News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett B-Sides

November 25, 2010

B-Sides: Be thankful for those who agree with a 150-year-old goal

TERRE HAUTE — Thanksgiving, as Abraham Lincoln envisioned it, may not be possible today.

His proclamation of Oct. 3, 1863, setting aside the fourth Thursday of every November as a “national day of Thanksgiving doesn’t fit the current mood of the country.

In his declaration, Lincoln reminded Americans of their “fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He noted the presence of peaceful industries; busy mines producing iron, coal and precious metals; and a growing U.S. population. He also credited a merciful God for providing those “great things.”

Then, Lincoln added this: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”

One heart. One voice. By the whole American people.

Lincoln issued that call in the midst of the nation’s most tumultuous time, the Civil War. Nine months earlier, he’d signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery — the heinous practice that tore the country in two. In July 1863, 51,000 Americans were killed, wounded or unaccounted for in the Battle of Gettysburg, perhaps the most sobering few days in U.S. history.

Yet the president asked for unified thankfulness.

Utopian? Of course. But not invalid. Only the most cynical would dismiss the good fortune of abundant crops, productive industries, vast natural resources and a multiplying populace.

Then again, cynicism is pretty popular right now. In fact, could America, circa 2010, look past its anger and express universal thanks for … anything?

How about those things Lincoln listed?

Let’s start with our “fruitful fields,” the nation’s farm crops. Production of soybeans — that versatile sprout found in so many foods — is expected to set a record at 3.38 billion bushels this year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast. The United States leads the world in soybean, and corn, production. It’s easy to be thankful for that …

Unless somebody at the dinner table today decides to weigh in on farm subsidies from the federal government, which totaled $15.4 billion last year, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Well, then, how about expressing gratitude for our “peaceful industries”? Uh, once everybody’s scooped an equal share of mashed potatoes, you might want to brace yourself for a rant about the bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the banking industry, as well as the reform of the U.S. health-care industry.

Those “abundant mines”? Prepare for a cap-and-trade debate that might ramble on through the first quarter of the Saints-Cowboys game.

Our growing population? Oh, my. A mouthful of pecan pie and an earful about illegal immigration.

Life wasn’t so simple 147 years ago, either. Still, from the words of his Proclamation of Thanksgiving, Lincoln appeared to be counting on a virtue that’s running in low supply today — respect. How else could he ask people — divided, wounded and wronged by war — to “solemnly, reverently and gratefully” acknowledge the nation’s blessings “with one heart and one voice”? Such an act requires respect for the other person’s life and all that he or she holds dear, despite their differences.

Twenty-first century Americans sense the need for respect. A study this year by the University of Oregon showed that self-respect was the No. 1 core character value desired by Americans, and by a far wider margin than in identical surveys in 1986 and 1976.

Perhaps that needs to be the starting point for today’s accounting of thanks.

If you have the respect of your family, be thankful.

If friends respect you, be thankful.

If neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members and acquaintances respect you, be thankful.

If you’re capable of showing respect others deserve, be thankful.

As a country blessed with hard-fought freedom, we absolutely should cherish and exercise the right to disagree. Through the hatred and bloodshed between Americans during the Civil War, Lincoln probably dreamt of an era such as 2010. He alluded to better days ahead in the closing passages of his Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

Lincoln asked his countrymen to pray for “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.”

Today, we can be thankful for all who agree with Lincoln’s goal.

Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mark Bennett B-Sides
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final Kim Kardashian Hits Up Valentino Show in Paris Service Held for 200 Whose Bodies Went Unclaimed Israeli Offensive Escalates in Gaza Attack Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor "Hotwives" Spoofs Reality TV Dodgers Found Partly Responsible in Fan Beating Obama Talks Economy, Slams Republicans Raw: World's Tallest Water Slide Opens Thursday Raw: Rocket Explodes Over Israeli Wedding Sterling Testifies in Los Angeles Clippers Trial Typhoon Nears Japan's Main Islands Froome Crashes Out on Bumpy 5th Tour Stage Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Former NFL Player 'Excited' Deal Almost Done Raw: Obama Shoots Pool in Denver Obama: 'Photo Ops' Won't Solve Border Crisis Dozens Gain Citizenship As Debate Continues Mississippi River Flooding Likely to Slow Down
NDN Video
Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel Pilot buys pizzas for travelers delayed by storm Klose nets record, Germany rout Brazil 7-1 'Purrmanently Sad Cat' Looks Adorably Sad All the Time Pharrell 'humbled' by success of mega-hit 'Happy' Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Jennifer Lawrence Facepalms Emma Watson Athletes Bare All for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue Raw: Brazil Fans Leaving Stadium Before Half Andi Dorfman Walks Out During the Rose Ceremony 5 Firework Fails for July 4th Justin Bieber Catches Tom Hanks Getting Down, Showing ‘How We Do It Big shoes to fill for Brazil ahead of Germany clash Man's 'Potato Salad' Plea Takes Off on Kickstarter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity