As Nov. 22 comes around, families across the United States will be gathering around their dining room tables, weighted under the plethora of steaming dishes fragrant with spices, of hopes and high spirits, of family and of American pride. Families across the United States will be putting aside their differences for dinner, to congratulate each other on their patriotism, to ignore the historical genocide behind their plentiful meal and to be thankful for the sanctity of the American people — the land of the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. On Thanksgiving day, we celebrate our right to our American identity.
In my family’s home, Thanksgiving means a table creaking under towering plates of steamed sweet potatoes, soups, salads, breads, corn, dips and fillings. It means a table draped with garlands and wine-colored tablecloths. It means a table centered by the most traditionally Americanized turkey imaginable. Our Thanksgiving table could be a brief glimpse into Martha Stewart’s November daydreams. Our Thanksgiving means a table surrounded by an immigrant guest list — a beautiful and glorious Russian family of which I am the first generation to be born American.
My immigrant grandparents make toasts to this country of opportunity and of a new life with grateful tears in their eyes, while my immigrant parents bless our table with the food of this country, uniquely void of our traditional cultural meals. My immigrant family, who fought and worked and molded their new identity, are some of the most patriotic people I’ve ever met. So for me, Thanksgiving is an annual reminder that America had refugee origins. And with that reminder comes the disgust that I feel toward America’s political attitude concerning refugees today.
To some extent, recent American politics have paved a road for the disgraceful, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric. Recent elections have highlighted demographic values and reflected opinions of morality, and have supported a head of state who continues to dishonor the flames of liberty and acceptance, which the Statue of Liberty herself holds high. We have allowed the immigrant-targeted discourse to run rampant across news articles and TV headlines today.
How can “We the people of the United States,” a country first established by the voices of the misheard and underrepresented, supported by the blood of the slaves and expanded by the presence of immigrants, enriched by the art and culture and foods of people all over the world, suddenly be so heartlessly objecting and openly uncivil to refugees? How can we slander them, dishonor them, dehumanize them and separate their families in the name of the American nation? Are we not being hypocritical in denying their chance to become U.S. citizens?
If it weren’t for our refugee ancestors, the pillaging colonials and yearning immigrants from around the world, if it weren’t for our vicious history, our dishonorable rise to power, our outdated policies representing the modern people of the United States, not a single proud American could be sitting around their Thanksgiving table in their Swedish Ikea chairs, savoring their delicious Italian wine, sporting clothing outsourced from Asian countries and using their West Germanic-based language.
We are a country founded as an immigrant nation, a refuge for those seeking new life. This Thanksgiving, as you sit around your table with your family, I urge you to be more critically thankful for being there. And please, think about giving someone else a chance to be thankful as well.
Hannah Gulko is a junior majoring in human development.