How Was Your Thanksgiving?

Were you thankful? Or fearful? Or both?

Did you gather all together, safely masked and socially distanced? Or did you throw caution to the winds and put family and friends at risk? Or did you cancel the whole thing?

No matter how we celebrated, we’ll never forget Thanksgiving 2020. We’ll never forget 2020, period.

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. It has always been free of the glitz and grind of Christmas. It’s just family, food and football. 

Thanksgiving has always been a time to reflect on our blessings as Americans – the beautiful land where we live, the bounty many Americans enjoy that most people around the world can only dream of, and our history as a free people living in the best system of government ever devised.

This Thanksgiving – amid a resurgent pandemic and in the wake of a bitter election – we reflect on whether we will continue to enjoy those blessings.

The pandemic left too many empty places at too many tables this year. Many more will be empty next year as the virus continues to run rampant. Meanwhile, we put our hopes in people’s good sense and in the genius of modern medical science.

This year, after a bitter and divisive campaign, we elected a new President and Vice President. He represents a yearning for unity, dignity and respect. She represents the rise of a new, more diverse and more open America.

But, at the same time, we watch nervously as the old President stirs the fires of bitter-end resistance to change and, indeed, to the fundamental underpinning of our government: the peaceful transfer of power according to our freely exercised right to select our leaders.

A Reuters Ipsos poll last week found that 52 percent of Republicans think President Trump “rightfully won” re-election. That’s more than 38 million people.

As always, we have history to look to and learn from.

The first Thanksgiving was 399 years ago, in 1621, when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast. 

The first national Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War.

That same month, Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His famous last line bears repeating: “…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

A newly published biography – “Abe: Abraham Lincoln In His Times,” by David S. Reynolds (Penguin Press) – relates how, 25 years before the Gettysburg Address, a 29-year-old Lincoln, relentlessly striving to improve and educate himself, gave a lecture to the Springfield, Illinois, Young Men’s Lyceum warning against “this mobocratic spirit…now abroad in the land.”

“Let reverence for the laws,” he said, “be breathed by every American. Let it become the political religion of the nation.”

Revolutionary passion had established the nation, he said, but now must yield to reason. “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in the future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense.”

But passion overcame reason. The Civil War came. More than 600,000 Americans died, and President Lincoln honored them at Gettysburg.

We live again in a time of passion. Let’s pray that law and reason prevail this time.

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