This is a Thanksgiving invitation to Donald Trump: You’re welcome to drop by the house on Thursday.
But before you sit down, you might first apologize to my wife, a Muslim from Kazakhstan. She’s upset with your suggestion that she register herself as a Muslim and carry a religious identity card.
If you come—the invitation is for 4pm, by the way; try not to be late because the food, especially the Kazakh dishes, could go fast—you’ll meet a fellow guest who is Filipino. You can apologize to her, too, on behalf of folks just like you who whipped up racist passions against her people in the 1930s.
Speaking of the 1930s, there will be some Jews present, including our eldest daughter, who was Bat Mitzvahed a few months ago. She’s not so thrilled with you, either. Neither is her grandmother, my mom, whose own grandparents emigrated from Poland and Romania in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were subjected to the same sort of name-calling and accusations (about crime, assimilation difficulties, and so on) that you voice now. Just last evening, my mom told her grandkids the story of the MS St. Louis, the German ship whose Jewish passengers were denied entry to the US in 1939 in an atmosphere stirred by public figures, again very much like you; a quarter of them went on to die in camps and the war.
I have to warn you that my mom is visiting from southern California, where I grew up. So you also may hear a bit of unhappiness with your talk about Mexicans. We’ve known a lot of Mexicans, some of them for decades. My former boss at the New America Foundation is Mexican; he took a group of us to Mexico City last year. I don’t remember anyone in either our own delegation or our hosts’ regarding each other as enemies.
Nor do I remember anyone making a big deal about the two Greek brothers who owned the cafe where my uncle took me for lunch every day in the summer, when I was a teenager and worked for him as a delivery boy at his printing shop on 25th Street in New York. He always called them “the Greeks,” and they arrived in the US the way generations of others did—without papers, in their case showing up in New York Harbor, jumping ship, and swimming the rest of the way in to make a fresh start in the New World.
See, given how our family—indeed, our whole country—came to be, we just don’t much care about how people got here. For instance, we don’t mind that your grandfather left Germany for America in 1880s because he thought he could build a better future for himself here; we don’t care that your father hid his German roots during World War II and said he was Swedish so as to avoid discrimination.
Perhaps you already have Thanksgiving plans—turkey with people descended from passengers on the Mayflower, perhaps, or a quiet dinner with your Slovenian-born wife, Melania. If not, then please consider our humble invitation. In our house at Thanksgiving, we welcome everyone. Even you.