It is that time of year again when we see the holidays peeking around the corner. The smell of turkey lingers in the air and mixes with the infamous complaints about in-laws. But what is the real meaning behind Thanksgiving?
The traditional story of how the Pilgrims and the Indians shared a meal together has been branded in our minds since childhood. As children, we were taught about the welcoming attitude and trust of the Native Americans toward the Europeans.
Although we still celebrate Thanksgiving today, the meaning has changed.
We typically associate it with family, some whom we love and some we care to do without. Family gatherings are good for the soul, but we should be able to extend that warm fuzzy feeling to those outside of our close circle.
By this, I do not just mean friends. And while getting involved to feed the homeless is a great experience, there is one more group of people worth considering.
The United States is on the brink of war with Iraq and is still trying to recover from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Because of these events, some people have lost trust in others or gained a sense of hostility toward foreigners.
Was it not the natives of this land who welcomed foreigners? Was it not the natives who showed the Pilgrims how to survive? Is the spirit of help, consideration and thanks the theme of the holiday we now degrade by titling it “Turkey Day?”
Remember that everyone, with the exception of Native American descendants, have descended from immigrants.
So why are we so ignorant when we hear the “I” word? Immigrants are the invisible backbone of this country.
During “Wheels,” a play about immigrants held at ULV in October, the audience was made aware that immigrants play a key role in the U.S. economy.
Fifty percent of the crops in northern California are maintained by immigrants. The basic truth is that American citizens are not likely to do back-breaking work, such as picking grapes, for such low wages. If U.S. citizens were to do this work, they would receive minimum wages. This would raise the cost of food, such as lettuce.
To us, the word “foreign” often translates to “different.” With these differences come stereotypes and generalizations, which have been very evident since Sept. 11.
Sure, it is only human to lose trust in someone after a shocking betrayal or after they hurt you. It takes time to heal.
Stereotyping and racial profiling, however, do not solve anything. In fact, they often times cause paranoia and anxiety. Stereotypes are the result of a lack of understanding.
Without accusing everyone and doing just what I am arguing against, this appears to be one American approach to foreigners. Just recall the Japanese “relocation” camps set up during World War II.
When we generalize, we are not displaying the true American spirit – the spirit the Native Americans showed to the Pilgrims.
When we overcome this, when we learn to accept each other’s differences, when we welcome others for their individuality, then we can truly appreciate the meaning of Thanksgiving.
Melissa Lau, a junior journalism and environmental biology major, is managing editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.