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Obama Uses Thanksgiving Mythology to Advocate for Syrian Refugees in Holiday Message

The Pilgrims were a persecuted minority fleeing violence in their home countries. Sound familiar?

In his annual Thanksgiving message to the country, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to sermonize on the plight of Syrian refugees, who, in the weeks since the attacks on Paris, have become a target for Islamophobic and xenophobic hate. Drawing on the history of the Mayflower pilgrims, English Christian separatists who were escaping persecution in Europe, Obama compared their plight to that of Syrian refugees today, who are fleeing the violence of ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims—men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,” Obama said. “What makes America America is that we offer that chance.”

It’s an interesting analogy to make, given that those poor, persecuted pilgrims eventually became land-hungry tyrants who then perpetrated a genocide of epic proportions on the indigenous peoples living there. But Obama is speaking to his people in the language they know best: the language of fairy tales and folklores.

Anyway, it’s not as easy immigrating to the United States as it was it in the 17th century. In fact, it’s a really arduous, demoralizing, and dehumanizing application process from which most people are rejected. President Obama, in gentle, soothing tones—the kind you use when explaining basic concepts to a small child—reminded his manic, frenzied nation of that fact.

“Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States,” he said. “That was the case before Paris, and it's the case now.”

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