The joy of giving thanks
— America’s a mess.
Great gobs of people don’t trust those most in charge, and those most in charge do not trust great gobs of people. We have a much-feared president-elect and a muchcursed, defeated opponent. It’s not just the population deeply divided over politics; many families are, too, and there are not a few other issues.
Let’s mention, for instance, education, taxes, welfare, regulations, bigotry from all sides and the economy. Too many news outlets are seen as biased. Families are evermore fatherless. Racial tensions are the highest in decades. Crime has been rising again. Scoffing secularism seems increasingly to be displacing any sense of sanctity.
What’s more, the world is ripping itself apart, terrorism keeps baring its barbarian fangs and war keeps destroying lives.
So isn’t it time to be thankful, and not least of all, for Thanksgiving?
Yes, it is, because for everything wrong, not only are there possible solutions, but hundreds of things that are right. And here is what comes from reflecting on what’s right, for being grateful, for saying thanks, thanks, thanks. Higher spirits. Greater happiness. Even joy. More hope. More energy to fix what needs fixing.
For wise instruction on this, look to Abraham Lincoln, who proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 during a merciless, bloody Civil War he referred to as being “of unequaled magnitude and severity.” Lives had been lost “in the camp, the siege and the battlefield” and wealth had been diverted from “peaceful industry,” he said. But there was more to think about.
There were “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” The necessities of defense had not “arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines ... have yielded even more abundantly than before.” Population was still increasing. Order and harmony existed everyplace “except in the theater of military conflict.”
And the country, conscious of “augmented strength and vigor” can ex- pect these assets to continue “with a large increase in freedom,” he wrote.
He spoke of acknowledging God as the sources of these gifts. He said the people should ask God to care for the suffering, for an end to the war, for “a healing of wounds,” and a return of “tranquility and union.”
The best did not come in a minute, but mostly it came, and industrialism took off, bringing tough issues but wonders, too. Slavery was ended.
What Americans today need to remember is that we are still a great nation — “the last, best hope for mankind,” as Lincoln put it. Our system of constitutionally guaranteed rights, checks and balances, rule of law, and elections affords safeguards against possibilities now causing so much worry.
People are also out there working on all of our problems, and meanwhile, we have material advantages once undreamed of. On racial issues, we shall overcome, as we have in the past.
Owing to globalization and free markets, it might be added, the world is ever better off. As the writer Matt Ridley has pointed out, measures taken in 2005 showed that the average person on this earth was “earning nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), ate one-third more calories of food, buried one-third as many of her children and could expect to live one-third longer” than just half a century earlier
And yes, we still have the glory of sunsets. My breath is taken away almost daily. We indeed have an abundance of beauty and we have our friends. We have our dear, dear families, and what is greater than getting together with each other on Thanksgiving?
Yes, it’s true that an ABC News survey shows more than a third of Americans are worrying about arguments between brothers, sisters, mom, dad and others because of different views about a recent fistfight of an election. Here is a thought. Focus on love, a human capacity for which we should also be grateful.
Jay Ambrose is an columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.