Again this year we celebrate this imposing structure by decorating it with
long strands of electric lights, extending the boundaries of our town by
a luminous radius of some 50 fifty miles over land and sea.
What is the signal we are sending?
Most people on our horizon confuse it with a gigantic Christmas tree, like
the one at Rockefeller Center. And we who stand under it, who marvel at
the light it casts over our Town in this dark season, gaze up at it not
in awe of its meaning, but in wonder at its massive and eternally incongruous
presence in our midst.
The Pilgrim Monument was built by Cape Codders as a tribute to a group of
refugees who conceived the Mayflower Compact, touchstone of the American
ideal of self government and personal freedom nearly 300 years earlier in
the shelter of our harbor. These First Immigrants comprised both sexes,
all age groups and represented virtually every socioeconomic background.
There was a birth and a death while they were here, but beyond that Provincetown
was only a stopover. While there was a searing fanatic idealism still burning
at the end of an arduous, dangerous sea voyage, (the Compact is proof of
that), there was also a very practical decision made to quit this desolate
place and face an uncertain future in a settlement across Cape Cod Bay which
was closer environmentally to England and Holland, from whence they had
The Pilgrims left nothing tangible behind. For most of us living here today,
it seems as if the Pilgrims were never really here. Except, of course, for
the Monument, which stands out, more than dominant, in the center of our
Is the Pilgrim Monument out of place? Yes, but doesnt idealism always
seem out of place? For all time its here for us to marvel at the undiminished
power of faith and community, and the relentless pursuit of human idealism
in a very real world.
The annual Lighting of the Monument must become a ritual as sacred to us
in Provincetown as our Town Meeting, or our Blessing of the Fleet, Veterans
Day or Fourth of July.
Every Thanksgiving we should gather at its base to acknowledge the Monuments
power to symbolize an ideal which lived not only in the minds of the Pilgrims
during their month-long sojourn in our Harbor but in the government they
formed aboard the Mayflower and established in Plymouth. And the Monument
should become something more for us, especially those of us who have committed
our lives to this community.
The real connection between the Monument and the Town is the spirit of
that ideal, how people can shape a community which supports the common weal
while it protects personal freedom. An ideal the Pilgrims somehow established
here, a spiritual legacy we have, managed to preserve and perpetuate.
That is the signal we are sending.
Edward M. Rudd
Provincetown, November 2002