Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

What’s in a word? The words we use to describe people, events, or our environments ultimately color our view about them. In my previous blog post, Facing An Invasion, I investigated how the word “invader”, applied to the immigrant/refugee caravan on our southern boarder, colors our attitudes toward these people. In this posting I would like to explore applying to them the word “pilgrim”.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim with a small p as one who journeys in foreign lands; one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee; The Oxford dictionary also adds: A person traveling to a place of particular personal interest i.e.“thousands of pilgrims converged in Memphis for the 16th anniversary of Presley’s death”

We all know that a pilgrim with a capital P refers to the one of the English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620.

My question is: can we consider the people trying to enter our country as pilgrims?

I came across a fascinating interview of an author who wrote a book around the topic of how the immigrants of today mirror the Pilgrims of yesteryear.

In British author Rebecca Fraser’s book, The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America, she addresses the question of why the Pilgrims left their home country. Just like the immigrants of today, she says they were treated with disrespect and forced to live in hovels and take low-level jobs that nobody else wanted. She also makes the point that many of today’s refugees from other countries are surgeons and doctors and lawyers who have nothing to show for their status in their home country. Like the Pilgrims they came here fleeing oppression, leaving not only material goods behind but also their entire way of life and identities to start over in freedom. (Interview by Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor, November 20, 2017 https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2017/1120/How-do-the-Pilgrims-relate-to-immigrants-today)

(yes, yes, I know, most of the “refugees” camped on our boarder are not doctors or lawyers, but like the Pilgrims, they are fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries be it political or economical.)

In another article, American Spirit, The Pilgrims Were the Original Refugees, Michael Daly writes for the Daily Beast:

“In that sense, all the refugees who followed,[the Pilgrims] the Irish and the Jews and the Syrians and the rest, have been pilgrims. And all these pilgrims have given thanks of some kind, if not a historic feast of wild turkey and venison, then at least a heartfelt sigh of relief.”

He also recounts the Elmaris family from Syria’s journey to the United States, saying, “They then set to building a new life with the spirit that has always made America great [my emphasis], the spirit of the refugees who have come here.” 11/25/15 https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-pilgrims-were-the-original-refugees

The immigrants and refugees of the 21st century are indeed on a journey to something holy. They are seeking America’s most scared and holy value “freedom”.  Robert Cushman, a church leader, in a famous sermon, said immigration was a solution if there was nowhere for people to exercise their talents, which he called “that knowledge, wisdom, humanity, reason, strength, skill, faculty, etc. which God hath given them.”

Our modern immigrants/refugees are fleeing from threats to their lives, and oppression for their beliefs. They are seekers of a higher, good freedom, and even those who are uneducated are seeking a better economic existence being willing to take the lowest level jobs our country has to offer. Doesn’t that meet the definition of pilgrim with both Ps?

However, if you want to do a rebuttal to this posting, do a Google search on “pilgrim vs immigrant”. You’ll find lots of information to back up an opposing viewpoint!

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