Thursday, November 24, 2016

Miles Standish Proud

Portrait of Myles Standish, circa 1625, public domain, link to source here.

Greetings All:  

Probably my favorite R.E.M. song is "Begin The Begin."  The lyrics are almost non-nonsensical but it's got a good beat and is a trip down memory land, or in my case, lands me at the corner of Summit and College Avenue in Iowa City.

As it is Thanksgiving, I was thinking about the opening lines of this song:

"Birdie in the hand for life's rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it
I looked for it and I found it
Miles Standish proud congratulate me"

Myles Standish is synonymous with the Thanksgiving story.  He's an interesting guy.  Here is the Wikipedia link to his story.  I know, I know, I'm linking to Wikipedia, but the parade is starting soon and I want to get this blog post done, so please don't judge...:)) 

He was the military adviser who helped the Pilgrims get settled and survive their first few years in "The New World."  It's likely that his involvement with the Pilgrims was critical, if not indispensable to the colony's survival.  Here's a bit more information about him.

As I think about him, I come back to this thought:  He's America's first Soldier.  I also think that there are plenty of Native Americans who were none too fond of him and the fire sticks (muskets) he deployed against him.  He began about a 250 year tradition of European advancement across the continent at the expense of the original residents.  (And I'm a "remote descendant" beneficiary of these circumstances.)

However, at the time Standish was around, he was not thinking about "Manifest Destiny," he was thinking about survival.  His mission was to keep the colony going and he accomplished that mission.  (Again, I'm a "remote descendant" beneficiary of this colony's survival.)

That's the thing about history, or at least how I look at it:  People did things in the past that for good or ill benefit us today.  We don't have to feel "guilty" about what happened centuries ago.  However, I do feel it is appropriate to recall history as it truly happened.

Speaking of recalling history, it is worth recalling that the Pilgrims had the good sense to put down on paper some governing principles in "The Mayflower Compact."  

Here's an excerpt from The History Channel that discusses the Compact.

"William Bradford, the Pilgrim leader, was alarmed to learn that some of the others felt no obligation to respect the rules of the Pilgrims. In his words, they wanted towanted to 'use their owne libertie.' The male heads of Pilgrim and non-Pilgrim families therefore drew up a compact that bound all signers to accept whatever form of government was established after landing. The compact created a 'Civil Body Politic' to enact 'just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices.' Every adult male had to sign the agreement before going ashore. The compact remained in effect until Plymouth was incorporated into the short-lived Dominion of New England in 1686 and subsequently absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691."

Standish was one of the signors.  I wonder if that is him in the helmet in the below painting?

Painting of the signing of "The Mayflower Compact," Fair use/public domain claimed,
He also had his "15 minutes" of pop culture fame when he was celebrated in verse by Longfellow in his famous poem,  "The Courtship of Myles Standish."

 Standish is an important historic figure.  He was a Soldier who did his duty as he saw it.  I have no doubt he died with a clear conscious, with the certainty he had contributed to the establishment of a noble cause. 

Perhaps the best way to honor him and the other Pilgrims is to both celebrate their good deeds and recall their not-so-great ones.  We can endeavor to pursue a more inclusive and effective "civil body politic."

That would be be something that would warrant "Miles Standish Proud" indeed.

Be well my friends & Happy Thanksgiving!


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