Over the past months and years, a lot of folks may be asking themselves if Thanksgiving still has the meaning it once did.
After all, it seems that the nation is more divided than ever. Political ideology has turned into dogma in many, which has led to a government that, while it isn’t paralyzed, is stagnant and ineffective. The civility that once existed among even those who were polar opposites in their view has devolved into loathing and contempt.
It seems that the nation is in an odd position to be thanking God for anything, much less the actions, inactions and ill-advised tactics that have been the headline makers for some time now.
Thanksgiving, after all, is seen as a time of love and friendship, a day when the heart is full of grace and gratitude for the good things in life and the gifts we have all received. It’s hard to see a situation in which those sorts of emotions and thoughts can co-exist with the current climate.
But while the event that Americans consider to be the first Thanksgiving was a time of celebration of harvest and survival, it might also do us some good to consider the genesis of the holiday we are observing today. It was born in a time when brother not only had deep disagreements with brother, they took up arms and fought each other in the bloodiest times to ever occur on American soil.
We were deep into the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be a national day of Thanksgiving.
Even as the war between the states raged, note the way Lincoln opened his proclamation of Oct. 3, 1863:
“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
Those were the eloquent first words. Even with the nation fractured and in danger of splitting, there could still be found reasons to thank God and appreciate the beauty and bounty of America, and an inclination despite the great tribulations to set a day aside to do just that.
And as bad as we might think things are today, they are nothing like those dark days in which the great experiment known as the United States of America was on the brink of shattering.
The fact is, we have so much to be thankful for in this country, and that holds true regardless of whether you are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, liberal, conservative, libertarian, independent or anything else. For whatever problems America has, it is still greatly blessed and a land of opportunity. The beauty, the love, the hope, the future are still here to be seen, if we will only open our eyes.
If there’s one thing that Thanksgiving does, it prompts us to look at the blessings we have and to have appreciation for the things that are going right.
And that, in itself, is something for which we should all be thankful.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board