Not to appropriate song lyrics from another holiday, but the way things have been going in our country of late, we need a little [Thanksgiving], right this very minute.
We are clearly a nation divided. It’s largely by color, though not black and white nearly so much as red and blue. Political ideology is acting as the igniter with commentators and social media fanning the flames. Everyone has an opinion on everything — particularly the president — and it’s becoming tribal with Fox News nation squaring off against Team CNN. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that we have far more in common than we’re willing to admit, united by much more than what divides us.
So Thanksgiving arrives at an opportune time. It’s the most unifying holiday we have, born not out of any sort of religious event or based on honoring any particular figure in history. It is just the time to express gratitude for what — and who — we have. We all celebrate in much the same way, around the table with family and friends, giving thanks. It has always been such.
According to the widely accepted version of that first Thanksgiving, a three-day feast was held in 1621 to celebrate a bountiful first fall harvest for the settlers from England. Fellowship took place between two very different groups of people: the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags. Regardless of what happened later between the new Americans and the first Americans, both groups supposedly contributed to the feast and then ate and drank together while overcoming differences that included a language barrier and wildly diverse life experiences.
Thanksgiving was recognized after that and celebrated at various times of year by different states, but it didn’t officially become a national holiday for nearly another 250 years. President Lincoln issued a proclamation on Oct. 3, 1863 calling for a national holiday to be observed on “the last Thursday of November.” The proclamation called for all to be thankful for “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies” and urged everyone to be generous to those less fortunate such as “widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers.”
Want to talk about a time when we were divided? This was during the Civil War, only a few months after the bloodiest battle of them all, at Gettysburg. Ted Widmer, a lecturer at the City University of New York who edited the two-volume set “American Speeches” for the Library of America, wrote that even in the worst months of the fighting, with violence all around them, they saw a better day coming, when Americans would return to the same table, in the “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
That’s worth considering this Thanksgiving. We urge everyone to be careful — bear in mind, there are some 500 highway deaths across the country annually over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Thanksgiving Day is traditionally the leading day each year for home cooking fires — and to keep it civil around the table.
Chances are, most will. A HuffPost/YouGov survey found that only 3% of Americans said they are “very likely,” and 8% are “somewhat likely,” to get into a political argument during Thanksgiving dinner. If you must talk about such things, maybe focus on record low unemployment and the record high stock market rather than the impeachment proceedings? Better yet, maybe talk about the red-hot Baltimore Ravens and MVP candidate Lamar Jackson? Even better, in keeping with the holiday, talk about your gratitude for those around you and what’s important to you, perhaps keeping in mind a quote attributed to Oprah Winfrey.
“Be thankful for what you have you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have you will never ever have enough.”