Make America Grateful Again

By Tai Anderson, November 18, 2016

During the recent presidential campaign, a friend posted a picture of the “Make America Grateful Again” sticker that he had placed on the rear window of his car. It got a good laugh and a few social media shares. But, In the heat of a political campaign, we all tend to draw lines in the sand and choose on which side of that line we will stand. Therefore, It’s easy to dismiss the sticker as I did; the tongue-in-cheek pun on Trump’s campaign that it was. Regardless of your political views, I believe the sticker has a profound message for us all.

Plus, it's a really cool musical reference

Plus, it's a really cool musical reference

Now that election is over, our nation is preparing for its first national holiday, Thanksgiving. As I (p)reflect on Thanksgiving, it strikes me that the message of that bumper sticker is more than a pun.

The message of that sticker is actually the key to the unity that our nation desperately needs.

Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Although it feels like our nation has never been more divided than it is right now, it is actually a bit of an overreach to state that as fact. Let’s face it, we are a nation that just 155 years ago engaged in a 4 year civil war following the election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent secession of the confederate states. So, although it may feel like our nation has never been more divided, the fact that our citizenry at one time literally went to war with itself, killing 620,000 soldiers, proves otherwise.

In survey after survey, Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as the greatest American president. He led our nation through the Civil War, signed the Emancipation proclamation, and started the beginning of southern reconstruction in the aftermath of the Civil War.

One accomplishment that often goes forgotten in Lincoln’s impressive list is that our 16th president actually established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Sure, it had been celebrated since 1621, but Abraham Lincoln made gratitude official in 1863, in the height of the Civil War. In his official proclamation, Lincoln asked our nation to pray to God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” 

What Lincoln understood is that gratitude leads to empathy which leads to healing.

In the aftermath of the campaign, I’ve already watched dozens of hours of coverage examining the emotions and motivations that informed the voting decisions of our nation’s electorate. The words I’ve heard most often are fear, anger, and frustration. FEAR IS THE ENEMY!  Many Trump supporters felt that way before the election, and many Clinton supporters feel that way now. I don't mean to dismiss anyone's emotions. However, one emotion that I have yet to hear described, before or after the election, is gratitude.

As we all take time in this coming week to enjoy a holiday committed to gratitude, I pray that we could all heed Abraham Lincoln’s original imploration. Let’s all be overwhelmed by a feeling of palpable gratitude. We live in amazing times. We live in an amazing country. From that place of gratitude, let’s all be moved to greater empathy for all of our neighbors, especially those that are wanting in this season. Finally, let’s all ask God to heal the wounds of our nation.