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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Viewing Pilgrims as Unwelcome Immigrants

(Just one more Thanksgiving piece, and a good one. - JB ed.)

As we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week, we would be wise to remember the Pilgrims. Not just by looking at the interestingly attired characters who appear on greeting cards and school decorations but really remember them — why they came here, the challenges they faced and what they were able to overcome.

First of all, no wall had been built so they were able to get in and settle here. That’s not to suggest the Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims with open arms — they didn’t — and in fact, during one of the first encounters between the two, the Native Americans shot arrows and the Pilgrims answered with gunfire.

But even as far back as the 1600s, folks seemed to accept that you simply couldn’t keep everyone out. Even if you didn’t want them here and you thought they posed a threat to your way of life, if they were trying to get away from a bad situation in their homeland, people seemed to understand that they weren’t going to just turn around and leave and you couldn’t chase them all away.

In coming to North America, the Pilgrims faced bureaucratic red tape, internal squabbles, sabotage, storms, disease — many died both during the trip and upon arrival — as well as those very uncertain relations with the indigenous people. But they were trying to escape a volatile political climate in England that threatened their religion — so they came. They seemed to feel that was the only way they could find true religious freedom and opportunity — so they came.

Interestingly, it was a Native American by the name of Tisquantum who proved to be one of the major peace brokers. His tribe had been wiped out by disease and he came to live with the Pilgrims. Along with other Native Americans, he taught the Pilgrims better ways to farm and the best places to catch fish. Historians say neither side really trusted Tisquantum but apparently he was a pretty decent diplomat since the peace lasted for about 50 years.

Immediately after the first bountiful harvest in 1621, the Pilgrims decided they would celebrate by praising God and feasting. Instead of treating the Native Americans like second-class citizens and trying to make people scared of them, the governor of Plymouth invited them to join in the celebration that would later come to be known as Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims fed and entertained the Native Americans for three days and then the Native Americans went in the forest, killed five deer and gave them to the governor as a gift.

I know a history lesson won’t cure the xenophobia that now plagues our country. People have been pointing out for quite some time that we’re a nation of immigrants and that seems to do little if anything to quell the immigration debate.

But the debate just seems so very odd this week when we all pause to celebrate a holiday that wouldn’t even exist if two very different groups of people hadn’t found a way to live in the same land. It obviously wasn’t easy; they just found a way. We should be thankful.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

Thanks for the new perspective on Thanksgiving

It's a good couter to today's 'rhetoric'.

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