A much needed Thanksgiving perspective
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and 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 to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789
If you’re a conservative, you might be thinking that there is not much to be thankful for in this election cycle. But if you’re a conservative in every aspect of that word, then you know that’s not true. We have much to be thankful for, and as we approach this season of Thanksgiving, vouchsafed by our first president, it behooves us to give due consideration to gratitude. Here are a few points as you mull over any disappointment of the last election.
First, you still live in the greatest country on earth, bar none. We have our faults, so before anyone gets unnerved over that, let’s be clear. We have our flaws. But amid those faults, those places we have fallen short, those places where we knew to do better but did not, let’s acknowledge the fact that given all that, this is still the miracle on the hill. Our balefire may not always beacon brightly, but it quickly outshines the rest. We have managed to remediate most of our misprisions.
Second, we can still gather with our families, those “little platoons” Edmund Burke helped make famous when he wrote, “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.” The “little platoons” part has been used and overused about nearly everything, but it still resonates here when used in connection with families. Do other countries meet together? Some, surely, but none with the unswerving freedoms which we luxuriate in this country.
Third, while religion remains under attack daily even here (most recently when 12 “Republicans” joined with all the Democrats to redefine marriage), it is still practiced regularly weekly, most notably in the South. Prayer is still an important part of the lives of most of us and every conservative I know. It is a daily habit, even a moment-to-moment habit, for many. Let’s remember that and repeatedly offer our thanks for the blessings we enjoy. As G.K. Chesterton once put it, when it comes to the critical things in life, you can take them for granted, or you can take them with gratitude.
Fourth, everything may well be politics, but politics isn’t everything. The phrasing isn’t mine but the title of a book by Dutch theologian H. M. Kuitert. While a short book, it isn’t an easy read. The upshot is that God is sovereign above all else. We may fret and whine, cavil, and carp, but God remains the same as yesterday, today, and forever. Yes, even when President Biden was elected, God did not slumber nor sleep (even if Biden does both daily, even when speaking). God remains in control and will work out His will with or without us. Do bear in mind that he used a jackass, literally, to get one of his prophets, Balaam, back on track. If he can do that, I’m sure if we make ourselves available, He will use us as well. We may be surprised every month by something unexpected, but for God, there are no pop quizzes. He lives with eternal perspective and knowledge.
Fifth, be thankful that you have numerous opportunities not to argue or strive but to help and aid. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to look about you and see the myriad of things you can do to make a difference. It may not seem like much to you, but to those for whom help is a daily must, it will mean everything.
Finally, be thankful for what you have, and reflect on the blessings of this past year by naming them for what they are: unmerited grace. As you gather this Thanksgiving, join hands with those around your table, whether they are Republican or Democrat, liberal or indifferent, and thank God, not only for them, but especially for the fact that you can join for at least one day, setting aside your differences to be grateful for God’s benefits, for His protection and favor, and your happiness, however small it may seem to you at any given moment. Gratitude, wrote Cicero, is not only the greatest of virtues but also the parent of all others.
Mark Y. Herring is professor emeritus, dean of library services from Winthrop University. Herring spent 42 years as dean or director in academic libraries in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. He was most recently appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to the South Carolina State Library Board. He resides with his wife, Carol, in Rock Hill.