Thanksgiving 2020, more than many others, brought not only food for the body but food for the mind.
As my small group of immediate family gathered, we opened all the doors and windows and stayed outside as much as we could. We dispensed with long held traditions, tucking into fried chicken instead of roasted turkey and dressing. I missed Thanksgivings of my childhood at my grandparents’ house, filled with wonderful smells and swarming with cousins. I missed Thanksgivings with my own family and those we think of as family, tables laden with potluck foods from many different households and traditions. I missed those who were not with us because they are no longer here, and those who could not be with us because of the pandemic raging unchecked throughout our nation.
At the same time, I am deeply grateful for those who were at our table and for our health, for friends from all parts of my life who continue to enrich the world in so many different ways, and for vaccines on the horizon to shut down the plague of 2020. I am thankful for the bone-tired health care workers who continue to care for their fellow Americans, some of whom believe COVID-19 is a hoax and who refuse to take precautions. And, I pray the families and friends of the more than 262,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 will find peace and hope in the coming days.
I am thankful for all Americans that democracy has prevailed over authoritarianism in our nation.
It is hardly news that the United States has become critically hardened and partisan, with people in both camps barely understanding what the other says, rendering our nation a political Tower of Babel. There are many reasons for this — the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, educational disparities, niche media which preach to their own choirs among them. This intolerance among Americans continues to damage our nation and our standing in the world.
That is why I and millions of others are profoundly thankful for the brave and principled Americans who did the right thing in recent weeks, who despite heavy political pressure put country before party. They deserve recognition. Among them are elections officials in many states who stood up for and certified unbiased, untainted and accurate voting totals despite unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud, of which no proof has been cited. In addition, both state and federal judges in several states dismissed such unsupported legal claims, allowing accurate vote counts to prevail. Only a handful of politicians showed such courage, notably Utah’s Senator Mitt Romney, who stood up for a fair election, when most others, including North Carolina’s two Senators, apparently checked their spines in a Capitol closet.
It is meaningful to note that Abraham Lincoln established our American Thanksgiving. It harkens back a meal shared, at least apocryphally, by Pilgrim settlers and Native Americans in what is now Massachusetts in 1621. The official holiday itself dates from 1863, when Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving. He did so in the midst of the American Civil War, at a time when the tide was slowly turning in favor of the Union. The next year, he proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, writing that God “has been please to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of the civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”
In other words, Lincoln established Thanksgiving to celebrate the America’s democracy.
We celebrate the same blessing in 2020.