Sharing this wonderfully thoughtful column on this Thanksgiving Day....
Between The Lines
by Anthony Asadullah Samad
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” This was the opening sentence of Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, advocating for the colonies to declare themselves independent of Britain. What made Common Sense such a prophetic document was that it recounted the growth, the hardships and the blessings the colonies had endured in the 170 years since the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Sometimes we forget that, in our own trials and tribulations, maturation and prosperity, growth is imminent and independence is only common sense. Particularly in trying times, it’s hard to see our blessings. We’re about to get “caught up” in the rhetoric we call “the holiday season,” for which Thanksgiving Day is the gateway to a nearly 40 day celebration—for which most of us will forget the reason. Some will use it to shirk work and party all the time. Others will use it as a period of reflection of where they are in their lives, while others still will use it get themselves in useless debt for another year as “stuff” because the reason for the season. Then there’s the Jesus thing…but Jesus was born in March. Still, we don’t allow ourselves to be troubled with major details. Americans, as the war has shown, are not ones to allow the facts to get in the way of a good lie…and so it is with the holiday season, as we get bombarded with images of turkeys, pilgrims and fat men in red suits. Before we all get lost in the madness of the season, I have two words of advice for us all to stay rooted in humility, spirituality and common sense. Those two words are: “Be Thankful”.
The holiday season in America is about decadence and commercial gluttonism. We not only get caught up in the wrong spirit, we get lost in that spirit. We lose the meaning of these holidays, and we lose the purpose of these holidays. Ask anybody how the modern day Thanksgiving Day came about and they’ll take you back to Pilgrims and Indians, turkeys and harvests, and a whole bunch of nonsense. Certainly, that’s a more convenient spin than the real story (particularly if you ask the Native Americans), but the modern day celebration (the last Thursday of November) had nothing to do with any of that. The modern day Thanksgiving celebration came about in 1863, after President Lincoln had (finally) relented to allow Blacks to fight for the Union. The tide of the Civil War turned on this decision, as the Union had lost a string of battles to the Confederate army in the first two years of the war (1861-62) until Lincoln offered emancipation in January of 1863 to all slaves in rebellion states that came over to the Union cause. Black soldiers fought in 39 major battles and 410 minor battles during the Civil War, but it was the battles at Port Hudson, Louisiana, Fort Wagner, South Carolina and Vicksburg, Mississippi between May 22 and July 4th that resulted in several key surrenders, helped the Union gain control of the Mississippi, and cut Texas, Arkansas and most of Louisiana off from the rest of the Confederacy. Lincoln saw this as a significant reversal of fortunes and on October 3, 1863 proclaimed the last Thursday of each November, Thanksgiving Day, in homage to the shifting tide of the war. All Lincoln could do was to“Be Thankful” that he had allowed himself to be talked into allowing black soldiers to fight for the Union at the time he did. That’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving in America today. Christmas is another story (and another article), but don’t get me started…
The point is that we can’t get caught up in the holiday “rope-a-dope.” Many people will be pressured in to believing they aren’t worthy because they don’t have what others have, and can’t buy what others buy, or can’t go where other people go for the holidays. Others will succumb to the pressures of overspending and overindulging. Many will lose track of their blessings, trying to count what they see as other people’s blessings. Depression goes up five fold during the so-called “happy time of the year.” Why? Because happiness is tied to “stuff,” fluff, and bluff. Regardless of our situation, we all have things to be thankful for. I’ll give you five:
1) Be thankful for safe passage. Danger is all around us, but as the devil plans, God plans and God is the best of planners. Stay covenanted in faith and good deeds, and God’s hedge shall protect you. That’s God’s promise. Believe it.
2) Be thankful for known enemies and unknown friends. God lets us know, in varying ways, who is against us, but doesn’t always reveal who is for us. Understand that what God wants for you will be yours and no weapon formed against you can prosper; if God is for you, who can be against you? His angels will guard you and your enemies will gnash their teeth in frustration as their plans fail and their whispers fall on deaf ears. God protects those who work in righteous ways.
3) Be thankful for small blessings. They are God’s way of preparing you for large ones. Be patient and don’t be too much in a rush to be blessed. It will happen.
4) Be thankful for health and mental well-being. The greatest gift that God can give us is to wake us up in our right mind everyday. Don’t take it for granted.
5) Be thankful for what you have, whatever it is. God blesses those who are grateful for all they have, not wanton over what others have. Sometimes less is more. We forget that in a gluttonous world that tells us more is best. Not so.
Don’t get caught up in stuffing yourself these holidays. Don’t get caught in the fluff of party pretentiousness that has little significance or meaning. And don’t get bluffed by the commercializers and the money changers that tell you, “You need their stuff, you’re less without it, and you need it NOW,” to separate you from your money during the holidays and leave you in debt for the rest of this year and most of next year. It’s a trick, don’t fall for it.
Instead, just keep your mind fixed on what’s real, the true meanings of the season, and don’t forget to just be thankful. That’s how you survive the holiday madness in America.
Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality In America. He can be reached at AnthonySamad.com.