Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War
I thought I knew about the voyage of the Mayflower, But when I started to explore what happened when an old leaky ship arrived off the coast of New England in the fall of 1620, I soon realized that I, along with most Americans, knew nothing at all about the real people with whom the story of our country begins.

The oft-told tale of how the Pilgrims and the Indians celebrated the First Thanksgiving does not do justice to the history of the Plymouth Colony. Instead of an inspiring tableau of tranquil cooperation, the Pilgrims’ first half-century in America was more of a passion play in which vibrant, tragic, self-serving and heroic figures struggled to preserve a precarious peace -- until that peace erupted into one of the deadliest wars ever fought on American soil. The English fatalities were catastrophic, but the rebelling Indians were virtually obliterated as a people. The promise of the First Thanksgiving had given way to the horror of total war.

A hundred years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this culminating event – King Philip’s War – brought into disturbing focus the issues of race, violence, religious identity, and economic opportunity that came to define America’s inexorable push west. But as the Pilgrims came to understand, war was not inevitable. It would be left to their children and grandchildren to discover the terrifying enormity of what is lost when two peoples give up on the difficult work of living together.

More than 375 years later, in a world that is growing more complicated and dangerous by the day, the story of the Mayflower still has much to teach us

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