This video was filmed from my mother’s kitchen at the crack of dawn without the benefit of coffee or extended sleep for Tino. We’re lucky to have Tino with us on this Thanksgiving so we can remember the original American experience- the experience of being an immigrant, coming to a new land, becoming part of a multicultural nation.
For some of us, it happened to our parents or grandparents- we’ve only know it as a distant story, a narrative the older folks repeat and the younger ones ignore. We feel that being born here entitles us to greatness which we have neither earned nor deserved. And we frown on those struggling to begin a life here in the US amid the squalor of strict immigration quotas and a law that punishes, rather than protects, human life and dignity.
For me, I was brought to the US at the tender age of 3 and moved from “illegal alien” to “legal alien” and finally “naturalized” (oh the “immigration” language still disgusts me) at the age of 13. For most Americans, that means I am allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am grateful for that.
As you sit down to feast with family and friends today, remember that the humility of gratitude assumes that you are not deserving or worthy of the blessings and good fortune in your life. Humility is the core of gratitude. You don’t deserve your family, your feast, your health, your hair, or even your life.
When you find yourself thinking that the thing which really bothers you about illegal immigrants is that they are breaking the law, remind yourself of how many times you have broken the law. How many times you’ve climbed into a car to drive after drinking two beers (hey, that’s the law). How many times, how many ways. Be honest- it’s not your respect and love for legality but rather the failure of empathy and courage to take priority in your heart and mind that makes it easy to think all those immigrants should just go back to where they came from.
Then remember American history. Then remember how many times good people broke “the law” which maintained segregation and slavery in our history. Remember how conscientious objectors helped preserve religious freedom and honor the moral decision of others to refuse to kill. So much of what you love, so much of the freedom you live in this country, is a gift from those who broke unjust laws.
Imagine how pathetic our United States would be if we were forced by law to kill whenever the politicians in DC deemed it necessary. If women still could not vote (as originally envisioned in our land of free). If individuals were still held as property, as slaves, on the basis of their skin color. Maybe our America is as good and fine and free as those individuals who spoke truth to power and willingly stood for a freedom extended to all people, as opposed to the “deserving” few.
So here’s a thanks to our forefathers- not the dudes on the dollar bills- the real Americans who fought to turn another unfree country into the freer one we inhabit today. And here’s a thanks to all the immigrants still struggling and trying and demonstrating to remind us that freedom is bigger than our landscaping projects and DVR setups. And the biggest thanks of all to Christ, who breaks our hearts and allows us to see all the fossils of hate, all the hardened self-righteousness, all the logic and rationalizations, which keep his Spirit far from our hearts.