What It Means

Peter Dustin (March 2018)

What does it mean to be a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?  First is the connection to an ancestor or ancestors who are remembered for his/her/their story of perseverance in their beliefs and wants, their journey and their hardships, and of those who survived.  Second is the opportunity to pass their story on to one’s family, as one’s children carry a part of that in them by blood. Third is the relation to the General Society that has dedicated its mission to telling the story of the Pilgrims and verifying members’ lineal descent.  Fourth is the place named Plymouth, the seat for the General Society.  Here one can see the sea on which our ancestors sailed and the shore on which they landed.  One can walk on the Mayflower II or visit Burial Hill or the Plimoth Plantation or the Wampanoag home site or see any number of objects of remembrance affording immediate tangible learning experiences and insights. What were the forces at play in the time of our ancestors? What were their lives like before the voyage, what were they like after, and of those others outside their immediate community? 

Last are the questions and realizations about ideals.    Of prime importance, is the kernel of Pilgrim history, a document that has an ideal with resonance for today and tomorrow, particularly given human factions and societal frictions.  Think about the Compact, and the individuals that signed it or were to be bound by it, focused on a “civil body politic”, for “just and equal laws”, for “better ordering, and preservation”, and most particularly, dedicated to “the general good”.  

As Mark Twain wrote, “The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”  Great ideas have universality and improve human kind and must be put in use.  “An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth,” Twain also wrote. So at heart are conscience, concern, and action for the general good.  The day that all people can be bound together for the “general good” will be the day of our universal thanksgiving.  Such is the compact, carried in the seed of the plan of the Mayflower Compact, the essence of our heritage, given shape by our ancestors.  In it resides one bedrock principle, a covenant on which to “stand-your-ground”.  It is for all humankind.  It is for each and all to bring to harvest.

So, in sorting yourself out, consider what Jordan Peterson has said, “You should do what other people do, unless you have a very good reason not to.” Or as Jung says, “Ideas possess people.”  You are no longer in the land of King James or that of the Dutch people but in the land of someone else.  Stand together?  Hold fast for the general good?  Make peace with those in whose land you stand?  Otherwise, as Frost finds, “Blood has been harder to dam back than water…It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.”  Is it that we “take arms against a sea of troubles, and opposing end them?” or rather harvest the beating of our hearts only behind plowshares?  What is for the general good? As the Sioux Indian children of Red Cloud Indian School have prayed, “I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy—myself.”