I am a direct descendant of Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins who came to this continent on the Mayflower. Their son Oceanus, who later died, was born during the trip. Descendants of theirs went on to sign the Constitution.

I have had deeply mixed feelings about this for my entire life. Yes, they were fleeing persecution. So were my ancestors who came later to flee the Clearances in Scotland.

But where does fleeing persecution ever give permission to become a persecutor? When does fleeing death give permission to slaughter others? How does suffering intolerance for spiritual beliefs lead people to be so intolerant of others’ beliefs?

Every “Thanksgiving” since I became aware of the reality, I contemplate the dichotomy that is my ancestry. All I can do is live my life being as respectful as I can possible be of all people and the land.