As with millions of other Americans, my ancestors were immigrants. As with millions of other Americans, my ancestors were hated for being immigrants. The Italians, Poles, Russians and various Eastern Europeans of the early 1900's were the Irish of the 1840's and 50's and the Spanish, Chinese and Asian Indians of the late twentieth century. Don't get me wrong, we've always hated the Chinese and Spanish regardless of the year; Chinese and Spanish people look different from us and that's really all you need. And American Indians…we hated them too. Oh, and Pakistanis and Africans, don't forget them. Wait, wait, I left out religions. Jews and Catholics, Hindus and Sikhs and Hari Krishna's. Hate em. Oddly, for some reason I don't understand, people don't hate Mormons. Go figure.
The point is, anyone who is already here always hates anyone who just got here…this is America after all and that's the American way. Remember John F. Kennedy running for President in 1960? Jesus Christ, a Catholic running the country?! Unthinkable. And he was a White guy, a war hero whose father, after making a pile of cash as a bootlegger anyway, was an ambassador to England and a good friend of FDR. These days, Catholics are okay for the most part, unless you're a Southern Baptist, Mormon, The People's Republic of China or any one of the thousands of people molested by a priest. Jews are still hated, unless you actually know one.
Because we hate everybody, those who we hate tend to gather together to feel safe, which re-enforces the idea that they don't want to be part of us, which is a kinda cool example of a self fulfilling prophecy. My own hometown of Colonia, New Jersey was named after the towns retired Roman soldiers built in whatever foreign country they settled in after service in the Legions. Terzella's, Cassarona's, Di Stefano's, Cavallero's, Penella's…and those were just my in-laws and extended family. Add our family friends and you can make a great living on vowels alone. There were a lot of Irish and German as well and we all happily hated each other. Of course, we also interacted. My mother was of German/Lithuanian heritage and my fraternal grandmother hated her for marrying my father.
My maternal grandfather was German and the only illegal immigrant of the bunch. We didn't talk about it too much…the whole thing was our family scandal…but he jumped ship after WWI in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey and married my grandmother, who was a legal citizen. He had children, bought some land, built a garage and was getting ready to build the house when the Depression hit. If I got the story right, he went to apply for assistance. That's when things went wrong. The government found out he wasn't in the country legally. Apparently, not realizing that since he was married to an American and could become a citizen and fearing deportation back to Germany, he went home and shot himself.
I'm not saying that millions of illegal immigrants in the US today, faced with these stupid new anti-immigration laws are going to go home and shoot themselves; God, can you imagine the mess? I am saying, in my somewhat tortured and long winded way, that people who would rather die than leave this country really should be allowed to stay, the same as people who want to come here so badly that they'll resort to any means, including sneaking in, might be regarded as good citizen material. Don't give me any crap about breaking the law. All legal Americans break the law every day. That too, is the American way. Look at George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and half our politicians and big business owners. And you too; this year, did you report absolutely every penny you made to the IRS, not speed even once, have more than one drink before you drove, talk on a cell phone while driving, or "circumvent" any one of the thousands of other laws that we have? It's just a question of necessity and degree.
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