Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: Celebrate the blessings, not the mythology; Pilgrims did not bring progress

I was driving early this morning to Mass in a very conservative county when I passed a car with a bumper sticker that read: "Have a problem with immigrants? Talk to the Indians."

How appropriate a message, I thought, on the eve of Thanksgiving.

America's history -- written mostly from the European perspective -- tells us that the Pilgrims brought progress to a the New World, which wasn't new at all to the Indians who lived here for centuries and made great advances in the sciences and mathematics.

Yet to the North American continent in 1607 came a group of people fleeing religious persecution -- only to unleash centuries of persecution on people here that continues today.

So on this Thursday, don't buy into the happy scene of Pilgrims and Indians sitting at a table eating peacefully -- creating a Hallmark Card warm, fuzzy feeling for the nation. The exact opposite was take hold of this continent in the terrorizing and murdering innocents for generations to come.

Granted, the Indians in their various nations were not all that kind to each other. They enslaved, they butchered, they cheated. But they also had their own governments, like the Oneidas in upstate New York.

Most of all, however, these native Americans were here first -- just as all the immigrant-haters such as Lou Dobbs claim now for themselves with all their venom aimed at people who look like me and my ancestors.

A century or more earlier on the same continent in what is now Mexico, Europeans unleashed the same inhumanity on Indians who were there first. The Spanish Conquest was supposed to bring civilization to the savages. Instead, it brought savagery that seems to grow each year in this country and in Mexico and on the streets of LA.

And after the Spanish were done, citizens from a new nation called the United States of America swept down into Texas and New Mexico with guns and stole lands from Mexican ranchers who had held the property with written deed in their families for centuries.

You won't find those stories in history textbooks in elementary and high school classrooms across the country.

You won't find the following story either. A few years ago, I was getting my hair cut by an African-American hairdresser on the eve of Thanksgiving. And I innocently asked her how she and her son were going to celebrate the holiday.

"We don't celebrate Thanksgiving," the woman said adamantly. "It brought too much suffering into this world."

And the Europeans that followed the Pilgrims did bring 400,000 Africans in the bellies of ships -- chained to one another to cross the Atlantic Ocean -- to live and die as slaves on what would one day be labeled the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tell me: What kind of uplifting virtues of liberty and courage reside in the hearts and minds of those who enslave human beings, and their children and their children? Presidents Jefferson and Jackson -- both heroes of the Democratic Party nationally, still are celebrated in annual gatherings despite being slaveowners and hypocrites. Republicans would not be allowed the same hypocrisy in their fundraising.

When this nation finally learn and recognize the truth of its inhumanity?

Thanksgiving is a most proper day to thank God for all the blessings he has bestowed on our lives. But reject the myth in the history textbooks, that the illegal-immigrant Europeans from Spain to England to Portugal brought any real sense of progress to this nation.

Actually, they took us a further step back from any affirmation of humanity and toward a greater loss of life and liberty.

No comments: