“A Generous View of History”
Each year as we approach Thanksgiving, we have an opportunity to adopt a generous or miserly view of American History. This makes some of us grateful and it makes some of our fellow citizens angry. I’m grateful that uncritical and unthinking Thanksgiving pageants in the local elementary school with happy Indians and kind Pilgrims are increasingly becoming history themselves. Reckoning with a National Day of Thanksgiving as simultaneously being a National Day of Mourning for native people is good for us. It means our view of history is widening and expanding, allowing for complexity, nuance, including multiple views of events, and this leads to deeper understanding. It allows us to view the world behind us with a wider, more inclusive lens and doing this helps us see our contemporary situation differently.
When Iranian college students attacked and took over the American embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, and kept 52 Americans hostages as part of the Islamic revolution that toppled the Iranian government, President Jimmy Carter said it was an act of “blackmail” and the hostages “victims of terrorism and anarchy.” America and Americans were outraged, and this event was a contributing factor in Carter’s landslide loss to Ronald Regan in 1980. A narrow view of history makes it easy to see the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979 as evil Muslims defeating democracy and arbitrarily punishing innocent Americans by keeping them as hostages. A generous view of history doesn’t excuse the hostage taking, nor does it excuse any wrongdoing by the Islamic revolutionaries at that time and since, but it does help us understand it. In 1953, the CIA led a revolution that toppled a democratically elected government of Iran and used the excuse of that government being socialist to install a regime friendlier to America and its allies, especially England, and more importantly British and American oil companies who wanted more control of Iranian oil.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many Americans asked with genuine bewilderment, “Why do THEY hate US?” America responded by waging war in Iraq under false pretense, passing the Patriot Act liming civil liberties, and villainizing Muslims. A generous view of history would have helped us respond better without excusing the terrorism and mass murder. A generous view of history helps us understand that the 9-11 terrorist, like many other people around the world viewed (and still do) the United States as a global power that preaches democracy, but practices oppressive colonialism around the world wherever it benefits America’s economic interests.
The current state of affairs in the Middle East can’t be understood without a generous view of history. A narrow and constricted view of history makes it easy to frame Israel and Palestine as a good vs. evil scenario, with who is good and who is evil obscured by which side you’re on. A generous view of history looks with a broad lens.
It doesn’t justify or excuse the terrorism of Hamas or the apartheid and other human rights violations of the government of Israel (according to the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others), but it helps us understand. And only with deep understanding can we ever hope to eventually find peaceful solutions.
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE for NOVEMBER 2023 on the theme of
GENEROSITY – Cultivate an Attitude of Abundance
My challenge to you for this month is to practice cultivating an abundance mindset. Abundance is sometimes presented in a magical thinking framework where if a person just has the right frame of mind, adopts positive thinking, and banishes negativity, riches will flow. That’s not what I’m talking about. I encourage you to think of abundance more like a Buddhist. Practice stepping out of the loop of constant desire for more – more money, more prestige, more talent, more everything – and cultivate the awareness of when you have enough.
Abundance is the opposite of scarcity. Abundance is an attitude, mindset, or approach that does involve teaching ourselves to change our thinking, not because positive thoughts bring wealth, but because positive approaches help us do our best whatever our situation might be. The abundance mindset doesn’t negate the need to be a good steward of resources or ignore the reality of one’s situation – financially or otherwise. Abundance is a cycle that emphasizes what’s right, what’s working, and what we have instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, what’s not working, and what we lack.
An abundance mindset can follow a circle or a loop of thoughts and actions that keep us focused. The abundance loop begins with gratitude – genuine gratefulness at what we do have and who we are. An attitude of gratitude leads to more peace of mind. Again, think of the Buddhist practice of stepping off the treadmill of constant desire. Having more peace of mind, we tend to make better choices. Making wiser decisions fosters positive outcomes. Then, when things go well, there’s more to be grateful for, and the cycle or loop repeats. It’s no guarantee we will make more money, be more successful, or improve our situation, but it does maximize our chances working with what we have. We may not get everything we want, but chances are better we’ll at least have what we need. Abundance doesn’t focus on having a surplus, it focuses on having and being enough.
The scarcity loop, by contrast, begins with fear, usually fear of what we lack, or the fear caused by what we lack and what is missing – what resources we don’t have. This leads to anxiety. When we’re scared and anxious, we tend to make poor choices. Unwise decision making tends to leave us in a place where we still don’t have what we need, so our fears based on a continuing lack of resources tend to increase and the cycle repeats – and intensifies.
Once again expressing your internal reflection by journaling or creating art is a great way to process what you’re pondering. As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this challenge. Call or text me at 508-344-3668 or send me an email at email@example.com.