With Thanksgiving approaching, proud Americans look forward to eating turkey in honor of the pilgrims’ first feast with the indigenous people of the land. As I dreamed of stuffing and cranberry sauce, it occurred to me that the pilgrims were actually this continents first group of illegal immigrants. It may be somewhat hypocritical to admire the pilgrims yet resent current day immigrants when you consider that most of us wouldn’t be here today if the Native Americans had asked to see the pilgrims' documentation. I'm quite sure the irony doesn't begin to enter the minds of most “Americans” as they sit down to enjoy their Thanksgiving turkey. The ability to trace one's bloodline to a Mayflower passenger has always been a major point of pride. Never mind that these people and the following generations eventually took their gracious hosts lives and land, banishing the few survivors to live on reservations. Still, we proudly celebrate our genocidal ancestors. But hey, the stuffing and yams taste better when you don’t think about it too much.
This hypocrisy was the inspiration for my painting (shown above) entitled “Illegal Immigration”. Now I’m not suggesting you put down that drumstick. There’s nothing we can do about the transgressions of the past, but maybe if we didn’t sugarcoat our own heritage, we wouldn’t feel so self-righteous regarding immigration policy. Maybe it’s our own past that scares us. Maybe we’re afraid that the current immigrants will do to us what we did to the Native Americans. Could those undocumented workers watching our kids, and doing our lawns secretly be plotting to take back New Mexico and California?
As you sit down to enjoy your turkey this year, take a moment to consider that just like the pilgrims your kids dressed up like in their school's holiday play, today's immigrants are here in search of a better life. Be thankful that your ancestors were given that opportunity and be humbled by how they approached it.
Michael D’Antuono has been called "one of the world's most controversial artists" by the UK's 'American' magazine. Before becoming a fine artist, he created award-winning advertising campaigns and had a successful career as an illustrator. His artwork has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.