During an earlier chapter of my life I lived in New England and one summer took my kids to Plimouth Plantation as a way to give them a leg up on the history chapter in school that coming year. We loved the experience so much we paid for a family membership and even though it was a 3.5 hour drive from home, went back several times over the next year.
Located south of Boston in Warren Cove, Plimouth Plantation is a recreation of the colony established in 1620. Started in 1947 and with continual acquisitions and expansions since then, this is one of the best living history museums I have visited. The docents, all dressed in period attire and doing actual work in the manner used in the 1620s and 1630s, never fall out of character.
For example, a plane flying overhead requires a pause in the discussion and elicits only a comment about “the noisy bird”. We adults visited after hours one evening for an hour in a settler’s home and could not tease any reference to the modern world at all. After I while I stopped and just enjoyed learning from them about the very real world the early colonists built. For example, I had not realized that over half of the colonist were NOT Puritans and that Plymouth was first and foremost a commercial endeavor. The religious aspect of many of the settlers was accepted as a way to populate a difficult and challenging venture.
The challenge of moving to a new land is re-enacted even today by the many refugees as well as other people who chose to move to another land which is not their land of birth. The United States has long been a magnet, offering freedoms of all kinds unknown in some places. I am the grandchild of immigrants and I hope I don’t need to remind you that you, too, unless you are 100% Native American, have a cultural heritage from another place.
Many of us are aware of the issues of illegal immigrants entering the US hoping for a better life. It is very easy for us to take a position that they are “stealing our jobs” but I challenge you to look around your community at the able-bodied people who do not work, who may be enrolled in one or more public assistance programs. If we can not provide incentive to people born here in the U.S. to be productive members of society, perhaps we NEED fresh blood, people who fight to get here, to build a future.
On a trip to the Eastern Shore a few summers ago we toured a crab factory. There the owner told us how he had applied for 100 seasonal migrant workers, people who came year after year to work for him for six months, before returning home to their families in Central America or Mexico. The government had only permitted him 60 work visas and so, understaffed, those people worked, supplementing the few local workers who were willing to work eight hours a day, picking crab meat. It is not easy work.
Look in your town’s upscale neighborhoods next summer and see who is working on the landscaping and grounds crews. Check into who is picking the fruit and vegetables you eat. Remember the fight by Cesar Chavez in California in the 1970s to get better wages for the migrant farm workers? Remember how the price of grapes went from 49 cents to over a dollar and how you had mixed feelings about paying that?
This Thanksgiving, please please please take some time at your table to really have a heartfelt discussion on the things that you have…the things you SHOULD be grateful for. Try to help children move into a better awareness that, despite where you are in the economic spread here in the U.S. that they are among the wealthiest in the world. That the meal that they are stuffing themselves on could provide days of food for many people in some villages.
I don’t throw that out for guilt…..please enjoy your food and your celebration…..but as a reminder that once, your ancestors had the same dream as the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The refugees today who make it to our shores, either legally or otherwise, have the same dream.