On the eve of Thanksgiving, there are a couple of good articles about how George Washington and Abraham Lincoln perceived Thanksgiving. The articles highlight why these Founders thought it was so important for us as a nation to be thankful.
Thanksgiving is a long-standing holiday (with a bit of a break) initiated by our First President. From the Daily Signal:
[…] National days of reflection are required to unify the American public in common sentiment. Washington had this in mind in issuing his rightly famous Thanksgiving Day proclamation of 1789.
First begun as a harvest holiday, Thanksgiving predates the founding of our republic. But in this first proclamation of the first year of his presidency, Washington gave a political direction to the holiday. As he said elsewhere, he wanted, through his example, “to establish a national character of our own.”
In doing his part to establish our national character, Washington was aware that we are a people capable of courage and assertion, able to win independence. He was likewise aware of our ability to choose, through representatives, a new constitutional order. (Click here to read the rest.)
This piece from the Federalist lays out the particulars of why Washington thought this Day was so critical for us:
[…] 1. In Service of God Versus Service to Others
Throughout his proclamation, Washington focuses on God and our relationship to him. Our duties are clear: “acknowledge His providence,” “obey His will,” “be grateful for His benefits,” “humbly implore His protection and favor,” and seek his “pardon for national and other transgressions.” In short, Thanksgiving should be “devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
Washington explains that greater freedom for the individual and entire nation will naturally flow from this godly inclination. Of the 432 words comprising his proclamation, he refers to God 15 times. Compare that with only two references in Obama’s, and those were included in quotations taken from Washington and Lincoln. Instead of serving God, Obama wants us to “give of ourselves in service to others.”
And that is the foundation for not just the national holiday, but indeed, for the foundation of the country.
But that justification, gratefulness for the divine providence, has been altered over time. The Federalist continues:
2. Executive Versus Legislative Dominance
A subtle but significant change in American politics has been the real and perceived shift in power from the legislative branch to the executive. Constitutionally, Congress has the greatest power among the three branches of government, so when Washington says, “Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,’” he is fulfilling his obligation to execute the wishes of Congress. Inclusion, or in most cases the omission of, this reference to Congress indicates that structural shift.
Heaven knows we have seen a massive shift to the Executive under Obama’s reign. His numerous Executive Actions, while perhaps not as man in number as other Presidents, have more qualitative differences, like changing the law on Immigration, or changing the Affordable Care Act willy-nilly, all without the branch that WRITES laws, the Congress, are indicative of that shift.
I imagine this capitulation by the Congress to the Executive is an affront to the vision our Founders laid out for us so clearly, a vision of a land unlike any other. A vision for which we should be most thankful indeed.
Which leads us to this point:
3. Reflection Versus a Jacked-Up Historical Account
Inherent to Washington’s focus on divine authority is the need for people to reflect on the nation’s successes against what seemed to be insurmountable odds. The purpose of this reflection is to reinforce the link between genuine liberty, wisdom, happiness, and God’s grace. Not so, implies Obama. Instead, we are treated to a highly selective, illogical, and strange historical account and interpretation of Thanksgiving. He begins:
Rooted in a story of generosity and partnership, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear.
The purpose of Thanksgiving is not about “generosity and partnership” between people. We may experience these as a byproduct of our focus on God, but they certainly aren’t causes. And while the Pilgrims did have good relations with several Indian tribes who did help them better cultivate the land, the colonists helped the Indians as well.
Obama overemphasizes the narrative of Indians-helping-Pilgrims so he force upon us a redefinition of what it means to give. (If a presidential proclamation can magically turn 9/11 into a day of volunteerism then nothing, not even Thanksgiving, will be safe.) To learn what life was like for the Pilgrims, including their relationships with the various Indian tribes, I recommend checking out William Bradford’s firsthand account in “Of Plymouth Plantation.” […](Click here to read the rest.)
But that isn’t all Obama has done. Our “illustrious” President has made this assertion as a way to celebrate Thanksgiving, something I do not recommend at ALL. From the Daily Signal:
The Obama administration would like to you set aside some quality time with family and friends on Thanksgiving to promote a political opinion.
Explaining how lawmakers should “pass a law that would prevent somebody who’s on the terror watch list from being able to buy a gun,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest decided to encourage folks to use a holiday about gratitude to preach some liberal tenets.
“As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table,” Earnest said, “talking about these issues, as they should, and as I’m sure they will, all across the country, I hope that’s a question that will be raised, and asked by members around the table—that if we’re going to have a serious discussion in this country about national security, let’s talk about some pretty obvious things that Congress can do.” […] (Click here to read the rest.)
Um, yeah, no. Not only is it a false meme on this whole “on the terror watch list and able to buy a gun” thing (h/t Facebook friend), but the idea of discussing politics in a group of people to push a particular narrative is a bastardization of what Thanksgiving is SUPPOSED to be on just about every level.
How about this, President Obama: try being thankful for living in the greatest nation in the world, one that imbues us with rights and privileges not found elsewhere, and for which people spend years trying to obtain? How about being Thankful for all our Founders did to envision a nation like ours? How about being thankful for our family and friends, and all the blessings bestowed upon us, as a people, and as a nation? How about an “attitude of gratitude,” as they say, rather than trying to strong arm people into a political position over Thanksgiving Dinner?
What a far cry this President is from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, am I right? That’s what I think anyway. How about you? This is an Open Thread.