Thanksgiving Day will be celebrated across the United States this Thursday. When my daughter was little she used to call it “Giftgiving” because it seemed harder for her to say it correctly. However I think that is an accurate description of the day. We should be giving thanks for our gifts. We were taught that this day signified a day when the first settlers shared a feast with the native peoples in peace and harmony. That, however, is not exactly the correct history of neither the birth of this nation nor the treatment of the people who were found here. Those European settlers, escaping political and religious persecution in their own countries, landed on these shores to start a new life and in many cases, the native peoples were just in the way.
The world today is in a tumultuous place. Terrorism has become organized and the attacks worldwide over the past month have left everyone reeling. It seemed easy to turn off the news when attacks happened in far off places, after all those countries are in constant turmoil, or so western media would have one believe. But suddenly that famous city of Light and culture, Paris, was hit not once, but twice in a year. Devastating coordinated attacks. And suddenly they have everyone’s attention.
The biggest backlash for these actions are falling on the Syrian refugees who, like our early American forefathers, are fleeing political, religious persecution and violence in their own country in the hope of finding a better life. Many countries are opening their doors to this mass influx of men, women and children. It is a massive and complicated undertaking. But it is the right thing to do. However, many of the leaders and prospective leaders in the United States are using these attacks to foster fear of the unknown. Now it is widely preached that refugees should not be accepted into this country because the terrorists can hide among their numbers and come in that way. Many governors have already said they will not accept refugees into their state. They do not see that by taking this action, the terrorists have already beaten them. I am so proud to live in a state where the governor has refused to be dictated by fear and fear mongering. He has stated that we will take refugees here. He will not allow our humanity to be compromised by those who have sacrificed theirs.
The people who would lead this country are preaching hate and intolerance. There has been a suggestion that only certain religious groups be admitted. Other suggestions are that certain ethnic groups wear identity badges or carry certain ID cards. How little we have learned from the past! Native peoples were pushed from their lands and relocated into reservation land, their populations decimated from illness, violence and neglect after the first settlers landed on these shores. American citizens of Japanese descent had property, money and possessions taken from them and they were herded into internment camps on US soil after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Jewish people were forced to wear yellow stars in Europe during WW2. Palestinian people are required to have ID cards and pass through fences and checkpoints to go to work. How can this be right? Will the racism and profiling never stop?
Am I afraid? Yes, I am afraid. But I am just as afraid of the people who would serve as my president as I am of the person strapping on a bomb filled vest and walking into a busy marketplace. Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”.
A moving moment after the Paris attacks was the image of a lone musician, playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” on his piano outside of the Bataclan Concert Hall. He wanted to remind the world that we could still imagine a place without hate and war even if we have to dream it first. Terrorists can only take our spirits if we let them.
And so this Thursday I will celebrate Giftgiving. I am blessed with the gift of birth and circumstance. By the grace of God, go I. I am blessed with the gift of food filling my home with wonderful smells, a warm fire in my living room, the cadence of my children’s voices as they laugh together safe in my home. I cannot minimize these blessings. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
I sincerely hope we can bring peace on earth in my children’s lifetime. Their world is so different then the world was when I was their age. And yet they are not sad or fearful. They vow to live as they want on their terms. They are cautious but live happy, full lives. They enjoy their city of music and life. For this I am grateful because it means the terrorists will never win. And that in itself is a gift.
Happy Giftgiving to you and yours.