Immigrants: Double Edged, Double Tongued

I read that an American theme park wanting to open in another country essentially had to dispense with its American features for that nation’s culture. Fine, but then why build an American park? Before I go on, know that I am not opposed to immigrants, minorities, alternative groups, or any cultural/religious/political differences –” as diversity richly adds to humanity. But do know that I am disturbed at how we Americans are being made to act and speak “politically correctly” for and to every group in existence when we are first Americans!

My father emigrated from Italy at age eleven. He did it properly; he did it legally. He rode a boat that would challenge even today’s strongest. Landing at Ellis Island, the clerk, who didn’t understand Italian, bestowed her own version of my dad’s surname upon him and all his future generations; he accepted it, adapted to it. While in middle school, he worked menial jobs to help his parents get ahead, though they did not understand English but tried to learn through my dad’s childhood experiences with others. My grandparents worked diligently to assimilate into our society to become all the more better “U.S. patriots.” After fulfilling the strict Naturalization rules of the 1930s, my father proudly celebrated his victory of becoming a United States citizen.

He seldom found schoolmates, teachers, co-workers, druggists, grocerers, or doctors who spoke Italian. He didn’t have the luxury of picking up directions for, say, assembling a coffee table for my mother, or bikes for my brother and me. No literature was written in both English and Italian, or English and any other language, for that matter. He never demanded to be accommodated as a foreigner during his school years, or when working, or when placed in any other situation where he stood alone as a minority. He trudged to school daily, sweated at a railroad job before he was old enough to work, earned his high school diploma (GED while in the Army), and served as a medal-earning Merrill’s Marauder. He asked for no sympathetic considerations from his neighbors, his employers, the government. Wanting others to welcome him because he was an outsider made him feel all the more responsible for conducting himself properly; learning the English language; getting a job; respecting and demonstrating a good work ethic; integrating and adopting the mores, rules, and values of the new land. He knew he had to succeed on his own, be accountable for his own choices and actions, and to convey those virtues to his children.

Part of his blending into the New World of America was attempting to not stick out as a guest but rather to embrace the people and their ways, and become a productive citizen. He never commanded special treatment or attention to his beliefs, his ethnicity, his religion, or thought he was entitled to individualized classes with private tutors to learn the language and understand the textbooks; there were no ESL classes then — not only not for him but nor for the entire wave of immigrants who struggled to get to our States. They all learned the language by living it daily, amalgamating into the American lifestyle, bonding with and helping the community — just to become compatriots. My father — as was true for his fellow émigrés — never insisted on a translator to help him fill out forms or express himself, or explain the meaning of radio shows, or what someone said; nor did he expect others to cater to or care for him because his marginal status made him an exception.

He did not presume that he should be automatically included in American activities. I can’t imagine him getting together a group of Italians-Americans or other immigrants to protest a mainstream-only, conventional parade as a way of dictating that his culture be represented. In fact, he mastered English so well that you had to listen closely to detect an accent. Yet he was taunted for being an alien, slammed for being “dissimilar.” He recognized and accepted that he was the one desiring to live in a province that was not his by birth. His goal of wanting to become them — not making them become him — never wavered. He and my mother and relatives didn’t teach my brother and me or our cousins the beauty of the Romance language lest it “mark” us; they considered it detrimental for American-born children to be bilingual, but rather that homogeny brought opportunities on a free and prosperous terra firma where anyone could become anything they wanted with honesty, vigor, and “oomph.”

What happened? Suddenly we’re worrying about saying or doing something wrong to anyone with backgrounds contrasting ours. We feel compelled to supply literature in multiple languages; to give special consideration in hospitals, schools, churches, courtrooms, even theme parks for those not of our soil. When we flag-waving loyalists are told that we cannot tout something strictly American, that it has to give way to other nations or groups’ customs, then something is very wrong. We are rapidly losing our society’s ethos, identity, traditions, and sovereignty in an attempt to please everyone.

Imagine how it would be if we Americans visited a family in another country, and expected them to pay our living expenses, our health insurance, our children’s schooling; and that they provide us with welfare and the right to vote about their family matters even though we were outsiders. Imagine too how they would feel if we compelled them to speak English in their homeland instead of their own vernacular; or if we designated that they must write down everything in our own tongue so we can follow directions, read what they’re saying, communicate with us. How would these hosts of ours in their own land deal with us if we declined to learn anything about their family, or refused to fuse with them; or if we rebuffed their desire for us to learn their lingo to help us integrate into their world? Is this analogy not close to what is going on here on our “star-spangled banner” terrain?

So here’s a thought: Let’s start by making English the official, national language. Let’s make wannabe Americans understand that they are not entitled to our native-born rights and privileges until they meet regulations after living here long enough to study for and pass U.S. citizenship tests, done the old fashioned way –” not by a blanket amnesty. If becoming a national the way my father did, as did those of other ancestry, worked for us then, why can’t the quota and registration system triumph for us now?

Passing a wand over our nation’s ports and borders and magically turning illegal aliens into U.S. citizens serves only to increases our statehood’s population. With that growth explosion and intensification would come costly obligations adding to the problems we already face, such as having to renovate our infrastructures; feed the growing homeless and those at poverty level; provide health care and social assistance; create jobs for the unemployed; and expand our imported goods and fuel, thus making us all the more reliant on other countries’ resources . . . all for the sake of non-Americans wanting equal service. A massive and not well-scrutinized ballooning in our citizenry at this point would take its toll on Americans, both on an individual and a collective basis. Consider that “the number of apprehensions [illegal immigrants arrested] jumped sharply to a high of 1.6 million in fiscal year 2001” alone . . . and that doesn’t take into consideration those migrants who have come to our land since that year, or all those “illegals” President Bush wants to miraculously turn into bona fide Americans.

So . . . what to do? Let’s require immigrants to be sponsored by an American relative or friend, and stipulate that they must have a job waiting for them before they come to the States — just as was required when my father and his fellow foreigners came here. Let’s find a solution for outsiders who buy no insurance but instead rely on Americans to care for them, pay their hospital bills, their pregnancy care, their welfare . . . and then want the right to vote. The fact that aliens automatically receive a voter registration card when they apply for a drivers’ license surely tells us that we are an apathetic nation, not wanting to get involved, even if it means losing our God-given American rights while letting others not born here gain them.

Let’s get the word out that our Constitution is great the way it is, that it does not allow for a foreign-born to become a United States president –” and should not be amended to accommodate those desiring it. If our Constitution makes opponents unhappy, then they should seek another motherland more to their liking. Let’s make a point of understanding that the agenda of the FTAA (Free Trade Areas of the Americas) is, quite simply, to open all U.S. borders to eliminate “nationalism.” Such an organization and its methods are no better than NAFTA and GATT –” all three of which aim to form a type of American EU in order to more easily slide in a one-world government. Let’s share this vital information with others so we’ll know how to fight back and have help in so doing. The United States and its citizens must come first!

Let’s also take a serious look at hiring aliens when Americans can do the same jobs. The counterpoint to this are those who say Americans won’t “stoop” to working for minimal wage. Well, if that is truly the case, then let’s take those “non-productives” off welfare, and give them the choice of either working for minimum pay or volunteering for jobs in our neighborhoods that nobody else wants but yet needs to be done. Let’s review the visas, passports, green cards, permits of those who have been in this country too long and are now not useful to our society.

Let’s bury the sins of our fathers’ fathers’ fathers — those who treated others so scandalously — and instead start anew without the past always hanging over our heads, never letting us forget, and thus preventing solid, trusting co-existence. Let’s stop minimizing Americanism and gratifying every single minority and alternative group just to please them. We are a Republic built on democratic principles . . . majority is supposed to rule. Giving up the Lord’s Prayer in school, the Ten Commandments, a manger in public –” as examples — because a handful complained is not majority rule. So let’s go back to the good ol’ days when our Bill of Rights counted for something for every American living here. Let’s make minorities and immigrants recognize that just because they are on “our country ’tis of thee” soil, they should not expect preferential treatment. And most of all, let’s remind them, in a most tactful way, that they are, after all, obliged to fit into our customs and not visa versa. The old adage “When in Rome do as Rome does” should apply to our nation as well.

Yes, the melting pot is a glorious and unique character of our homeland, so let’s do continue to embrace visitors and citizens-to-be but let us also remember that united as Americans we stand, and divided by special groups we fall.