This is the day we celebrate Thanksgiving, a custom which originated with the Pilgrims.
As fate would have it, the passengers aboard the Mayflower were authorized to settle on the Hudson River but through force of circumstances they instead landed in Cape Cod. While still on board, a mutiny of sorts began to form. The substance of the discord had to do with a challenge to any authority once they landed because they were outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia company that had been granted the charter for the settlement. Fortunately, instead of a mutiny, the Mayflower Compact was signed in the presence of God and one another committing the new settlers to a civil body politic in order to preserve and further the goals of the colonists for their collective well-being.
In essence, they formed a covenant to submit to laws and ordinances yet to be determined. How could they have the confidence to do so?
We used to speak of the value of having a moral compass, a unique concept in this day and age. The word moral in this phrase obviously speaks to that which helps guides one’s behavior and decision-making abilities based upon virtues. But, what about the word compass? By definition, a compass is a tool whose value lies in the fact that it only points in one direction, true north, implying a standard and objective set of what is right and what is wrong. This speaks to what our founding fathers referred to as self-evident truths, that which cannot be denied by honest and rational beings.
Today, most historical standards of right and wrong, good and bad, are being tossed in favor of subjective, situational ethics and the shifting sands of pop culture. In other words, collectively we no longer possess a moral compass pointing us all in one direction. Instead, whatever is expedient and self-serving has become the new standard euphemistically speaking because a standard that is extremely subjective is no standard at all.
It reminds me of Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass and lessons learned in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. Captain Jack’s compass did not point north, instead it pointed to the thing you want most in this world. That might work for a pirate but it does not work for a society or civilization that must move in the same direction to maintain cohesion, unity and civility.
Our values, mores, and customs as a society serve as the bedrock for human relations, our justice system, and even international relations. Where do these values come from? Here in America, our identity was originally modeled in the image of the pilgrims, the puritans, and our founding fathers who framed the religious, historical and cultural underpinnings of our nation. To what degree do we still resemble our heritage?
To the degree we replace our heritage with a subjective standard, will we not simply become a nation of pirates floating in a sea of relativism, lost souls sailing off the world’s end?
First published in the Santa Barbara News Press
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.