By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Nov 20, 2012, 02:56 PM EST
If Abraham Lincoln released his October 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation today, it would be panned by all sides. In the statement that is considered the beginning of the unbroken annual tradition of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations, Lincoln said that God had dealt "with us in anger for our sins." He recommended "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."
The words "sin" and "perverse" would set off the left as overly judgmental and embarrassingly archaic. The right would bristle at national self-criticism from the country's commander-in-chief (at a time of war, no less).
Lincoln had good reason to speak of perversity, of course. He was knee-deep in blood in a Civil War precipitated by half the country leaving the Union so it could protect slavery. But his proclamation was firmly within the American tradition.
The Thanksgiving proclamation at Charlestown, Mass., in 1676 referred to God's "sore displeasure against us for our sins." The founding generation of presidents struck similar notes. In 1789, George Washington urged that we "unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions." John Adams in 1798 recommended that religious congregations "acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation."
This line carried through into the 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower spoke of the need to "bow before God in contrition for our sins." Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush acknowledged George Washington on "our shortcomings and transgressions." But any suggestion of national failings, let alone sin or perversity, has gone missing from the Thanksgiving proclamations of recent decades (and so has much of the majesty).
Without it, we lose any sense that we have an obligation to live up to a national standard that derives, if not from the God of the Bible, from the natural law. This has always been part of what makes America different from other nations. France will always be France no matter what, but America involves striving toward an ideal.
The great political scientist Samuel Huntington, in rebutting the new left of the 1960s whose sense of the nation's sinfulness exceeded all reasonable bounds, stated it nicely.
"Critics say that America is a lie because its reality falls so far short of its ideals," he wrote. "They are wrong. America is not a lie; it is a disappointment. But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope."
Or as Lincoln put it in his famous phrase, we are "the almost chosen people."
Not surprisingly, President Barack Obama's Thanksgiving proclamations have been particularly pedestrian and perfunctory. God is lucky to get a mention or two. In his 2009 proclamation, the only reference to God came in a quote from George Washington. If his proclamation of America Recycles Day ("we rededicate ourselves to building a more sustainable future") invoked the divine providence somewhere, it wouldn't be so different in tone or content from his Thanksgiving proclamations.
What God has lost in prominence in Obama's statements has been gained by the American Indians, in a bow to multicultural pieties. His 2010 proclamation described how a spirit of Thanksgiving "brought together the newly arrived Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe - who had been living and thriving around Plymouth, Mass., for thousands of years - in an autumn harvest feast centuries ago."
His proclamation last year urged the country "to remember the ways that the first Americans have enriched our nation's heritage, from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life." Near the end, that proclamation included the ringing, "Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the years to come."
From Lincoln's "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation" to Obama's "pay it forward" is a long way down.
(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate
March 3, 2014
February 27, 2014
February 26, 2014
There was a wide array of reactions to Seattle DB Richard Sherman’s post-game “interview” with Erin Andrews following the Seahawks’ NFC title win over San Francisco.
Mine? Laughter, as the shout-down was the most entertaining thing I saw all day.
January 28, 2014
Butler is still a long way from saving its 2013-14 men’s basketball season, but if the Bulldogs turn it around fully and reach the NCAA Tournament, it will have started this past Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
January 21, 2014
A fine season for the Indianapolis Colts ended with a whimper Saturday at New England, but in recent team history, it was far from the most disappointing postseason defeat.
January 14, 2014
The Indianapolis Colts’ miraculous 45-44 wild card victory over Kansas City on Saturday ended just after 8 p.m. After leaving Lucas Oil Stadium, it took until around midnight for the pounding in my head to subside.
January 7, 2014
December 31, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest U.S. fraternities and the deadliest, said Friday it will ban the initiation of recruits, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its newest members.
March 7, 2014
© 2014 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2014. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500