POLITICS

This Thanksgiving, Remember America's Pilgrims Were Refugees, Too

Some food for thought.
Rendering of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
Rendering of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving Day feast, and the awkward conversations about politics sure to come with that one particular family member, it's worth keeping in mind that the U.S. has a long history of taking in refugees.

Some of the first pilgrims to settle on America's shores were Europeans who fled persecution in their home countries. When the Mayflower pilgrims landed in New England in the early 17th century, they established a harvest celebration that would later become known as Thanksgiving by sitting down with Native Americans gracious enough to share their land and way of life.

Native Americans shared their land and way of life with the Mayflower pilgrims.
Native Americans shared their land and way of life with the Mayflower pilgrims.

And, well, we all know how that turned out.

But incendiary rhetoric over Syrian refugees and whether to admit them into the U.S. in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks is at odds with the United States' historical role in the world -- that of giving shelter to the oppressed.

There are certainly valid arguments to be made for bolstering security and vetting refugees in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. Indeed, congressional lawmakers want to do just that. Republicans and dozens of Democrats in the House voted last week to pause refugee admittance outright, while Senate Democrats want to toughen the visa waiver program.

But describing some refugees -- women, children, and families -- as rabid dogs or terrorists and spreading falsehoods about blacks and Muslims, however, demeans the very same principle of American exceptionalism (and Thanksgiving!) many candidates frequently tout on the campaign trail.

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