In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Jewish Perspective on Thanksgiving

While researching my earlier Thanksgiving post, I came across a wonderful article that discusses Thanksgiving in light of the Jewish commandment of bikurim: "During the Temple Era, every farmer was commanded to bring to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem the first fruits which ripened in his orchard. There he would recite a passage thanking G-d for the Land and its bountiful harvest, and the fruit were given to the Kohanim (priests)." The writer makes this observation about the difference between bikurim and all the other ways to thank God: "[B]ikurim involves more than just words -- it requires a commitment; the gratitude must express itself in deeds. Bikurim implies that our thankfulness to G-d cannot remain in the realm of emotions, thoughts, or even speech, but must also move us to action." This is a marvelous lesson for one of any faith! One other statement in this article hit home to me very powerfully:
There is no doubt that this great country's historically unprecedented success and prosperity is due to the fact that its Founding Fathers recognized that there is a Supreme Being who provides and cares for every creature. They understood that since God sustains and gives life to every being, it follows that every being has certain "unalienable rights" upon which no government can impinge.
If only our political "leaders" today understood this principle!

Thanksgiving--When and Where Did it Really Start?

You're all familiar with the traditional depiction of "The First Thanksgiving" in 1621 (or was it 1623?) at the Plymouth colony in what was to become the state of Massachusetts. You know, Pilgrims, Massasoit, Squanto, etc. feasting on venison, fish, corn, and of course, turkey.
But wait! This may all be a dastardly English (or "New English") plot to cover up the true history of Thanksgiving in North America, and to conceal the (alleged) fact that this holiday actually had its origins in -- FLORIDA!
There is evidence (read about it here) that the Thanksgiving feast tradition actually began in June, 1564, when a contingent of French Calvinists, or Huguenots, landed near the mouth of the St. Johns River near present-day Jacksonville, and promptly held a service of “thanksgiving” at the site of what would become Fort Caroline. Then there are those who insist that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers, under the leadership of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, landed at what is now St. Augustine and immediately held a Mass of Thanksgiving for their safe delivery to the New World, followed by a feast of thanksgiving with the Timucua Indians, at which all dined on bean soup. Perhaps vexed that his own First Thanksgiving celebration had been upstaged by those snooty Frogs, Menéndez skipped dessert (more bean soup?) and promptly led his soldiers up the coast to Fort Caroline, where they massacred the Huguenots (read all about it here).
Wherever it all started, we know that Thanksgiving first became a nationally-recognized, annual holiday in the wake of President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation of a Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated by all Americans on the final Thursday in November 1863 (read the proclamation here) This prompted a massive, Union-wide outpouring by private citizens of generosity to soldiers then in the field or garrison, in the form of turkey, pies, bread, and other foodstuffs, which were collected by various committees and distributed in the camps by the Army itself. It should be noted that Jefferson Davis also declared a Confederate Thanksgiving day for November 16, 1864, but by then Atlanta was in ruins, Sherman was devastating Georgia, and there was little cause for celeberation--or means with which to celebrate--anywhere in the South (read about Thanksgiving in the Civil War here).
You've probably worked up a big appetite trying to digest all this astonishing information, so go eat a big turkey dinner with your family and friends! But before you do, remember to remember our fore-fathers and mothers, who endured so much to found, build, and defend this country so that we might enjoy all these blessings year after year. Most especially, remember all those who are now serving our country far from home, and do what you can, all year, to brighten their days.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More About Me (yawn)

What defines a person--his or her beliefs? dreams? passions? principles? commitments? These much more so, I think, than such accidental or mundane characteristics as birthplace, gender, ethnic heritage, class, income, occupation, or age. The reason is that while the latter factors certainly help shape the former, they are much less matters of choice, and choices are what truly define a person's character, as they are made from birth to death. The ideals and commitments one chooses to live by enable him or her to rise above the boundaries imposed by outward life, and to emerge as a free and unique individual. Marxists would deny this, of course, but we--knowing our divine provenance and eternal destiny--know better.
So what am I all about? Most essentially: son, husband, and father; proud and grateful American; errant but hopeful Christian. Some of these are matters of choice; they're all blessings far beyond my understanding or deserving. My dreams? To live to advanced age with my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends, in an America that's strong, peaceful, and as prosperous as we need to be. I'd also like to retire in modest comfort and security, learn to fish, and accumulate all the edifying knowledge and wisdom I can. My particular
aspiration is to research, write, and teach, or at least pass on to others whatever of value I think I've learned in life. If I can influence others for good, now and into the future, my life will have been worth something.
My passions? History--all periods and cultures, but (aside from a recent fascination with British history and
Winston Churchill) especially the 19th century and the American Civil War. This stems largely from my family background, which includes a Confederate ancestor (Lt. Ezekiel Josiah Hull, Co. G, 8th Florida Infantry), and the fact that my mother and her family hail from deep in the Confederacy in northeast Florida. Yet, my father was a Yankee sailor when he met Mom, and I grew up in western New York State, whence came his family. I guess this mixed heritage makes me a "post-sectional" person (not "trans"-sectional--repeat that word to yourself and you'll know why). That, and a reluctance even to pretend to defend the abhorrent institution of slavery, goes far to explain why I'm a reenactor of the Civil War as a private in the Union army (with the 155th New York Volunteer Infantry in Buffalo), rather than as a Confederate soldier. Not that I'm in the least ashamed of my Southern heritage; I'm VERY proud of it, and am a card-carrying member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Men on both sides fought for many reasons unconnected with slavery, and I'm proud of them all.
Other passions and interests? Music--especially classical, jazz (and mostly the "classical" forms of that genre), and those great old "standards" from the 1940s and 50s--in fact, almost anything recorded before 1967, when sex, drugs, and politics seem to have taken over popular music. I'm also fascinated by other cultures (e.g., Indian, Tibetan, Japanese). And, since I'm an
American citizen living in perilous times for our country, politics. I'm conservative about everything I believe (and most things I like), so naturally have long been aligned with the Republican Party. But its leaders haven't been very faithful to conservative principles of late, so we'll see whether the GOP much longer merits my support.
Well, enough background, enough about me. The floor is now open for discussion of things truly
interesting to everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why the "Military" Theme?

The answer to this question lies on several levels. First, the cast of this site reflects my long-held, consuming interest in history generally, so much of which--regrettably, given human nature--has been the product of conflict and national pride, expressed in martial ways. It's also in line with my special interest in the American Civil War, my descent from at least one man who fought in that war (Lt. Ezekiel Josiah Hull, Co. G, 8th Florida Infantry), and my hobby as a reenactor (155th New York Volunteer Infantry) in The Struggle (more later about why a Son of the Confederacy reenacts as a private in the Union army). On a deeper level, it reflects my belief that our country is now engaged in another, more subtle but no less decisive, "civil war"--that between the atheistic, self-indulgent, dehumanizing culture of the "modern" age and the traditional values of faith, family, patriotism, and personal freedom and responsibility that alone make possible an abundant life, and which made America the hope and refuge of so many millions, for more than two centuries. We are all soldiers in that struggle, regardless of whether we want to be. Aside from its prominence in one of the most inspiring things ever written, Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the title of the blog, Marching On!, also reflects my faith and determination that those saving principles will endure despite the onslaught, and that the right (as distinguished from the Right, which may or may not) will prevail in the end--even if we have to wait until the Lord's return to this earth. So, let's join together in the Good Fight, and may we all emerge safe at last!

First Post

As the "Order of Battle" above states, "this is a place to share thoughts about faith, family, country, culture, the past, the future, and all that we care deeply about." For many years, I've wanted to set such thoughts of my own down in a durable and organized medium, through which I could communicate to my family and friends--even after I was gone from this earth--my core beliefs, best ideas, instructive experiences, deepest concerns, strongest passions, and fondest hopes for all living Here and There. I originally thought to write all this down by hand in a tabbed notebook or journal, and was even given one for this purpose several years ago by my wife and children. But for various reasons--mostly inability to "pull the trigger," as well as concern about my sloppy writing and disjointed thinking--I never got started. Moreover, a journal is a thing notoriously easy to lose or be destroyed, and in any event, can only be read by one person at a time after the writer has relinquished possession of it. Nevertheless, my brain didn't stop boiling over with thoughts, feelings, and ideas which, until now, I've shared pretty much only with myself. I reached the breaking point during the recent Presidential campaign, when I felt so passionately about the choices before us but had nowhere to speak but into my friends' ears, or on the Comments pages to Internet articles, where my posts would be buried among thousands of others in a matter of minutes. Only after the election did it dawn on me that I could establish my own forum, in which matters important to me could be shared in a thoughtful way, without being drowned out by the anonymous horde. Thus, with some inspiration and the encouragement of my sister, who maintains a delightful blog of her own, this site was born. Whether it will prove "durable and organized" enough to be an effective teaching tool for my posterity remains to be seen, but I'm eager to try it. Please join me!