Curtis Dahlgren
"THINK-giving Day" - and what really made America great (thank WHOM?)
By Curtis Dahlgren
November 22, 2012

"I believe that God in shedding His grace on this country has always in this divine scheme of things kept an eye on our land and guided it as a promised land." — Ronald Wilson Reagan (Wm. Woods College commencement), 1952

[The following is a "Best of" column — one of my Top Ten or 12 (from November 20, 2003)]

"From the heart come evil thanks."

— "Olde English" translation of Matthew 15:19 [sort of]**

NOTHING throws new light on a subject like discovering the ancient origins of a word. Here's "everything you ever wanted to know about thanksgiving but were too stuffed to ask," plus some points on what made America the greatest nation on earth.

The primitive roots of the word "thank" go back to the prehistoric Germanic thengk (as in today's denken, or, THINK). "Gratitude" wasn't involved in the word thank until the 14th century, evolving from "thought" to "favourable thought" to "gratitude" (according to John Ayto in the Dictionary of Word Origins).

Thus, "THOUGHTS" and "THANKS" came to overlap! Gratitude should follow thought as logically as the sunrise follows the sunset, so, Thanksgiving Day isn't an emotional "superstition" or simplistic "sentimentality," but the epitome of reason and rationality, a joint effort of the heart and the MIND!

**["From the heart come evil thoughts," of course, is the actual translation.]

When Christ broke bread and gave thanks, the Greek word for "thanks" alludes to an open hand, as one plucking an instrument in celebration or praise. I will assume that you "celebrate" the holiday, even though some people are so offended by their own presence in the New World that they don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Other people may eat turkey but don't really give their Creator the credit for America's blessings.

Many teachers credit modern education while bureaucrats credit social programs and regulation. "Labor" credits the unions and MBAs credit business. People may give the glory to FDR or JFK or 401Ks. No one asks the farmer, but as Lincoln said, we quickly became a great power due to the fact that God had given us "the richest soil in the most salubrious climes of the earth." Put me down as agreeing with Lincoln.

Our physical blessings were a great unearned gift. However, individual leaps of great FAITH were required to access the grace God shed on thee, America. The Pilgrims did not have a cruise insurance policy underwritten by some international corporation. Their positive relationship with the Indians wasn't part of a "package deal" at a casino!

Our Founding Fathers didn't have social "Security," but they burned their bridges to Europe. The mountain men didn't have a computer program to show them the best routes, but they "paved" the way. The Pioneers made it to Utah and points west without a Department of Transportation!

The '49ers didn't have any "affirmative action" but they "diversified" California and helped build Fort Knox (if the country had had as many environmental "protection" lawyers as we have now, the railroads wouldn't have had any steel for their trains or tracks, let alone a golden spike to drive)!

Teen-aged "school marms" taught generation after generation how to read — without teaching certificates — and they even taught English and grammar, which some of our schools now don't even attempt. And between blasting stumps and building buildings, the farmers farmed, the "the MORONS"!

All of the above were great leaps of faith with no guarantees.
My grandfather farmed 500 acres with horses, plus he peddled the milk door-to-door in town. One of his favorite sayings was, "Thank God for the rich people, because the poor people don't have any money." By that he meant that after the rich paid their bills, he could break even at the end of the week despite the "free" milk given to poor people who couldn't pay the bill.

When Ronald Reagan's family lived in South Chicago, his brother was sent once a week to the butcher shop with a dime for a soup bone and instructions to ask for a free liver "for the cat" (they didn't have a cat). The throw-away liver was their Sunday dinner, and the bone was for the soup pot that was kept on the stove all week. But Ronald Reagan often said, "I suppose we were poor, but we never knew we were poor." — Ronald Reagan, His Story in Pictures by Stanley P. Friedman

Many people before and since have expressed the same sentiment in those very same words, no plagiarism intended. That's the very essence of thanksgiving, and did you ever notice, it's easier to be thankful for a soup bone than for great abundance?

Another point is: even the weekly soup bone had to be produced by some "dumb farmer" like my grampa, or my dad (who never owned his own land until he was in his fifth decade). I did my share of driving horses too, and started driving tractor even earlier at the age of 5. Even today, don't assume that your Thanksgiving dinner was produced by machines and robots without human effort and human sacrifices. I know farmers who lost limbs and various body parts, and even children, in the process of producing your food.

So that's a couple of points, and you want to know what really irritates me? City people complaining if it should rain on the weekend! Poets and songwriters say things such as "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head," "Don't rain on my parade," etc. City people just love it if it doesn't rain for a couple of months; disc jockeys go on and on about the "gorgeous" and "sensational" golfing weather. One more Dust Bowl and these city folks are going to run plum out of superlatives, eh?

"Out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts and evil thanks." But you have a nice weekend now, hear?

P.S. The last word in Thanksgiving is "giving" — as in "the sacrifices of thanksgiving." What are you planning to sacrifice for Thanksgiving? Maybe someone out there needs a soup bone.

PPS: Don't forget, lots of people in New Jersey and New York no longer have dining tables to gather around — or a roof over their heads.

© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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