Thanksgiving is Better Than Politicization

Last year I wrote a Thanksgiving address titled, “Thanksgiving is Better Than Grievance.” This year I am struck by how much better Thanksgiving is than politicization. For a few years now, certain political forces have asked young people to return to mom and dad’s house, and once all the work of food prep is over and the family is seated at the table, bring up all kinds of progressive political talking points. The role of special family gatherings, after all, is to make sure that the older and wiser members of the family believe the same things that young college students do.

This year, politics is doing far more than preparing everyone for a fruitless and awkward table conversation, it is trying to subsume Thanksgiving altogether. The now omnipresent excuse of COVID has become the justification behind all sorts of random, bordering of asinine, restrictions placed on individual households by governors and career bureaucrats.

This is not the place to take the time to justify the belief that COVID is not the threat that many take it to be, but the most recent science:

  • is in favor of protecting the vulnerable while allowing everyone else to go about their normal business,
  • shows no correlation between lockdowns and case rates or death rates,
  • shows no correlation between mask mandates and case rates or death rates.

You should meet for Thanksgiving.

Under normal circumstances, meeting for Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family and friends to enjoy great food and (hopefully) good conversation and community. Under these circumstances, gathering for Thanksgiving will be an opportunity to tell the State it does not have jurisdiction over your meal table. The State can only go so far, and no farther.

The attempt by various individuals and governments to control family and friend gatherings is a new incursion into private lives that Americans are not used to. We want to think it is temporary, but as Russell Kirk once wrote, government power is a one-way ratchet. It doesn’t go back. And others, under more pronounced tyrannical governments, took note of the State’s need to consume every area of life. A growing State cannot leave any corner of culture alone – it must be all-in-all. Hannah Arendt once wrote, citing Soviet propaganda, “If totalitarianism takes its own claim seriously, it must come to the point where it has ‘to finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,’ that is, with the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever” (pg. 322). In other words, all activities must now be political. Our context does not concern chess, but does concern the NFL, NBA, transgender sports, “woke” capitalism, and now, Thanksgiving.

Refusing to allow your normal daily life to be taken over by political coercion is an act of civil disobedience. It is an act that supports the well-being of your family, friends, and community at-large.

Refusing to allow your normal daily life to be taken over by political coercion is an act of civil disobedience.

This year, Thanksgiving can put the priorities of your life back into place. Your home and your family belong more to you than they do to whatever politician or so-called expert who wants to radically change one of the most significant gatherings of the year. Thanksgiving is a holiday based on a virtue – it is designed to allow us to reflect on the blessings we have been given, and often, those blessing are sitting at the table with us.

President Calvin Coolidge wrote in his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1924,

We approach that season of the year when it has been the custom for the American people to give thanks for the good fortune which the bounty of Providence, through the generosity of nature, has visited upon them. It is altogether a good custom. It has the sanction of antiquity and the approbation of our religious convictions. In acknowledging the receipt of divine favor, in contemplating the blessings which have been bestowed upon us, we shall reveal the spiritual strength of the nation.

Thanksgiving can turn our eyes and minds onto “the bounty of Providence” instead of cousin It seated twelve feet away with the creamed corn she prepared at home and brought for herself. Thanksgiving is an “altogether good custom” that is emotionally good for us and our community to celebrate, no matter what high-end restaurant eating hypocrites tell us. It has the sanction of “antiquity” and the “approbation of our religious convictions” even if you have not been able to sit next to your neighbor in church for months.

And how we observe Thanksgiving this year, maybe more than since the Vietnam War or maybe WWII, will “reveal the spiritual strength of a nation.” A state can threaten fines for gathering to eat, but it can only steal your spiritual resolve and strength if you let it.

A state can threaten fines for gathering to eat, but it can only steal your spiritual resolve and strength if you let it.

Photo: Norman Rockwell, “Freedom from Want”

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