Days of Thanksgiving Past

Thanksgiving 2009 finds many Americans doubting that our republic can survive and wondering whether we truly have that much to be thankful for these days. God forgive our pettiness. Whether we acknowledge it joyfully, admit it grudgingly, or stick our heads in the sand and deny it, Americans are as blessed today as ever. Consider past Thanksgivings.

In 1859, one hundred and fifty years ago, America was divided over the issue of slavery as it has never been before or since. Dred Scott, the ghastly Supreme Court decision two years earlier, made it almost impossible to conceive of an end to slavery without grave trauma. One year later, America would endure a bitter presidential election. The winner, Abraham Lincoln, got only about forty percent of the popular vote, and he was not even listed on the ballot in most states in the South. The ocean of fratricidal blood in the war following Lincoln's election would be the worst thing to happen in America's history. For decades after the Civil War, cripples and amputees roamed city streets. The wounds would take a century to heal. Still, in 1859, Americans gave thanks.

In 1934, seventy-five years ago, our nation was firmly in the thrall of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was near the highest level in American history, about twenty-five percent, and the patent medicine of FDR's Neal Deal was making things worse. Our government dropped the gold standard and piled up federal debt at an alarming rate. Hitler was consolidating his wicked power in Germany.  Holomodor, the mass extermination by deliberate starvation of perhaps ten million Ukrainian men, women, and children, showed the depths of Stalinist evil and danger. Japan had annexed Manchukuo and was obviously scheming to grab more of China. Sober and caring Americans might well have asked in 1934: How, by the grace of God, are we going to survive the terrors before us? Yet in 1934, Americans gave thanks.

Fifty years ago, in 1959, the odious Fidel Castro became dictator of Cuba, a few dozen miles from Florida, and began a reign of misery and oppression that has yet to end. One year before, the Fourth Republic of France had collapsed, and the new Fifth Republic was barely a year old with an already uncertain future. Three years before, the ruthlessness of Soviet power had been shown in the brutal oppression of Hungarian freedom-fighters. At home, Americans were just recovering from the 1958 recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And we gave thanks.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1984, conservative Americans were celebrating the reelection of Ronald Reagan, but it is a testament to the precarious times that we needed a Ronald Reagan to survive. One year before, the Soviets shot down Korean Airline Flight 007, the bloodiest direct Soviet provocation of America in the Cold War. Shortly before Thanksgiving, in October 1984, the IRA attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher in the Brighton Hotel Bombing; and later, in October, Sikh militants did assassinate Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in India. The world was anything but peaceful on Thanksgiving, 1984. Yet Americans, and especially our president, gave thanks.

Which of these Days of Thanksgiving Past looks best to us today? Through a monstrously bloody Civil War, through the economic fears of Great Depression and the real terrors of approaching world war, through the bleakest years of the Cold War, through terrorism that stalked the world long before 2001, Americans have had our day of Thanksgiving in a very scary world. We should give thanks now in spite of all the mendacity running rampant through our government and our media. We should give thanks now in spite of today's economic troubles. 

Perhaps, most of all, we should give thanks because we are free to give thanks. The world is very broken; it always has been. Only leftists believe that we can ever have Heaven on Earth. Normal people know better. The danger of oppression has been with us since at least Moses in Egypt. The promise of freedom has always been with us, too. In America, that light of liberty has burned more brightly and for longer than at any time in history. Even as we battle to keep our nation free, let us give thanks to a God that gives all our striving people hope.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
Thanksgiving 2009 finds many Americans doubting that our republic can survive and wondering whether we truly have that much to be thankful for these days. God forgive our pettiness. Whether we acknowledge it joyfully, admit it grudgingly, or stick our heads in the sand and deny it, Americans are as blessed today as ever. Consider past Thanksgivings.

In 1859, one hundred and fifty years ago, America was divided over the issue of slavery as it has never been before or since. Dred Scott, the ghastly Supreme Court decision two years earlier, made it almost impossible to conceive of an end to slavery without grave trauma. One year later, America would endure a bitter presidential election. The winner, Abraham Lincoln, got only about forty percent of the popular vote, and he was not even listed on the ballot in most states in the South. The ocean of fratricidal blood in the war following Lincoln's election would be the worst thing to happen in America's history. For decades after the Civil War, cripples and amputees roamed city streets. The wounds would take a century to heal. Still, in 1859, Americans gave thanks.

In 1934, seventy-five years ago, our nation was firmly in the thrall of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was near the highest level in American history, about twenty-five percent, and the patent medicine of FDR's Neal Deal was making things worse. Our government dropped the gold standard and piled up federal debt at an alarming rate. Hitler was consolidating his wicked power in Germany.  Holomodor, the mass extermination by deliberate starvation of perhaps ten million Ukrainian men, women, and children, showed the depths of Stalinist evil and danger. Japan had annexed Manchukuo and was obviously scheming to grab more of China. Sober and caring Americans might well have asked in 1934: How, by the grace of God, are we going to survive the terrors before us? Yet in 1934, Americans gave thanks.

Fifty years ago, in 1959, the odious Fidel Castro became dictator of Cuba, a few dozen miles from Florida, and began a reign of misery and oppression that has yet to end. One year before, the Fourth Republic of France had collapsed, and the new Fifth Republic was barely a year old with an already uncertain future. Three years before, the ruthlessness of Soviet power had been shown in the brutal oppression of Hungarian freedom-fighters. At home, Americans were just recovering from the 1958 recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And we gave thanks.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1984, conservative Americans were celebrating the reelection of Ronald Reagan, but it is a testament to the precarious times that we needed a Ronald Reagan to survive. One year before, the Soviets shot down Korean Airline Flight 007, the bloodiest direct Soviet provocation of America in the Cold War. Shortly before Thanksgiving, in October 1984, the IRA attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher in the Brighton Hotel Bombing; and later, in October, Sikh militants did assassinate Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in India. The world was anything but peaceful on Thanksgiving, 1984. Yet Americans, and especially our president, gave thanks.

Which of these Days of Thanksgiving Past looks best to us today? Through a monstrously bloody Civil War, through the economic fears of Great Depression and the real terrors of approaching world war, through the bleakest years of the Cold War, through terrorism that stalked the world long before 2001, Americans have had our day of Thanksgiving in a very scary world. We should give thanks now in spite of all the mendacity running rampant through our government and our media. We should give thanks now in spite of today's economic troubles. 

Perhaps, most of all, we should give thanks because we are free to give thanks. The world is very broken; it always has been. Only leftists believe that we can ever have Heaven on Earth. Normal people know better. The danger of oppression has been with us since at least Moses in Egypt. The promise of freedom has always been with us, too. In America, that light of liberty has burned more brightly and for longer than at any time in history. Even as we battle to keep our nation free, let us give thanks to a God that gives all our striving people hope.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.

RECENT VIDEOS