One of the uniquely American things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving season is our heritage as a nation of immigrants. People from all over the world have been coming to this country for generations, going back to some of our earliest immigrants — the Pilgrims.
The mighty Pilgrims, among the first undocumented immigrants.
They were persecuted in England for their religious beliefs; they left England and went to Holland. They were persecuted in Holland as well. One night they held a meeting.
“We’re persecuted in England, we’re persecuted in Holland. Where in this world can we go to practice our religion freely?”
One of them spoke up and said, “How about the Cape?”
“Could we get a place?”
“It’s the off-season. And it’s 1620.”
So 100 Pilgrims got into the Mayflower, a second-hand boat they picked up at a yard sale, and set sail for the new world. They were heading for Virginia but got blown off course and ended up in Provincetown Harbor in the winter of 1620. Even in 1620, they could not get a place for 100 people in Provincetown.
They were offered a place on Route 6 but said no.
“We’re the Pilgrims, we just came from Europe. We’re not staying on Route 6.”
So the Pilgrims spent the entire first winter in the new world on the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor. Think about how difficult it must have been to spend a winter on a boat in Provincetown Harbor in 1620!
Provincetown is dead in the winter now!
Obviously, they had no heat, no electricity, and no toiletries; it was about day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute stress. Incredible fear and incredible stress just to survive.
Many of them had wooden shoes. Wooden shoes! It’s bad enough they were lost — their shoes were made of wood. Many of them had wooden teeth. Wooden teeth! They had big buckles on their shoes, big buckles on their belts, big buckles on their hats.
Let’s face it, the Pilgrims were a buckled-up people.
I think they were the originators of the seat belt law.
“Where are thee going?
“I’m going to Salem to hang a witch.”
Initially they got along very well with the indigenous people. The Native Americans showed great empathy and compassion toward the Pilgrims. As legend has it, if not for the Native Americans, the Pilgrims never would have made it through that first winter.
Squanto and Massasoit said to the other Indians, “We have to help these poor people, check ’em out, they’re all buckled up. How are they going to hunt deer?
“You can hear them coming through the woods for miles.”
Squanto said to one of the Pilgrim’s leaders, Myles Standish, “Myles Standish, lighten up bro’. You’re in Provincetown. For the love of God, put on some sandals and unbuckle the hat.”
And here we are almost 400 years later, and there are still people coming to this country fleeing persecution and looking for freedom — religious freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom. Some of them on planes, some of them on boats, some of them on foot in a caravan.
Jimmy Tingle is the founder of Humor for Humanity and was a 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. He can be reached at jimmytingle.com.