NEW YEAR 1621 AND 2021

As 1620 ended, the stranded immigrants of Cape Cod Bay knew they were in big trouble because the year did not end as planned. Four centuries later their descendants also experienced a year that did not end as expected. Descendants of the Pilgrims – Aldens, Brewsters, Mullins and more –  had big plans for 2020 and they began with a New Year’s Day float in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. On both sides of the Atlantic festivities for Mayflower 400 were well planned, but an uninvited guest called the coronavirus, nicknamed Covid19, changed everything as the year was blown off course.

For millions of people worldwide solace was found in a book translated into English by order of King James of England (1567 – 1625): the King James Bible. Despite being more than 400 years old, people still relate to the words and think about their meaning. But unlike James, who believed in the Devine Rights of Kings, most people today have a very different point of view and believe in the separation of church and state. Back then, however, anyone who dared to disagree with the monarch were considered treasonous, as he made clear in a speech to Parliament on March 21, 1609 “On the Devine Rights of Kings”:

             “The state of monarchy is the supremist thing upon earth … Kings are justly called Gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth … so it is sedition in subjects, to dispute what a king may do …”

It is an irony of history that the idea of decoupling those institutions began to take shape when a group of his own subjects fled to Leiden before sailing to the New World. The king who translated the Bible in order to claim divine rights for himself was the same monarch who inspired a group of English dissidents to declare that they wanted to be ruled by just and equal laws for the general good.

Those non-kingly words were written by a group of lost Pilgrims seeking a better life in the New World (1620) when they decided that the only way to assure their common survival was to write an agreement that bound them together. They committed themselves to making decisions as a group for the general good and memorialized those ideas in the Mayflower Compact. It was a bold, brave, binding and inspiring. It changed the world forever because it described core democratic values that influenced the founders of a new nation and a new form of government 156 years later, the United States of America.

The Pilgrims were off course, that is true, but they were not lost. They knew that courage, teamwork and optimism in the face of adversity would be their guides as 1621 began. Their descendants and the free world are still guided by those principles and look to 2021 with hope and faith in the year to come.

There’s more to the Mayflower story than meets the eye.

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