The Thanksgiving holiday originated with Sarah Josepha Hale and her idea of a unifying measure, which she believed could help ease growing tensions and divisions between the northern and southern parts of the country. It was from prior to the American Civil War that the Thanksgiving national holiday originated. As for “kindly Indians” having helped the stupid English, Cotton Mather described a different situation, where the Native Americans shot arrows at the Pilgrims and employed sorcerers against them.
Thus reads the description for my latest video, “Civil War Thanksgiving”, published to YouTube on November 19, 2016. The clip, which clocks in at 9 minutes and 52 seconds, can hopefully be viewed at the top of today’s blog entry.
On October 3, 1863, with the nation embroiled in a bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanks. Much “of the credit for the proclamation should probably go to a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale.” 
Sometime after 1837, Hale began to lobby state and federal officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks on the last Thursday of November — “a unifying measure, she believed that could help ease growing tensions and divisions between the northern and southern parts of the country.” 
So, as nearly as I can determine, the Thanksgiving holiday was meant to promote unity within the United States. Some stories about kind-hearted Indians got tacked on somewhere. However Cotton Mather, in his book, Magnalia Christi Americana, gave a different description of these “kind-hearted Indians.” Just before the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, wrote Mather…
The Indians in these parts had newly, even about a year or two before, been visited with such a prodigious pestilence as carried away not a tenth, but nine parts of ten (yea, ’tis said, nineteen of twenty) among them: so that the woods were almost cleared of those pernicious creatures, to make room for a better growth. ‘Twas an horrible and unusual plague, whereby they were consumed in such vast multitudes, that our first planters found the land almost covered with their unburied carcases. 
The barbarous people showed them [the Pilgrims] little kindness, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But these Pilgrims were more afraid of the barbarous people among whom they were now cast, than they were of the rain, or cold: these barbarians were at the first so far from accommodating them with bundles of sticks to warm them, that they let fly other sorts of sticks (that is to say, arrows) to wound them: and the very looks and shouts of those grim savages had not much less of terrour in them, than if they had been so many devils. 
It was afterwards by them confessed, that upon the arrival of the English in these parts, the Indians employed their sorcerers, whom they call pow-wows, like Balaam, to curse them, and let loose their demons upon them, to shipwreck them, to distract them, to poison them, or any way to ruin them. All the noted pow-wows in the country spent three days together in diabolical conjurations, to obtain the assistance of the devils against the settlement of these our English; but the devils at length acknowledged unto them that they could not hinder those people from their becoming the owners and masters of the country. 
Yes, there is an unfortunate racial and cultural bias in Mather’s report. But my point is that what Cotton Mather wrote belies the story of the kind-hearted Indians.
The original idea of Thanksgiving was a way to help unify the nation. Things are not so bad now as during the time of the American Civil War. However I am appalled by all the vicious sniping which has been going on, from both sides, immediately consequent to the surprise election of Donald Trump. Is there anything both sides can be thankful for?
Yes! The DEFense readiness CONdition (DEFCON) is an alert state used by the United States Armed Forces.  Just barely a week after the election of Donald Trump, the DEFCON level was LOWERED to level 5, the LEAST SEVERE level. And Russia is re-emphasizing their wish to work WITH the United States to defeat ISIS. 
On November 18, 2016 the local newspaper published an Associated Press report about how Michael Flynn, former chief of military intelligence, has been offered the job of national security adviser for the incoming Trump administration. Flynn has called for Washington to work more closely with Moscow, reported AP. Trump has made similar statements. A separate Associated Press article indicates that Flynn favors working with the Russians to defeat ISIS.  
So the DEFCON level has been lowered to least severe, and war with Russia now appears less likely than if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. Here is something to unify “left” and “right” and cause us to give thanks.
——- Sources ——-
 “Abraham Lincoln and the ‘Mother of Thanksgiving’, by Barbara Maranzani. The History Channel website, October 3, 2013. http://www.history.com/news/abraham-lincoln-and-the-mother-of-thanksgiving
 Magnalia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather. Kindle e-book, available in 2010.
 “DEFCON”, Wikipedia, November 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEFCON
 “Doomsday Clock: Trump Turns Back The Hands”, by The Alex Jones Channel. YouTube, November 16, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrc8nOlPdVw
 “Up For Promotion”, by Ken Thomas, Catherine Lucey, and Julie Pace. Associated Press. Published locally in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, November 18, 2016. Page A-3.
 “Retired officer a straight-talker who has advocated closer ties with Russia”, Associated Press. Published locally in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, November 18, 2016. Page A-3.