At Thanksgiving, we think of pilgrims, dinner, and stories about how white newcomers shared food with American Indians. In 2015, we need to remember more history, as my minister reminded his congregation today.
We should be grateful to American Indians for taking in our ancestors (unless you are a full-blooded American Indian), those fleeing persecution, imprisonment, or death, and for helping them survive in a new country. (The 1951 Refugee Convention definition is strikingly similar.)
Native Americans outnumbered Mayflower passengers, who were exhausted and weak from two months of travel.
They could have greeted our ancestors with Donald Trump's message to today's refugees, seeking shelter for similar reasons. They could have greeted them as we greeted the ocean liner St. Louis in 1939, carrying 900 Jews seeking safety (we refused entry, and hundreds of those passengers ended up in Nazi concentration camps).
Unlike us, who take 18 months to three years or more to process refugees with background checks from the State Department, Department of Defense, and Homeland Security, American Indians could not investigate desperate refugees in the 1600s, strange as their customs were to Native Americans.
We did not pay them back in kindness, unlike millions of refugees we have allowed to resettle here, who have become proud citizens and brought growth and a wealth of goodness to the U.S.
Refugees are not the enemy. They are the result of terror, not the perpetrators. Unlike Europe, the 6,680 miles that separates the U.S. from Syria (nearly half of that distance ocean) will not result in daily asylum seekers in the tens of thousands.
As we think of love and grace, let us live these values. Let us defy terrorists with our kindness to those they cause to flee. Hatred and fear have never made a country great.