Thursday, March 30, 2006

the un-hyphenated

This morning's political cartoon from Michael Ramirez.

In this country there are a lot of people who have problems with "hyphenated" Americans. African-Americans, Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, all of the other possible combinations worry some "full" Americans. But I don't worry about hyphenated Americans. I worry about full citizens of other countries.

Chris is an Irish-American, and I take that to mean (as I know it does) that his roots are in Ireland but his loyalty is to the U.S. His family line left Ireland such a short time ago (his father was 13) that yes, it is necessary to note that his family history lies abroad and that's what makes him a hyphenated American.

I am a full American, or American-American really. My ancestors have been on this soil for 3+ generations; I have no "old" country besides this one, and the U.S. is where my loyalties lie.

But even though on my mother's side I have ancestors whose passage predates the Revolutionary War, one on the second Continental Congress, and one rather famous loser of a famous duel (Alexander Hamilton please step up) I have a hard time thinking of myself as anything other than an immigrant. I have just a smidgen of native blood, but not near enough to account for the millenia that the true natives have been here.

That being said, I love my country. I love the ideals, I love the freedoms, I love the innovations. Most of all I love the concept of the great American melting pot, because in all reality that's what my genetics are. German, Polish, Jewish, English, Native American, and a little bit of everything else that immigrated more than 100 years ago; I even have the Ellis Island shortened last name to go with it. I love that cultures find a place here and kind of all meld together, or at least find their commonalities. And in my mind, there are few causes greater than giving asylum to the previously oppressed and giving them control over their own fate.

That cause alone brings many people to our shores looking to immigrate. The U.S. promises tolerance and equality, and most of all opportunity. When people come to immigrate, they come because the ideas of this country resonate with what they believe and they know that as long as they obey the law they can build whatever type of life they like. This alone inspires quite a bit of loyalty, and quite often also inspires them to protect the freedoms they now have.

We live in an area hit pretty badly by the illegal immigration debate. All we have to do is drive down to downtown Phoenix if we want to pick up our own cheap labor. Chris and I are both fans of the 24 hour taco stands nearby, and those are most likely also staffed by illegals, who in all reality are a keystone of Phoenix's economy.

But does that make it right?

It's odd that the media turns this into a race issue, somehow leaving out the part where if Canadians did it, we'd be just as pissed. But for the most part, Canadians don't immigrate here illegally, they either visit or go through the proper channels to immigrate.

The United States has been a nation of immigrants before it was even a nation. But the important part is that once this nation has established its own immigration laws, immigrants FOLLOWED them. They all waited in line at Ellis Island, or came through an appropriate port with all of the necessary paperwork. They knew that in order to set off on a good foot with this country, they needed to follow the laws that allowed them to be here.

Not so with the illegals, and that is the problem.

When someone ignores the laws of the country they move to just to GET THERE, they have shown no respect for the country at all. I don't care if they are coming for work or for family, they need to go through the proper channels. If the immigrations laws are inadequate, it is the duty of the relatives sponsoring them to put pressure on their own legislators to have things changed.

But even more worrisome are those who wish to turn the U.S. into their country of birth. These are the un-hyphenated, those whose loyalty remains to their home country. To them the U.S. is a convenience, a way to get money, a door to survival until they can successfully turn their part of the U.S. into their home country.

Honestly I found all of the recent protests a little ridiculous. To use a right guaranteed by our own Bill of Rights and turn it into a way to change the U.S. into Mexico is blatant hypocrisy. To come here and take advantage of our economy and good will and then try to change us is worse. If you don't wish to become a true American, loyal to the American way of life, what are you doing here?

The hyphenated are not the problem. Honoring your roots is indeed very American, and those admitting to being American, even if they are "new", are at least loyal to the ideals of this country. They all had their reasons for coming here and came here BECAUSE as much as they loved their old country they knew life would be better here.

So for all of the un-hyphenated: while you are here, please take some time to learn some American history. We FOUGHT for our independence and for the country we love. If you are so loyal to the country that you came from, go back and FIX IT YOURSELVES. Over time and with a little help, the people always overthrow their own oppressive governments and rebuild. We did.


Just call me Mel, everyone else does.