In early  November,  we come together on Election Day to cast our votes — to  pick the candidate whose  priorities and manner  we most approve.  It’s hard to beat the excitement of an Election Day that dawns on millions of citizens  re-enlisting in the future of our Republic.

On November 11th, Veterans’ Day, many of us  honor the military service of our men and women.  We stand in mourning beside their families.  We visit them in crowded  VA hospitals.  We see them in divorce courts or on sidewalks outside  homeless shelters.

According to emails exchanged by a  VA physician (Dr. Katz)  and The VA’s Assistant Deputy of Health in 2007:

“18 veterans kill themselves every day and this is confirmed by the VA’s own statistics.  Is that true?  Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”  That same day, Dr. Katz responded: “There are about 18 suicides per day among America’s 25 million veterans.”

Despite our poor track record in caring for our veterans, the earliest European settlers in The New World intended to defend and protect them.  The Plymouth Colony legislated pensions for veterans of the “Indian Wars”  (1636).  However, the vague language of the old law should be noted  (bold added for emphasis):

“That in case necessity require to send [forces] abroade …  any that shall goe returne  maymed [and]  hurt he shall be mayntayned competently by the Colony duringe his life.”

In 1930, Congress established the Veterans’ Administration  in order to streamline its provision of services.  Unfortunately,  a system of  shell games  was promulgated  wherein  services were underfunded by the Feds and under-delivered  by the States.

Thanksgiving is the third of our November days  and through the years, its date and purpose have been remarkably fluid.

Residents of  The Virginia Colony gave thanks to God in 1619 at the end of their grueling journey across the Atlantic.

In 1621, The Plymouth Colony gave thanks to God for the bountiful harvest.  In years to come, they would fast in prayer and penance when their stores ran thin.

When wars ended in victory, our political councils decreed that the populace should rejoice before God and praise Him.  In Charlestown, Massachusetts, for instance,  the good people gave praise and thanks in 1671 for their “advantages” over,  and  defeat of,  “the Heathen Natives.”

In our darkest national moments,  the people have been urged to praise God officially and pray for Divine Intervention. On November 1, 1777,  The Continental Congress declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving.  By its language and exhortations, the early legislature seemed to hope that  the nation’s piety would appease The Almighty;  that soldiers and commanders would gain vital courage from the Colonies’ renewed bond with The Father.

The next month,  General George Washington declared another day of Thanksgiving after the Continental Army’s victory  at Saratoga.

During the Depression, depending on whether November had four or five weeks in a given year,  Franklin D.Roosevelt  designated Thanksgiving  the third or fourth Thursday of the month (1939 and 1940).  Roosevelt   had hopes that an  additional week of consumer spending  between Thanksgiving and Christmas would  stimulate the broken economy.

How would it be if we designated November as our national month of remembrance?

What if every November we studied The Constitution — the only thing our soldiers are sworn to defend and protect.

We could renew our gratitude for religious freedom.

We could study the peoples and cultures we usurped when we swarmed the continent.

We could learn from our history.  We could develop humility.

We could teach our children civility and the richness of debate.

We could designate Election Day a  National Holiday — a national day of citizenship and conscience.

Perhaps  our Veterans would fare better if our political will was more comprehensively pricked.

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Much of the information in this article can be found at The Veterans’ Administration’s (VA) history page:,    The Plymouth Colony Archive Project: ;  the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs ; and Early America’s Thanksgiving pages:

As a matter of medical interest, you might visit The Veterans’ Administration’s  Research & Development page:

I asked myself,  “Do the candidate and his Vice Presidential nominee understand  well enough  the pickles we’re in to describe  them coherently?”

“Do the candidate and his Vice Presidential nominee  point to our differences and exacerbate our  lock step outrage?   Or, do they identify our points of agreement and  stimulate rousing,  inventive problem solving?”

For the last several decades,  most of our  national discussions have been adversarial debates, framed as  “either-or” choices.  We’ve been herded by those narrow confines into separate fortresses: Tree Huggers vs.  Greedy Developers; Pro-Abortion/Pro-Choice  vs.  Pro-Life/Anti-Choice ; and High-Spending, Bleeding Heart  Liberals vs. Miserly,  Greedy Conservatives.

Signs of civility are creeping back into the discussions.  New starting points are being proposed and  more points of view  are being invited  to the table.  Will the candidates foster or stymie these efforts?

What radical old concepts can we hear if we listen closely?

That we are inextricably  connected —  for better or for worse.

That whether we’re rural or urban, we need  the roots and audacity that make us whole.

That the cockroaches  won’t mourn our passing  when we fail to teach our children science, philosophy, literature, the arts,  math and ethics.

That if we  enunciate  sane priorities  (ecological protections, fair wage jobs, vibrant schools, robust health care, nutritious food production and equal access to information) and  develop fair playing fields,  our bankrupt discussions of  low or high taxes and big or small government will be rendered irrelevant.  Instead,  we will talk about investments in our future and the benefits reaped.

That we are not heads-in-the-clouds intellectuals or pragmatic rubes.  We are dreamers and implementers.

That we are not insular Believers or snobbish Skeptics.  In times of threat, we all reach for familiar comforts, tending to  turn our backs to the storm and cast worried glances at strangers.

Faced with famine, dwindling resources and invaders who carried contagious diseases, the inhabitants of  “Easter Island”  (Rapa Nui)  turned on one another and plundered the lands of those who were killed.   Their cultural totems were destroyed by civil wars and the people were reduced and enslaved.

So I ask myself, have our fears so crippled us that we can’t learn  the lessons of history?

Will our next President encourage our unity or divide us so that only the wealthy prosper?

And then, I imagine Bruce Springstein as our Poet Laureate.