by Dan Hall
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
Thanksgiving is becoming a 21st century embarrassment. This holiday implies recognition of a higher power. It takes us out of the driver’s seat and portrays us as recipients, dependents. In a society where the political left can be slow to acknowledge God and the right can be slow to acknowledge dependency, Thanksgiving presents us an uncomfortable challenge.
If you will bear with me through this contemporary indiscretion, this Thanksgiving message, I think we can all find enriching lessons from Thanksgiving writers past and present. In the spirit of the cornucopia, there is something for everyone.
I have enjoyed, and recommend to you, four quick readings on Thanksgiving. Three of the readings can be found via a Google search using the names Belcher, Washington and Lincoln and the phrase “Thanksgiving Proclamation.” The fourth reading can be found by searching the title “Thanksgiving, All Too Un-Human.”
The authorities issuing these proclamations range from a British colonial governor to American presidents to a modern-day citizen. Though the authors differ in time and place, they share a remarkable number of themes. I would like to review those themes with you.
Lincoln cautioned us to remember “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget.” Four bounties for which our forefathers consistently gave thanks were peace, food, good government and civil/religious liberties. Washington gave particular thanks for our Constitution. How wonderful that some 200 years after our country’s founding we can still count these good things among our blessings.
The left and the right can clash in their regard for the country’s founders and the Constitution they created. People on the left wag their fingers at the homogenous, privileged group that wrote the Constitution. While our founders were not all that diverse in appearance, they were wise enough to build a system lasting 200-plus years — something that few of us will accomplish.
The left and the right also sometimes clash on the role of civil/religious liberties. Increasingly, public policy and public institutions have banished religion to the interior of a sanctuary. Your deity and beliefs might differ from mine, so public policy defaults to the official position that there is no deity or that he makes no difference. (Note that this official stance is still a faith position in that it cannot be proven.)
I suggested that the aforementioned Thanksgiving writers offer something for everyone: They offer humility. While the left is uncomfortable with our national heritage and religion in public life, it is quick to note that we are not perfect and that our country has done wrong. Lincoln termed this condition “national perverseness and disobedience.” Along with Washington, the writers encourage citizens to humbly ask for pardon of “national and other transgressions.” The writers do not believe “my country right or wrong;” they believe in a higher standard.
Finally, the writers encourage citizens to commit themselves to “undefiled religion” or “true religion.” What are these? Both terms refer to a passage from the Bible. Lincoln summarized with the phrase, “care for all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers.”
There you have it. Despite our inclination to be callous, Thanksgiving still offers 21st century America what we need. We need to remember we are blessed recipients, we are imperfect, and we need to care for others. A very happy Thanksgiving to all.
Sen. Dan Hall is a Burnsville Republican who represents District 56, which covers Savage, much of Burnsville and part of Lakeville. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.