Thursday, July 1, 2010

America, the Beautiful—O Beautiful for Pilgrim Feet...

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted an entry on his Wall concerning an automated teller machine (ATM) . This would seem like a fairly benign topic, no? The comment, essentially (correct me if I’m wrong, friend), addressed his being asked by an ATM (I love this personification!) if he would prefer service in Spanish. Meaning: the language. His pretty simple entry, which could be construed—I think—in many ways, evolved into a thread of comments ranging from “I agree” to some serious anti-immigration rhetoric. I hopped in on the thread, stating that (not in so many words) in my opinion a multi-cultured environment is infinitely more interesting than white bread; that I wished ATM machines had options for every spoken language in the world; that I wished my Canadian grandparents hadn’t assimilated so quickly into our homogeneous Anglo-American culture. Well, the thread went on with some pleasantries, as well as some vulgarities, which left me wondering: how does one simple comment evoke so many different opinions?

When I checked back in on my FB friend’s Wall this morning (ok, so I was curious to see in which direction the thread had traveled), his entry—and all its tumbling comments—had been deleted (or misplaced, or moved, but to the best of my recollection it was a fairly new entry). I’m not sure where the comments ended, but I wondered if they had gotten too ugly, or—gasp—too serious. I know one thing for certain, my FB friend’s what’s-on-your-mind thought struck many a high and low chord in certain FB users, and revealed just how disparate our feelings are when it comes to our language, our American culture, preserving the same, and immigration reform that—as perceived by some—could threaten the American society we know today.

Immigration is a hot topic right now, with legislation addressing immigration reform snaking through Congress. Many people argue that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans, but according to Compete America, it may be just the opposite, especially when it comes to immigration and technology. Either way, legislating this issue is critical, as it will play a vital part in shaping our country’s future. I’d like to think that we’ll take as much time as we need to sort it out rationally, justly, humanely.

I think about all those years back (actually, not so many years back, just 150 give or take) when European and Canadian nationals were actively recruited to work in our mills and factories. I think about all of our ancestors, who—for the most part— came to this nascent country from elsewhere, who labored and toiled and lived too hard, and too short lives in an effort to create a better life and country for all. I think of the many reasons why foreign nationals would want to risk their lives to sneak (often under treacherous conditions) into this country, to find some work, to feed their families, to escape persecution, to live without fear of one’s life being cut short by war, or famine, or drug lords, or lack of health care, or a tyrannical government. These illegal immigrants, some of them—I’ll bet the majority of them—are desperate. And while I (conservative-at-heart) don’t believe in a welfare state, I do believe that we, the people of this great country, these United States (which we gruesomely battled to keep United), the most fortunate people in the world (really, take a look around), must think deeply, must slosh through all the muddy waters and topple every stone, dissect our preconceived notions and prejudices, before we decide what to do about illegal immigration.

And some of you, my friends—or your ancestors—may have gotten here by way of legal means, with papers and with open arms (some of your ancestors, because this country was desperate for them), but some of you—some of your ancestors—they traveled paperless, sailed perilous seas in ships the size of a coffin, they dug through dirt and trekked many shoeless miles, they hid in crates or hay or anything that would conceal their terrified bodies across our borders, so that you and your families, may live in this country, land of the free and home of the brave, without fearing for your life, without fearing a deadly Fatwa, for defending your rights, voicing your opinions, speaking your truths—whether those rights and truths may concern an ATM or illegal immigration.

Happy 4th of July!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, Jayne. This land, our America, is made up of many different people. That's how it began and how it should always be. Americans are made up of every nationality - this is everyone's land.