Fellow Americans, those who celebrated Thanksgiving or didn’t yesterday, this post is dedicated to you. Yesterday, I was thinking about our country’s history, and if you look in the books, it is truly not enough. Sadly, a book is one of the only ways to display the beginning of our nation since all those who traveled on ships such as the Mayflower have died and been buried in the ground. I’m not sure where I should start, but I’ll start with my best page 1.
I got a disturbing email about Congress’s attempts to shut the door on refugees. This is a disgraceful measure if in any case this action is taken. We are not a nation of peace, in fact we only had seventeen years of peace. I have to say this: it all began in 1492. When the storied voyage of Columbus took place, this whole continent was a pristine wilderness inhabited by Arawak or Tano tribesmen and women, however, Columbus had European aspirations, and in so doing, took a few men captive. Even when Erik the Red, and later Leif Ericson discovered this continent, there were no repercussions for the Natives who were here. However, post-voyage, there was much to be desired of the New World. The Europeans had a kind of arrogance about them, a kind of ethnocentric pride whereby finding gold, God, and Glory were the priorities. With this in mind, millions of Natives were told to convert to the European ethnocentric version of Christianity, but that never seemed to work for some. Some converted and found joy, but many were raped or abused because of European ethnocentricity. This saga continued on through two hundred years of Spanish conquests in places that would become Florida and Mexico. Some of this was good, including the conquest of Aztec lands, but the Inca tribes suffered despite the advancements this people made for this world. The king or head of the Incas was strangled on order from some arrogant Europeans who wanted his gold. By 1621, a different story played out in England and other places hailing to be under the rule of Britain. A ragtag band of Puritans which did not like the rule of the British kings who decreed that all the people must be Anglican, aboard a ship called the Mayflower, came ashore on a place we’d now call Massachusetts and came to Plymouth, where the famous rock is now on display. These people called themselves Pilgrims, but in reality, they were among the first refugees to come to our borders. The Puritans had their society built the way they wanted until a brutal winter came. Many of the colonists died that winter, but through the next year, the Puritan leaders came across a group of Natives with all the proper know how regarding planting crops in the New England woods, and these people showed the Puritan people how to plant and harvest and hunt game. For this, the Puritan people wanted to thank the Natives and God for the effort that was put in that year for the harvest and the friendship between the Native people and the refugee group that had settled in their midst.
While the Puritans had squabbles of their own, the First Thanksgiving was not the end of it all. Fastforward to around the 19th century. When Ireland suffered famine due to inadequate crops and a fungal infection tearing apart the homeland, many thousands of Irish fled to what would now be called the United States of America, settling cities, building our railways, etc. These men, women, and children all had work to do, but it was hope they found upon seeing the Statue of Liberty. On the base is written, “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It went on to say another thing, bring them all to me. However, the Irish refugees of this period suffered much discrimination, and yet their spirit could not be broken. The same pattern of oppression by ethnic Protestant White Anglos occurs again and again to the Natives, who suffered catastrophic patterns of genocide like the Trail of Tears for the Cherokee nation, the Forced Marches of the Navajo, and many more. You can blame Andrew Jackson for this, and he was a slaveholding White Anglo Protestant guilty of raping and abusing his slaves like so many other planters were but no one cared. Then, there were three Seminole wars in what would be my home state, Florida, and even more, while fighting the Natives, there was a period of time when the wealthiest planters were exposed for abusing those beneath them. There were abolitionists, muckrakers, etc. Many times we told the ethnic selfish planters to free all those who were forced into servitude without pay, but no, these people refused to do as we said. We eventually fought brother against brother, and so the slaves were emancipated. It was the president Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, declaring it the last Thursday in November, as it has been ever since.
Thanksgiving became more prevalent as years passed, but today, we see no reason to learn from past history. After the Emancipation of all African American persons held under slavery, we still had fear of the color black. We still held Native Americans to the reservation lands, trying in vain to apologize, but yet we failed to see the disproportionate unemployment and repeated calls for help from molested young women, or we overlooked the true nature of Native peoples. In the late nineteenth century, we tried, as countless others have, to stamp out Native “spirit” cultures in our nation, doing this to all kinds of people in the west: Navajo, Chickasaw, Cherokee, everybody who we thought we’d cure by, among other things, cutting the girls’ hair, not allowing them to speak their native tongues. We tried, but let’s say that there is no need to step forward. We failed. Native tribes must be respected as the keepers of the land we now call home. Today, we also face imminent threats on all aspects of our society. We wish we could slam the door on Syrians, on top of registering Muslims, but the founders of our nation and the Constitution writers would scoff at this. Congress cannot set apart Muslims because they’re Muslims. We’ve done this in some ways to the Natives we encountered, Irish and other Catholic enclaves and communities, Poles and Russians, and during the Second World War, we tried to single out the Japanese Americans because we were so paranoid that these people were acting as spies for their homeland. Now, we wish to do this to all ethnic groups perporting to practice Islam. This is a clear violation of the law in all respects. May I also point out that voting for Donald Trump will signal an end to the Constitutionality of politics as we know it. We’re facing a threat from Isis, whatever definition this holds. But I plead with you all as a nation, whether you like it or not, listen to what I’m about to say.
When I arrived in Colorado, I met someone who to this day shows us the refugee thing is not over. Unlike the viewpoints of people thinking that Immigrant families are parasites, this young man is proof that this is not the case. Deq Ahmed, a Somali refugee who flew here from Kenya, started his life as a boy in Somalia, a failed state in the Horn of Africa. Deq became blind due to a bout with the measles and the lack of support due to the Somali civil war. Deq’s mother lost a few of her babies, Africa being full of maternal and infant or young child death in most families. Deq’s father and mother eventually passed away, leaving Deq, his brother Ibrahim, also blind, and younger sister Asha and another brother to hold up what is left of the parental lineage. Deq later sought shelter with his uncle, Aden, who was married to Nadifa Mohammed, who bore nine children but lost two. Nadifa’s youngest child, a girl, is by the law of the soil, a citizen of the United States. When Deq failed to graduate from Thicka High School for the Blind, he sought refuge here in Denver with Aden and his family, including Nadifa and her seven children mostly born and raised in Kenya. Up to now, Deq would not have had the chance to become a working man, and his uncle later said that Deq would need a way to become independent, learn to financially provide, etc. Deq found a place in Littleton, set up shop there, and learned to survive or thrive on his own terms, even learning to cook his favorite stuff. He isn’t much for American food, but oh well, no one is sometimes. Deq continues to flourish, after having received a degree in Human Services, worked with female victims with disabilities who suffered abuse and trauma, and then decided to move with Asha and her husband and children to Columbus, Ohio. Now, he is a phone translator for Somali immigrants all over the country, so he is making an impact on people, and he is paying taxes for his work. His uncle has had various jobs, but the transportation industry is flooded with these immigrant nations who are struggling to make ends meet. I know Aden and his children are probably doing well, but the truth behind the refugee crisis here in this country is that it never seems to end. When Irish and Italian refugees came here seeking shelter from war, famine, etc., they faced poverty and hardship due to their perceived problems, but take a close look at some of the most hard workers in America. I’ll say this: my dad’s lineage is made up of Italian house builders, and my dad is one of among thousands of people who innovated the way we explore the reaches of space. My dad’s program ended with Obama but he still works hard, bringing home enough currency to pay off everything from the grocery bill to the mortgage. My dad being a math nut, along with my mom, were descendants from … yep, refugees. In the email I received yesterday, it was said that Steve Jobs’ biological father was also a refugee. Many refugees have played a role in our country’s shaping and the Constitution’s founding and ratification. Why the hell is Congress thinking of shutting this country to Syrians? We have been guilty of many crimes as a people, but among other things, genocide and ethnic discrimination are the top two. Tell your Congressman or Senator to please remember Deq and other refugees who impact us in ways great and small. Whether Pole, Irish, Cuban, or Somali, we’re all created in God’s image and likeness, and this hatred of Muslims is just one more way this country will go to the tubes.