Letter: Immigrant-bashers ignore our sad history

Immigrant-bashers ignore our sad history

To the editor:

I, like many others in this country, am a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, who arrived on the shores of North America in the Mayflower close to 400 years ago, and were almost certainly present at the first celebration of Thanksgiving. There are probably those (Donald Trump among them) who would consider me and my fellow Mayflower descendants to be just about as American as it is possible to be. "There's a woman," they would say, "who really, really belongs here." I am supposed to be proud of this.

Unfortunately, these people seem to forget that in the 1620s, North America was already a group of nations peopled by indigenous tribes who undoubtedly felt, quite reasonably, that the land belonged to them. In their eyes, and rightfully so, my ancestors were immigrants. Did these first (European) immigrants behave like proper immigrants? Did they do their best to fit smoothly into the existing society? Did they learn to converse in the native language? Did they adopt the lifestyles, spiritual practices, clothing, housing, and rules of acceptable behavior of the nation they entered?

With few exceptions, no, they did not. With few exceptions, they looked upon the natives as a people to "civilize," to bring into conformity with their own standards of life as it should be lived. And they were very successful. Unfortunately, too successful.

Close to 400 years after the arrival of those first immigrants, the original Americans make do with reservation lands allotted to them by the U.S. government, struggling not to lose any more of the tribal languages, customs, history, legends, belief systems and respect for the environment which so enriched the lives of their ancestors. Alcoholism and poverty are all too common among them. And to many of the rest of us, they are largely invisible.

I find it extremely ironic that as we celebrate in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving, so many of those who wish to lead our country are vehemently, explosively opposed to letting other immigrants (besides the ones they themselves were descended from) into our country. "Keep America for Americans!" they shout. Had that standard been held to over the last 400 years, very few of us would be in this country today.

Martha King, South Egremont


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