America, the Mythical: “Mother of Exiles” or Denier of Safe Haven?
You may have recently seen some of the internet memes which mark the perverse irony of conservative Americans celebrating Thanksgiving—a holiday that calls to mind that group of refugees that started it all—precisely at the same moment that those conservative Americans wish to deny Syrian refugees a safe haven in the U.S. Of course the arrival of the pilgrims was disastrous for the indigenous population. But if we read the pilgrim narrative through the logic of myth and not history, we see a deeper truth of what that story has come to mean in American civil religion.
At its core this is really a debate about the interpretive significance of the mythic story of America’s foundation. The conservative reads a tale about Anglo-American Protestant hegemony and the opening up of North American resources. But the radical, perhaps even the mystical interpreter, reads a more allegorically profound story about America as “Mother of Exiles,” a universal space that encompases all ethnicities, cultures, and religions precisely because of its universality.