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Lynne Plambeck: Here's to a happy Thanksgiving

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: November 25, 2009 9:05 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.
At first celebrated only sporadically in remembrance of the gift of food by native Americans to the new settlers at Plymouth Rock in the winter of 1621, Thanksgiving was not permanently established until 1863.

As the Civil War raged over the emancipation of the slaves and the abolition of slavery, our most famous Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.

I can only imagine the depth of despair that the Civil War must have cost this brave man and our country as a whole. What strength and integrity it must have taken to stand up to the wealthy plantation owners and slave traders and speak out for the rights of men to be free, just because it was the right thing to do.

The opposition of the wealthy whose fortunes were wound up with slavery was intense to the point of tearing the country in two and causing a devastating loss of human life in our homeland not experienced since that time. It eventually cost Lincoln his life.

And yet Lincoln found grateful words in his Thanksgiving proclamation that might hopefully have turned a war-torn nation to other thoughts.

"The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God."

Excerpt from Lincoln's Thanksgiving holiday proclamation, issued Oct. 3, 1863:

Although we are not experiencing the horrors of civil war, but rather the devastating pangs of a severe economic downturn, our country now seems to be just as deeply divided. The rancor and name calling that is a routine part of our political process has created ill will on both sides that must be healed if we are to move forward as a democratic nation.

Honest citizens who might have considered public office and service to their community are unwilling to become involved in such a bloody and thankless arena.

So honest candidates are hard to find and voters see their choices shrinking to "the lesser of two evils."

Could this be the reason so many people have given up voting?

Even in our own community, it seems difficult to discuss issues such as how we will grow and what we should do about environmental degradation, issues of mutual concern such as water, air quality and hillside preservation without name calling.

Those who care about the environment are often routinely called "marginal," "fringe" and "extremist" for their efforts to ensure long-term sustainability and a healthy future for our children.

As we enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday with friends and families, I hope we will reflect back to the words of Lincoln and his difficult struggle to make our nation a better place and a truer democracy.

I also hope that his words will be a source of balm to help us heal our wounds and divisions and try to work together to solve the many problems facing our country. No matter what our particular faith or political view, the great majority of us really care about our community and our nation.

Discussion of issues is the very basis of a healthy democracy. Without such engagement, our country will not learn, develop new ideas or prosper. It is time to try to set aside the divisions and epithets and see if we can hear what it is we are saying to each other.

I wish everyone the bounty and joy of a beautiful day shared with friends and family.

And I hope you were all able to find a turkey, vegetables and cranberries as organic, locally grown and delicious as those wild birds and berries supplied for the first Thanksgiving must have been.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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