On November 26, 2015, here in the USA there was a celebration. It is called Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is celebrated by many Americans as a day when the ‘Injuns and pilgrims feasted together in harmony’. When possible, families gather to spend the day eating a plenteously-sized meal, and go over the things for which they are thankful.
When I came to the U.S. I heard of a couple of stories behind the meaning of Thanksgiving. I heard it marked a day in American history when pilgrims came from England and after having being helped to plant food by some Natives, they all gathered and had a big feast with the first harvest. I was also told that there was an exchange in which the Natives gave the English food like wild game, and the English gave the Natives blankets contaminated with smallpox which wiped out almost an entire First Nation. So it is that without researching further, I knew I didn’t want to celebrate this particular thanksgiving day without looking into its history first. I was okay with my family gathering, eating good food, and giving thanks for all that I had. I just wasn’t about giving thanks for the planned killing of anyone.
During the course of my life I have figured out that I am too idealistic. I am also fairly optimistic, so saying that I am ‘too’ idealistic feels wrong. However, as life has proven, I am too much of an idealist. That’s okay; I am still staying true to that for I am sure there is purpose in it, and I am rewiring some other thinking patterns. All this to say, that by the time I heard of the smallpox story, I knew there was a great chance that this had actually happened. The idealist in me immediately asked why any human would cause suffering and death to his fellow, but Sophia the realist started going down a list of atrocities that she knew about, that would make this new information less shocking.
The research I did before was in books I do not recollect the titles of. I presently did some more research, though, and I came across a story that an educator put together so the truth about the First Thanksgiving day may be shared with elementary school-aged children. With this story there were books cited and more information given in a more graphic manner than that written for young children.
I read the article and I leave it to you to read it as well. As I scrolled down and read more, I read the following paragraph and immediately I thought about the current situation in Syria, its people who are fleeing war seeking refuge amongst other human beings, and how many of said other humans are responding to this need. This paragraph reminds us of the history of U.S. Americans’ Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and so it is ironic that any of their descendants should feel okay saying Syrian refugees aren’t welcome to this land.
“….The Puritan “Pilgrims” who came to New England were not simply refugees who decided to “put their fate in God’s hands” in the “empty wilderness” of North America, as a generation of Hollywood movies taught us. In any culture at any time, settlers on a frontier are most often outcasts and fugitives who, in some way or other, do not fit into the mainstream of their society. This is not to imply that people who settle on frontiers have no redeeming qualities such as bravery, etc., but that the images of nobility that we associate with the Puritans are at least in part the good “P.R.” efforts of later writers who have romanticized them.(1) It is also very plausible that this unnaturally noble image of the Puritans is all wrapped up with the mythology of “Noble Civilization” vs. “Savagery….” Chuck Larsen quoting Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., “The White Man’s Indian”.
We were driving by downtown the other day (what city is irrelevant) and saw people standing by the side of the road with signs reading ‘Refugees are not welcome here’. Immediately my mind rewound to when outcasts from England came here, and it is their descendants who are now standing on the side of the street saying they don’t want refugees here. These current refugees aren’t even outcasts, they are simply people who are no longer safe in the country they know as home. I say this very simply because I cannot pretend to understand what Syrians and all people in the middle of war zones are going through. Many Americans can afford to feel so detached because the war isn’t on American soil. However, we are at war, and the side of war we do not see here, is the side where there are humans who are suffering and dying. It’s easy to not put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we don’t see or know what they are going through. To feel anything but heartbreak or anger when seeing footage of women, children, and men being carried…body parts dangling, faces torn…. of children’s bodies washing up on shore or lined up with other dead children’s bodies… to know that there are humans who feel something other than heartbreak or anger, and who instead feel good as if these ‘strange people from a foreign country’ deserve it, is heartbreaking! It’s the kind of thing that makes me ashamed of being human. We have become so accustomed to these imaginary lines dividing our world, that we believe they are actually real. Otherwise, how could we feel anything but compassion for a father trying to find refuge for his remaining family?
I know I think too ideally. I know this. And I also know that because of this I tend to leave challenging questions and conversations alone. Truth is, though, that as a person I am hurt every time I see a sign/banner, a meme, or other social media image, saying something negative about a refugee. It’s like there is no compassion and history is forgotten. Actually… history isn’t forgotten. History is re-written; which is why the truth about Thanksgiving is not told in schools. It is changed a little, and changed a little more, until it is just the nice Pilgrims and the Indians who were sharing a nice harvest feast. This is why people forget where they came from, and this is part of the reason why when it comes to deciding whether or not we would welcome a refugee into our city or country, we feel comfortable and proud in saying “No, refugees are not welcome here!”
Ultimately my point is this: We are human. All of us. Chinese, Kenyan, Norwegian, Sioux, Japanese, Syrian, Mexican, Goan, etc… etc… etc…
We are all… human. How dare we not extend our hand in support of our fellow human in need?
Let’s not forget where we have come from, and let’s work together to build a better humanity. For those of us feeling a bit more self-assisting than altruistic (for whatever the reason), it may be good to remember that helping another person makes us feel good inside. If we were to die the moment after helping another living thing (human or otherwise), maybe our sincere moment of kindness would redeem us from other times when we weren’t so kind. Thus it is that extending our hand to someone in need is a win-win.
Hopefully, if there ever comes a time when we need help, someone will reach out and say “Come, you are welcome here.”
Are you and idealist or a realist? How do you feel it affects how you think about world issues?
Photo credit to Rakel Sánchez
. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.
Interesting conversations about world events happen behind the scenes at World Moms Blog. A few weeks ago, we grieved and expressed shock at the terrorist attacks that fanned out across Paris, France, taking the lives of 130 people. Nigeria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Mali were also on our minds. So, with the permission of the World Moms, here is a glimpse into their thoughts just after the Paris attacks a few weeks ago…
Jackie Jenkins in Jordan:
Pema Chodron’s words.
“When I think about the tragedies in Paris and in Lebanon and in fact in many places in the world, It seems to me that’s it’s very clear that the cause is hatred. Therefore I feel for people that are committed to waking up and being of benefit to others, the key is for us is to not nurture hatred in our hearts. It may seem beyond many of us to feel compassion for the perpetrators, but probably the most important thing is for us to not add any more aggression to the planet, but to add as much open kindness and open heartedness as we can.”
Words for us all to internalise and meditate on.
Sophia from the USA:
“My heart is heavy. Too many lives…pointlessly lost. People who, just by the act of living, have been killed in the most horrific ways.
As of November 13th, 2015, I began seeing the French flag on many a face on Facebook. Surely, a sign of solidarity (I knew this from the Rainbow Flag, which supports LGBT rights).
However, on November 14th, I start seeing images and status updates of people wondering why the same media coverage that was given to Paris, wasn’t given to Beirut (Lebanon), when the same attackers had just killed and wounded a total of 243 people just the day before the attacks in Paris.
This stopped me in my tracks. Yes, why did I not see the same extent of coverage of this? There were no Lebanese flags on people’s Facebook profiles. What is World Moms Blog, if not a place for us to bring up these very hard topics? To give a voice to the voiceless.”
Michelle Pannell from the UK:
“What happened in France last Friday is devastating and the outcry from the public is of course understandable. As a Brit I painfully feel the tragedy as Paris is a city I have been to, I have fond memories of and I currently live with a few French people. Living in an international community makes my heart stretch and want to embrace the world and no, not just the white developed world.
I want to embrace and care for all parts of the world. Currently there are 23 nationalities represented within our community, that is people from the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. Each one of those people adds something just a little different, special and unique to the lifeblood here and I do not value any one of them more or less because their skin is white or because they speak English as their first language.
Yes, we are all Christians, I live in a Christian community but I suspect every one of us has friends of other religions and none. I will not ostracise people because they are Muslim.” Read Michelle’s full post on her blog, Mummy from the Heart.
Nadege Nicoll in the USA:
“As a French citizen, I think that now more than ever, it is important to help Syrian refugees who have been victims for years. We shouldn’t turn our back, our arms must open even wider.”
Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria:
“God said in the Qur’an to kill one human is like killing humanity. We have to unite and let the goodness in us all outshine. A terrorist attack to anyone anywhere in the world is a terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.
God rest the souls of the dead and console the families of the departed all over the world. It’s not easy.”
An excerpt taken from her post, “NIGERIA: A Muslim Mother Recounts News of Paris Attacks” to be published next week.
Cindy Levin in the USA:
I’d like to share the words of my pastor, Reverend Pamela Dolan in St Louis, Missouri.
Please let’s be gentle about how we monitor and correct other people’s prayers and grief.
If you think Americans are more upset about France than about Lebanon or Syria etc, you are probably right. As a society, we must look inward and ask why, and we must do better. But as individuals the reasons for our response are diverse and are not always a result of racism or a deep, unacknowledged Western bias. Some of us have spent time there, or dreamed of traveling there. Some of us have friends there, or family roots. Some of us are simply responding to a lifetime of seeing Paris as a symbol of liberty, equality, and brotherhood.
Rather than criticize how others are expressing sympathy, let’s use this moment of compassion to help expand the circle. Let’s not make suffering a zero-sum competition. There is love enough, and grief enough, to go around. It’s a teachable moment, yes, but not a time for judgment.
Here’s what I think. If you’re hurting right now, you’re probably doing it right. Remember that only a broken heart is big enough to encompass the wounds of the world. Healing has to start somewhere. Peace.”
Mama B. in Saudi Arabia:
“There is a huge imbalance in coverage and condemnation of terror attacks when they happen in my neck of the woods then when it does in Europe. There should be just as much outrage and condemnation. I pray for the day that these incidents are old news or not so constant that covering them would basically mean not covering any other story… its heartbreaking.
Also, what’s happening is a test of our humanity and tolerance. And our ability to see through our pain and be just. It’s the Syrians who have been effected the most. Tortured raped and killed in their own homes. The stories I hear from Syrians who have come into Saudi are horrifying.”
Jennifer Burden in the USA:
“The community behind our digital space weaves even stronger when we are gripped with the realization of a natural or human made disaster. Last Friday we put a call out in our private contributors’ Facebook group to locate Marie Kleber, our contributor in Paris. The next morning we were happy to hear that she was safe, as we mourned the deaths of 129 (now 130) people in Paris with her and offered support.
The news of the world is immediately applicable to our network behind the blog and to our readers. These times motivate us stronger to make peace in the world possible. Peace IS Possible. Peace is Possible in every corner of our earth. We can all learn to love. We can, no matter what our thoughts and views on issues, find a common tie. Here, on World Moms Blog, it is motherhood. We must move forward in kindness and olive branches and put down the weapons and get out the telephones, the tea cups and listen to each other. We must make room for acceptance. Could you imagine the amazing things humanity could achieve once this is possible?”
What’s on your mind?
This is an original collaborative post to World Moms Blog by our contributors.
Image credit to World Moms Blog.