“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
— President Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation, Oct. 3, 1863
In 1863, America was in the middle of a bloody and protracted Civil War. With the war literally tearing the country apart, President Lincoln believed Americans needed to pause and give thanks for what they had.
The war began on April 12, 1861. On Nov. 28, 1861, Lincoln closed government offices in order to observe a day of Thanksgiving. At the time, locales were observing Thanksgiving on different days.
For 15 years, Sarah Hale, the 74-year-old editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, had advocated for a national day of Thanksgiving. She sent a letter to Lincoln on Sept. 28, 1863, requesting that he establish such a day.
Lincoln agreed with her and established the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving was now a national holiday.
On Dec. 26, 1941, an act of Congress changed Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday of November.
Lincoln knew that the war was destroying so much that Americans value. He knew we were not living up to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But he held on to the hope that once the war was over, we would be able to heal and work together to fulfill our potential.
He concluded his proclamation by writing “I... fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” Lincoln knew we could never live up to our ideals while being torn apart by hate and violence.
Now, our country is being torn apart again by those very evils. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, is promoting the very hate and violence Lincoln abhorred. This is seen in what passes for a political platform for the Republicans.
On Aug. 22, 2020, the Republican National Committee adopted the following resolution: “be it RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda; RESOLVED, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”
There is nothing about creating jobs, fixing infrastructure or anything else that would actually help Americans. President Joe Biden has actually achieved many of these goals, creating over 13 million new jobs, passing a historic infrastructure bill, and so on.
In the meantime, former President Donald Trump’s platform is summarized in a March 4 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He told his followers, “I am your retribution.” His whole candidacy is based on vengeance and retaliation. That may satisfy some, but it doesn't pay the bills or make our lives better.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump stayed silent while his followers ransacked our Capitol. They threatened police and Congresspeople with crowbars, metal flag poles and other weapons. They defaced the building. They chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” referring to Trump’s own Vice-president. When Trump finally spoke, he praised their actions and said he loved them.
Several Republican leaders have actually called for a new Civil War. Here in Nevada, Republicans are split over how to select presidential delegates. So far, violence hasn’t been associated with this disagreement, but when Election Day, Feb. 6, arrives, it wouldn’t be surprising if frustrated Republican voters get violent.
Even Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo sees the dangers in what is happening. On Oct. 31 on a “Nevada Newsmakers” podcast, “Lombardo ripped his state party's plan to hold a caucus despite a primary election occurring two days prior … Lombardo said the dueling processes further expose internal Republican rifts – both in Nevada and nationally – that reflect poorly on the party. He referenced the chaotic process under which Republicans in Washington replaced the speaker of the House.” (Associated Press, Oct. 31)
In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln called for the healing of our nation. Working towards healing instead of more violence would be the proper way to celebrate Thanksgiving and the ideals Lincoln called for 160 years ago.
As we reflect on how blessed we are, may we all experience peace, harmony and tranquility. Happy Thanksgiving.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Foundation award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.