Thanksgiving can be America at its best, or its worst

(mgstanton/flickr)

Opinion

Hundreds of thousands of people will travel from their homes in the next few days. Here in the U.S., the mass movement is to celebrate Thanksgiving. For people living in Burundi, Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, leaving home is a matter of survival. They may never return.

The United States must keep to its promise to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. It is an effective way to fight the terrorism of the Islamic State. Providing safe haven for people in need is at the heart of the American dream.

Migration is the foundation upon which the U.S. rests. Native Americans did not have a choice when European settlers arrived on their shores. Pilgrims and other migrants came to the Americas fleeing persecution and seeking better lives, and imposed themselves on the people already inhabiting this land.

The country today is shaped by the movement of people, from the expansion westward, to the arrival of European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, from the forced taking of Africans for the use of slavery, to the arrival of refugees seeking safety on our shores. The story of migration in the U.S. is as ugly as it is essential.

Thanksgiving marks the gathering of family and friends. It embodies both the strong bonds within this country, protected by the barriers of our homes, white picket fences, states and national border walls. The day is emblematic of a decision the country faces – provide a place of safety for the world’s most vulnerable or turn our backs to what surrounds us and ignorantly enjoy our feast.

Shunning Syrian refugees is just one of the many ways people reject the needs of the least among us. More than 1 million Americans will celebrate the holiday living on less than $2 per day. Our failure to support the poorest Americans is in step with the rising rejection of Syrian refugees. We are uncomfortable when faced with the reality of poverty and suffering. It feels better not to think about the hardships more than 1 billion people face around the world.

Solidarity is not changing a Facebook profile picture to the French flag after a great tragedy. It is actively supporting the policies that will ensure the protection of people in need – including Syrian refugees.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.