Okay, expats don’t hate your Thanksgiving. Who wouldn’t love turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes (x3), and the start of Christmas tunes!?
The thing that really irks me though is the mentality behind it. We’re supposed to be grateful and genuine. Between all the headlines in the news lately and the constant stream of negativity seen in my newsfeed as of late, it’s a wonder anyone has anything to be grateful for.
Not to mention that the entire concept of Thanksgiving as an expat is centered on the idea of universal acceptance. It’s disheartening to know that I am better received abroad, not as an American but as a human being, than how we receive those that are different from us back at “home.”
Thanksgiving is the re-enactment and the celebration of foreigners going abroad and being received warmly and curiously. But today, the same guests around the table only want those that have the British accents or the Italian charm. Red flags begin to wave when someone has a Mexican tan or an Asian cut.
For a country whose history has marked it as a land of the wild, reckless, and free, we’ve surely done a good job at turning the positive connotations of those words in their negative counterparts.
In a land that was once belonging to not only the English, but also the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Natives, we’ve done a good job at clearly staking out who belongs and who doesn’t.
As we grow older and wiser, we tend to seek out a balance of isolation and openness; it is when we are young that we are bold and endearing, teenagers lofty, overconfident, and even gluttonous in our entitlement. Let us as a country and a community of people not fall into infancy, assuming the entire sandbox is ours because we were there first.
To the older generations: you send your children traveling to the far reaches of the globes in the hopes that they will see the world and gain those opportunities that you never had. Yet, we turn away the children of the mother from Latin America who also sent her children far away riding on thin dreams of missed opportunities.
If nothing else this Thanksgiving, do not close the doors to America. Don’t make English the only tongue. Don’t shun those that arrive speaking English as well as you arrive at the Eiffel speaking French.
Don’t criticize Wall Street and politicians for their tax breaks, education, and fancy toys, when the rest of the world will look at you throughout Black Friday and the rest of the year in much the same fashion.
Because the simple truth is: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But my mother’s heart breaks all the same whether I get pushed aside without the decency of dignity in Taiwan, China, Zimbabwe, Russia, England, of even in the grand ol’ U. S. of A.
In my opinion, all too often I think that we post our ideas and opinions without first considering whose watching. Sure your profile is seen only by your friends and family. Or so that’s what you believe. But social is social in any language.
The negativity you portray about the rest of the world and those who enter your country, even those who lead your country: well that builds when everyone posts about it and the rest of the world does see.
As a traveler, that’s scary for me. Your posts and your attitudes are building your reputation, the one I have to carry into my journey. When the rest of the world thinks this country is hostile and unwelcoming, I am the one that gets met with unsure looks and nasty words.
Luckily for me, the rest of the world is more sympathetic and understanding than my American social network. They understand that the voices they hear online, in the news, on television are not my own views, but of a largely outspoken minority. And so they still continue to welcome me into their homes as if I were family.
But how long can that noise continue before the reputation builds too great for Americans to travel the world freely and authentically? That I do not know.
There are many gross injustices in the world and an entire list of systems that just don’t work as they should, but those can and should be fixed. They are institutions and processes. Rejection is committed unto people.
As an expat, I shudder to think about my circumstance if I were welcomed into the world, be it for travel or for residency, in the same manner as those who are foreign are welcomed into the States. This holiday, I am thankful for the lessons I have been taught in acceptance and human dignity. Injustices and failed systems are worth being fixed, but any type of people will have a place in my home because too often than not, they graciously accept me, the non-verbal stranger, into their lives without question.
I am thankful to be received better than my community back at home has received my international brothers and sisters that I encourage to experience my own neighborhoods.
I am thankful that the world is more accepting than is my home.