Thanksgiving this year sucks. I'm not saying eating delicious food sucks, I'm not even saying that your particular family gathering will suck (but let's be honest, hmmm?)...I'm saying that Thanksgiving in our current political environment seems a festival of hypocrisies, denying the very origins of this country. Almost 400 years later we are still celebrating the unbelievable hospitality of the native people we then proceeded to treat with so much worse than callous disregard. They welcomed us, aided us and our eventual response as "foreign invaders" was to steal their land and destroy their way of life forever. Now, I know YOU specifically didn't do this and I didn't do this. But this "great country of ours" was built by "conquerors," for lack of a better word, and it seems small consolation that we still give thanks for naiveté of the Indians in not KILLING EVERY LAST ONE OF THE PILGRIMS while they were at a HUGE advantage. Most of the survivors of the voyage were women and children; one well planned ambush and the history of the world is altered forever. But they welcomed the Europeans and most of us, me included, are glad they did. Even though it was at a terrible cost to them. This Thanksgiving, leading Republican presidential candidates celebrate their sacrifice by calling on President Obama to suspend the plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Happy Thanksgiving, folks.
"The ends justify the means" is one of those sayings that is used pejoratively as often as not. As a species we have evolved enough from the time of the pilgrims to understand that some prices are too high to pay for victory -- our integrity chief among them. It was a very different world those settlers were living in...a new world...and the decisions they made and the immigrants that flowed into this country after them made were much more reasonable and understandable given the context of their times. And here we are, this amazing nation of immigrants, the Great American Melting Pot, people of all races and nationalities working and living and dying shoulder to shoulder. You can be a European; you can be an Asian; you can be an African and so on... but THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "REAL" AMERICAN. Unless, of course, you are talking about the descendants of the native tribes. It doesn't matter how many generations of your family were born here, they originally came from somewhere else and that is your heritage and your lineage. When you are the second owner of a house, you never get to say "I built this thing" because it will always be a lie. You inherited it, by hook or by crook. You are the new guy.
And here we are today. Our government-by-the-people is by-and-large a store bought commodity; the wealthy and corporations pulling the strings of the puppets they've paid to put in office. Our dream of religious freedom allows zealots to bully and marginalize; they are allowed to deny the services they are paid to offer to paying customers in the name of God. Our dream of equality for men is far from realized... never mind women. Our dreams of freedom from tyranny have been shaken to the core by oppressive, almost constant violent acts. Our right to bear arms has become our new oppressor, as we as of yet have no legal way to keep them out of the hands of lunatics with rage driven agendas. We look across the sea to the recent violence in France, and can't help but think of the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty, which was built in that country: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Our dreams of open arms welcoming the huddled masses, as our ancestors were once welcomed all but in tatters, as hate-mongers like Donald Trump make ridiculous threats to build "a wall" to keep our fellow man from entering our home.
Donald Trump and others like him want us to return to the ways of the old world, a world where oppressors rule, where might makes right, where a gun is a solution to every problem. And his mentality certainly makes sense in the world the settlers lived in; this country was founded on gun violence. The native people certainly could not have been overtaken without them; they were fierce and skillful warriors. And they defended their home and their ways with a brutality that would be applauded by Trump and those of his ilk... if they were white. No, guns were the winning hand for the people who conquered this land we proudly call the United States of America. We can't change that part of our history; perhaps a better restitution might be made to the ancestors of the people who welcomed us only to have their way of life torn away. They welcomed us, and a greater good could be achieved in this if only we could accept responsibility for it. One of the arguments against "illegal aliens" is that they are "taking our jobs". As someone who lived in Los Angeles for 9 years I can assure you that this isn't so. They are working the jobs you would never want and living in poverty because they do not legally need to be paid a living wage and THAT CITY WOULD DIE without them. Los Angeles runs on the gas of underpaid laborers. You know who is taking your job? People overseas that wealthy corporations pay peanuts to do a job that our unions would assure you were paid well for; your jobs are being taken away by people who already have more money than they know what to do with, believe me. Give me your poor indeed.
If you are buying into Donald Trump's agenda then I am very, very sorry for you. As hateful as our ancestors abuse of the native people seems in retrospect, they lived in a superstitious, narrow minded, survivalist world... kill or be killed, to the winner the spoils. That is not where we live today, nor should it ever be where we live tomorrow. Sophocles wrote: "All concerns of men go wrong when they wish to cure evil with evil". We look at the destruction a handful of lunatics enacted on a peaceful France and we ask ourselves, "Are we with them, or against them?" Because if your answer is violence, exclusion and marginalization of people different from you, you are with them. You are part of the problem, not the solution. Our ancestors came to this country hoping for a fair deal, no matter when they arrived. They wanted a chance to succeed, a chance to live their dreams, an opportunity to worship, work, and live as they chose. Some took this opportunity by force; some fought tooth and nail for it...but all were allowed. This Thanksgiving, let THAT be the heritage we celebrate. The open arms we were welcomed with, whether we deserved it or not. And let that be our restitution to the Native Americans: let us keep our hearts open to the huddled masses, whether from Syria, Mexico or elsewhere. And let us remember that violence begets violence, not progress or peace. Let us be thankful that we still have a choice about how to live our lives; let's not elect people who will diminish our freedoms, our goodness, our hope. Let's work for peace this Thanksgiving and vote for progress next November.