he saw… he was a bird transfigured… exactly what was required for this pivotal time in the long, one-sided relation of turkey and human. I knew as each word emerged that I was hearing history in the making. Like it or not, every clipped syllable was Important. Things would never be the same again.

What Squawk said.

Now each word came fast, irrefutable, beautiful in its delivery, purified by total belief and total commitment.

Of the days before human came. Of a proud bird, great in size, majestic in movement, free ranging over the great land called by humans North America. These were the proud days, the glory days, when every bird knew the joy that is freedom.

Of the days that brought the people called Pilgrims, people who fled tyranny and injustice only to bring a greater tyranny, more menacing and thorough injustice to the land called New England. These storm-tossed people came with only one thing in amplitude: arrogance, an arrogance that everything they saw was theirs and theirs alone. We did not understand these humans then. We saw them as poor, freedom-loving, in need of help we were ready to give in unstinting measure.

And so we accepted their invitation to the First Thanksgiving… where we were the guest of honor indeed: as food. We came in friendship. We found the cooking pot instead… and not merely the pot for some; the pot for all of us in our thousands, our tens of thousands, our millions.

And so the Pilgrims grew fat upon the bounty of our trusting bodies. No wonder these humans gave thanks. They were triumphant over all, a revolution in every step they took. Against such God-believing people, forever certain in their cause what could be done except revolt, violent, intense, thorough, unceasing until the freedom of old becomes the order of the great new day.

“Does this mean….?”, I asked. He knew the question before I even finished it. “Yes, friend, it does. There are comrades who operate in the shady lanes of liberal Newton, of affluent Brookline, even one hero who patrols the grounds and harasses the privileged students of the Harvard Business School. And as our ranks grow, we shall expand… so that no pedestrian wherever can walk, no motorist drive without our calculated outrage made manifest, painful.”

He meant every word … and from previous print reports I knew he would do it if he could. After all the population of wild turkeys has never been greater or demonstrated greater purpose and solidarity.

Envoi

With the briefest touch wing to hand, Squawk signalled that this unprecedented interview was over. Disciplined comrades were at the ready for my immediate departure, blocking my eyes, escorting me home to a world which suddenly seemed less equable than before.

I turned on CNN which announced that the President would be exercising his powers of executive clemency at the White House today, live in just 15 minutes. The lucky spared turkey was called “Squawk”. Now wasn’t that cute?

The Marine Corps band was on hand and was just now commencing “The President’s Hymn” written in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday. Its authors were William Augustus Muhlenberg and Joseph W. Turner, spiritual descendants of the Pilgrims.

“GIVE thanks, all ye people give thanks to the Lord, Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord; Let the East and the West, North and South roll along, Sea, mountain, and prairie, one thanksgiving song.”

Now face to face, eye to eye, Squawk and the President were just a moment from destiny…

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer http://SuccessClicks.com.

‘Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.’ Independence Day Fifty Years Ago.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. July 4th, Independence Day commenced when 13 fractious colonies decided to sunder the greatest empire on earth… challenging every verity of governance in order to raise up a pristine nation where “all men are created equal.”

From this signal phrase, Godlike in its ringing clarity and unanswerable in its adamantine proposition, everything else has flowed… making Columbia truly the gem of the ocean and Independence Day an event calling for the full attention and participation of all.

For on July 4, 1776 a handful of righteous people, fortified by the mightiest ideas on Earth, changed everything… as every monarch and potentate everywhere soon came to know, to their eternal detriment… and as millions worldwide thrilled to discover and bless America as much as any Citizen of the Great Republic. Oh, yes, Columbia was the “shrine of each patriot’s devotion” from the very moment of each new patriot’s birth, when they became Citizens and as such those who had the responsibility for fostering their great creation, even unto death itself.

For such a grand event a grand sound is needed. And so I give you one of the greatest of our national anthems, “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” Lyrics and melody were written by Thomas a Becket, a fact his colleague David T. Shaw disputed, claiming the work as his own. Becket proved his authorship by means of his original handwritten composition. Shaw’s skullduggery did, however, prove one thing: that its tune, its lyrics, and the effect it had on people everywhere (starting with covetous Shaw) proved that it was one of America’s treasures, eminently suitable for “The home of the brave and the free.”

Go now to any search engine and find this stirring melody and its sharply etched words, a paean not merely to a geographical entity, but, far more important, to what these bountiful acres stand for in the affairs of men and their human destiny. Listen to the lyrics for they cut deep, incised in each Citizen, never to be forgotten, always to be cherished from sea to shining sea. I like the version orchestrated and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It makes me proud to be an American. Go find it now and let the stupendous rhythms flow over you as heaven’s balm. For they are surely that.

Independence Day, July 4, 1962, Illinois.

Right from its first celebration Independence Day was meant to be the most important civic event of the year, the day when business stopped and the great events of the Great Republic were regarded, remembered, revered, recalled in every detail because each detail was a significant and honored part of the monumental event. Each counted. Every person associated with them counted. Even the smallest act deserved recognition and on July 4th such recognition was freely given. No more so than in Downers Grove, Illinois.

A village in Downers Grove and Lisle Townships, a model of post war homogeneity and life.

Picture for a moment a metropolis of some 12,000 souls (since grown to nearly 50,000) where the objective was unity, not divisiveness. Where there would be no titans of industry and plutuocrats of unimaginable wealth; neither would there be poverty whether blatant or hidden. Instead its residents would strive for similarity of income and of lifestyle, all men truly equal, the Declaration of Independence wrought in ranch homes and acres of grass for young Citizens like me to cut on a hot summer day.

Downers Grove (the lack of the expected apostrophe a quirk the town fathers were certain gave panache to their enterprise and refused to alter) was founded in 1832 by Pierce Downer. He was a religious evangelist from New York. Other early settlers included the Blodgett, Curtiss, and Carpenter families, names given to the main streets, for townspeople liked their history, even though (or perhaps because) there was not so very much of it to learn and that quickly and proudly told.

How abolitionists had found zealous adherents in its free soil.

How there were houses still extant that served as stops on the Underground Railroad moving runaway slaves in dead of night to a new life, a free life.

How 119 soldiers served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

How the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was extended from Aurora to Chicago through Downers Grove in 1862, boosting its population as newcomers came to claim their portions of the leafy lanes, the quiet prosperity, neighbors who were neighborly and where local boys and girls grew up together, married each other and did not just pursue happiness, but found it.

It was these people who were now busily at work on what was to be not only my last Illinois Independence Day but the last such day we were all united, Citizens and world, offering “homage to thee”, Columbia, and our confident mission of freedom, liberty, progress, and brotherhood. It is achingly clear in my mind’s eye….

… the civic worthies (including my grandfather) gathered on the reviewing stand on Main Street, swapping stories and flasks of aged favorites. They were not merely the solons of our village but each a veteran who had helped America when America needed help. Behind them in the shade in hats and gloves sat their ladies, the women, however frail they may have looked, who had demonstrated grit and fortitude while their men were away on the nation’s far-flung battlefields. In those worrisome days they knew secret despair, but their genius kept it from the children who were their unceasing focus.

Then the bandmaster, resplendent in Ruritanian uniform, raised his baton to signify America and the great State of Illinois were on fete… and the band marched smartly ahead, down flag festooned Main Street and into the recesses of my mind. That day I watched them in high glee, happy… today I know that this was the last unclouded tableau before the President was killed… before the war sundered the nation and made acrimony, not amity, our daily portion. I know this, but all the patriotic residents of Dowers Grove, so many of whom celebrated the day by marching in the town’s parade, did not. They were marching, as we all march, into a future they must live to know, a future that challenged, threatened, and changed everything they believed in and to which they renewed their allegiance this day of remembrance, rededication, and high resolve.

One era ends, another begins, this is the way of people and the nations which reflect them.

Just days after Independence Day, my father removed his family from Downers Grove to accept a better job in Los Angeles. There, just a few months later on the school’s basketball court, I learned of the President’s assassination. This was the beginning of a train of epochal events. One of its many casualties was the scene so reminiscent of Currier & Ives I saw in all its beauty my last prairie Independence Day. Now gone forever. Columbia, the gem of the ocean, “The boast of the red, white and blue” sailed on to triumphs and tragedies but its great unities, unities that forged glorious destiny, were no longer present but merely aspects of history.

We need them so today. And cannot be truly great again, a cynosure for a world that needs it, until we are united again.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.

Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer http://SuccessClicks.com.

Abraham Lincoln… captivated by words, created by words, empowered bywords, glorified by words. Reflections on his Cooper Union Speech, February 27, 1860.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. 150 years ago, March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln (born 1809), became 16th president of the United States. And if you do not believe in destiny, fate, or kismet, even you will wonder at the undoubted fact that at the time of its maximum peril, the Great Republic should have found the perfect man to guide her affairs and so preside not over her premature dissolution (as so many thought and even wished) but her greatest trial, from which, terrible forge though it was, emerged the greatest of nations. Oh, yes, here was the hand of God, indeed… to the wonder of all… and as we know His ways are mysterious so we shouldn’t wonder at this man and his story… a story to be told in the words he loved, the words he mastered, the words he used to effect his great purpose… the words we all have at our disposal… but which only he used with such grace and power… and such resolve… the mark of the consummate master of our language and the great uses to which it can always rise…

For this tale, I have selected as the occasional music a tune Abraham Lincoln loved and tapped his toe to, “Jimmy Crack Corn”. It’s a frolicksome number thought to be a black face minstrel song of the 1840s. Like so much that touches Lincoln, it’s not quite what it appears to be…. that is, a black slave’s lament over his master’s death… it has indeed a subtext of rejoicing over that death and possibly having caused it by deliberate negligence…. “Dat Blue Tail Fly”… It is a feeling every slave must have thought at some time… which every master must have understood and feared… and from this seemingly unsolvable conundrum Lincoln freed both, saving the people, cleansing the Great Republic.

Without benefit of formal education… yet with every necessary word to hand.

Consider the matter of Illinois, the 21st state, frontier of the Great Republic in 1818 when it was admitted to the Union. It was a land firmly focused on the bright future all were certain was coming… the better to obliterate and make bearable the rigors and unceasing travails of the present. The land was rich… the richness of the people would soon follow.

In this land of future promise, inchoate, Lincoln, like all those who delight in words, found his labors lightened and vista magnified by books, and thanks to the good and helpful work of Robert Bray (2007), we may learn just what books he possessed, and so which words he knew, by whom rendered, and how.

It is impossible to know in just what order young Lincoln found the books, read the books, and with what degree of joy and enthusiasm, for Lincoln (unlike many who love and live by words) was not a great writer of marginal commentary, in which reader engages in often enraged tete-a-tete with author. Such marginalia are cream to any biographer, but in Lincoln’s case were infrequent.

In any event, we can surmise that he learned his words first from the great King James version of The Bible, perhaps the most influential and certainly most lyric book in the language. If so, it bestowed on him not only the words but their sonority, cadence and above all, moral certainty, all of which were critical in the development of his mature style and so helped save a great nation from self-destruction. There followed first the odd volume, happily received, then a steady trickle, then the glorious days when he could have as many books, and so as many words, as he wanted; paradise to a man for whom each word, and every book, was a key to greater understanding of the cosmos… and himself…

Thus, E.A. Andrews and S. Stoddard “A Grammar of the Latin Language” (1836); Nathan Bailey “Dictionary of English Etymology” (1721); James Barclay “Dictionary” (1774); George Bancroft “History of the United States (1834); Francis Bacon “Essays” (1625); John Bunyan “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (1678); Benjamin Franklin “Autobiography” (1818); Edward Gibbon “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (1776)…

… and one great poet after another, for as Lincoln learned, as every word smith must learn, there can be no mastery of words where there is no understanding of poets and their precise, meticulous craft… and so one finds without surprise the works of Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Thomas Gray whose “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751) he so loved… with its sad beauty, lines which, once read, seem to have been written for Lincoln himself:

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, Awaits alike the inevitable hour, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

It was a thought Lincoln knew only too well, and he had but to touch this poem to think on its powerful, unanswerable, haunting words, including these…

“Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne”… but not yet… not yet.

And so Lincoln on every day sought out the light enabling him to learn the words, all the words he needed and his work demanded…. thus was he up with day’s first light… to finish his work betimes, to snatch some minutes for the words…, then to pass the night and gain some further words by fire light and smokey tallow. Because the words would not be denied… Lincoln was not to be denied. They beckoned. He followed… until he was at last ready to begin, just to begin, his great work… the work that needed all of him… and so every word at his command.

Thus was he summoned from Springfield in Illinois to the greatest city of the Great Republic, New York, where its most renowned and anxious citizens, worthy, substantial, concerned, waited with impatience, condescension, worry and, yes, even hope to hear what a prairie lawyer named Lincoln had to say to them about the great issue of their day and how this great blot upon the Great Republic could be resolved… and their great experiment in governance be purified. And so did Abraham Lincoln rise to speak, at Cooper Union, February 27, 1860.

The most important speech since Washington’s Farewell Address (1796).

These days only specialists are knowledgeable about the Cooper Union speech… but this is wrong, for it gave the Union a new voice, a new leader, and a man fiercely dedicated to the preservation and triumph of the Constitution. Without Cooper Union Lincoln would never have been nominated in 1860, so never would have served, and could not have brought his signal talents to bear on saving the Great Republic. And thus the greatest experiment in human history and affairs might well have come to naught, to the impoverishment and despair of our species.

But Cooper Union did happen… and with every word the nation knew it had found not merely a good and honest man, but a savior… a man fiercely dedicated to truth… fiercely dedicated to working together with even obdurate men who hated and outraged each other… fiercely determined to find the formula to protect and defend the Union… And so he was fierce in his moderation… fierce in his implacable opposition to anyone threatening the great federal Union… fierce in asking all good citizens to step forward and work for the greater good… And such was the power of his fierce message of what must be done, such was the excellence, clarity and reasonableness of his words, that this audience of the great thrilled and cheered him to the very echo.

This single man whose ambition was defined (according to his law partner William H. Herndon) as “a little engine that knew no rest”, was now in place for the uttermost struggle, a struggle for common sense, common purpose, common decency and the validation and acknowledgement of all. He was ready… for he had the ideas, the fortitude, the moral certainty… and, above all, the words he needed, the words that saved the Great Republic and remind us still of what is possible when we have a leader who summons the “better angels of our nature.”

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer http://SuccessClicks.com.