Celebrating Thanksgiving, is America Following their True Values?
By: Amy Hensler/Arab America Contributing Writer
Thanksgiving is a holiday that was celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans long ago. It was prompted by the values of generosity, charity, unity, and humanity. In November 1621, the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth, Massachusettes to celebrate a good harvest and a friendship with the native tribe. A welcoming atmosphere, to say the least, and one that rested on the idea of inclusion.
America was built on the inclusion of immigrants, and this holiday, that we all celebrate in November, was about giving thanks to a new land and to a people who helped them cultivate it. Thanksgiving was a holiday that celebrated immigration to a new world. It was a world that held hope for religious tolerance and freedom and limitless opportunity. But now, when we gather with our families at the dinner table, these values are often forgotten and rarely mentioned when giving thanks on Thanksgiving, instead, these values that were celebrated since the year1621 are sadly traded for bigotry and consumerism.
The environment around immigrants keeps becoming more hostile as political leaders use them as scapegoats for phony politics. The rhetoric used against migrants as they try to flee economic and political instability for a new hope is not a generous one, and it is a language that goes against the nature of Thanksgiving.
Arabs, Muslims, Latinos and more come to this country to seek opportunity but instead, they are called nasty names, accused with crimes and met harshly in an environment that continuously works to kick them out.
Our country views illegal immigration as the worst crime a person can commit. Arrests of immigrants in America are up 43 percent, justified because illegal immigrants are breaking a law. However, the people coming into the country are those who seek better employment opportunities and a safe environment free of persecution. The consequence of deportation hangs over the heads of immigrants and has a direct negative impact on the situations in which they live.
Photo: Pew Research Center
Muslims and Arabs in America are also tied up in this hostility directed at immigrants. The immigrant experience is known among many Muslims in America, with 58 percent of Muslim adults originating from other parts of the globe. According to a Pew survey conducted in Jan 2017, 48 percent of Muslims say they have experienced at least one incident of discrimination within the past 12 months. Discrimination towards Muslims is not a new thing in America, but it is a condition that the pilgrims would have rejected. The pilgrims came in search of religious tolerance, and the administration of this presidency’s rhetoric does nothing to promote that message. In the same survey, at least three-quarters of Muslims say that Donald Trump is unfriendly towards Muslims in America. A leader that labels Arabs and Muslims as terrorists does not promote a welcoming environment for these populations.
In conclusion, this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to think back on the original values of the holiday and promote an environment that reflects back on the original values of the country.
*Immigrants, the lifeline for progress in this land (cite a number of Arab and Muslim immigrants to this country like Gibran Kahlil Gibran, the parents of Dr. Debakey, Steve Jobs’, Casey Kasem, Danny Thomas, and many more.