Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A reply to a friend on the right on immigration and other issues.

You make some interesting points and, though I cannot agree wholeheartedly with all the opinions you express, I know where those opinions come from and I can empathize with you feelings.

from your note:  "1.  The influence of religious extremist in countries that we consider threats such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. are extreme models of what is happening here in the U.S. with the religious right on a smaller scale but nonetheless we are beginning to mirror them in some cases."

I submit that the threat by the religious right / Tea Party in the US is just as dangerous to our democracy as the Taliban is to any hint of democracy in Afghanistan. The following is a list of traits we find among the Taliban:

  • Ideological purity
  • The belief that compromise shows weakness
  • A fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism
  • A denial of science to the extent they are unmoved by facts
  • They are undeterred by new information
  • They have a hostile fear of progress to the extent that they want to maintain the status quo at all costs
  • They demonize education
  • They feel a need to control women's bodies
  • Severe xenophobia; a fear of and hostility toward anyone who is "different"
  • A tribal mentality
  • Intollerance of dissent
  • And a pathological hatred of the US government

(list adapted from "Newsroom")

I further submit that it is not a huge intellectual leap to conclude those traits are shared by the Afghan Taliban AND our unholy religious right / Tea Party coalition. Feel free to correct any mis-impressions I have in that list as you find them ... or conversely, to add anything you think I might have inadvertently left out.

Actually, there is one other trait that occurs to me as I write this. Both groups are armed to the teeth and I find that singularly threatening. Sharon Angle of Nevada in the run up to the 2010 elections threatened to "exercise her Second Amendment rights" if she and other Tea Party candidates weren't elected. I wonder how many other in this country feel that exercising their Second Amendment rights is appropriate whenever they don't get their way?

from your note: "2.  The immigration population that is no longer assimilating into the U.S. society and culture but is still tied to their "home country" and wants the U.S. to change our ways to match what they know and are comfortable with.   They want it both ways,  in some cases even insisting on Sharia law be adopted here in the USA.  Here in Fairfax County that has one of the best school systems in the country there are over one hundred languages spoken in the school system.  I was at Fair Oaks Hospital today and they offer free translation services in over a dozen languages (BTW, Polish is not one of them).  At a cost to whom?  It "fries me" that product information on packaging has been reduced by fifty percent because half of it is repeated in Spanish."

I think the points you make here are worthy of careful consideration. Rather than advancing counter arguments, let me offer some stories from my own past in the hope of achieving some insight into the overall situation.

You are without doubt aware that both you and I are of Polish dissent so I suspect our families share some experiences in common. I was fortunate to have a cousin who did a ton of genealogical research over the course of several years including a trip to Poland and a file cabinet filled with correspondence with folks in Poland familiar with the history of that country and the various people who live there.

Her research revealed that, on my mother's side of the family, we were actually Ukrainians displaced by the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe in the 12th century. Their migration to Poland was only a slightly better option than slaughter by the Mongols. They were unwelcome in Poland. Fearing insurrections by these refugees, the Polish people forced the Ukrainians into serfdom, working the land, and tied to land that was not theirs. Laws were passed that prevented the immigrants from owning land or conducting commerce. Families were isolated and, in many cases, they were broken up with husbands separated from wives and children separated from parents, all in the name of preserving the integrity of Polish culture.

Some 600 years later when my grandparents on my mother's side pooled funds from the community in order to send a few to establish a beach head in America, they had by no means assimilated into the Polish mainstream. They still spoke a dialect of Ukrainian - albeit containing a strong add-mix of Polish and Russian words. They preserved their religious traditions (Russian Orthodox).

My take away is that if the host society is not open and welcoming, 600 years  is not enough time for assimilation. (At about 20 years per generation that's 120 generations.)

On reaching the US via Ellis Island in the nineteen-teens, they settled in central New York. My grandfather bought land with his New York Central Rail Road wages and the family farmed. My grandfather picked up some English as a result of being a rail road employee. My grandmother spoke far less English. She managed the farm raising children (8), potatoes, berries, tomatoes, cabbage, chickens and some milk cows and had little contact with English speakers, therefore had little use for speaking English. On Sundays they traveled half a day by horse drawn wagon (the same wagon they hauled their produce to market on Saturdays) to a Russian Orthodox church in Syracuse where everyone spoke Ukrainian or some mutually understandable variant of Russian-Ukrainian.

My mother, the oldest child, went to public school where she was taught English starting at about 6 years old. At home she spoke the family Ukraino-Russian dialect. Everywhere else, she spoke English. She went on to become the first of her family to graduate high school, the first and only member of her generation in her family to obtain a Bachelors degree as well as a Masters.

On a parallel course, my father's parents arrived in the US sometime between 1900 and 1910 by way of Halifax, Canada. (For all I know they swam the St. Lawrence River and arrived in the US as illegal aliens.) They were of "pure" Polish lineage, my grandmother being a seamstress for a family of the Polish nobility; my grandfather being a coach and wagon maker. They settled and farmed in the Utica, New York area. In their home they were Polish Catholic and spoke only Polish. My grandfather read newspapers in Polish sent weekly from Poland and from a publisher of a Polish language newspaper in New York City. He had a library, all of which was written in Polish. His friends and relatives who lived in city of Utica were al Polish and they spoke Polish only for the most part. My relationship with my grandparents was pretty non-verbal.

My father spoke Polish only until he was 12. He started school in a Polish Catholic school in Utica. At 12 he was thrown out for cursing a nun and entered public school where, for the first time in his life, English was a necessity. Eventually,he even spoke English with no discernible accent (though he always had a problem with the "th" sound in Thomas - pronouncing the "h" as anything but silent). He went on to earn a BFA from Syracuse University in 1936 and to become a respected teacher at East Syracuse-Minoa High School.

My arrival in 1945 marked the third generation. I attended public school and have spoken English only my entire life. I and my cousins are the first generation of our family to speak English only. However, i often ate lunch at a hall and bar in New Jersey run by the axillary of the Russian church in Cedar Grove, not far from Ricoh HQ. I reveled in the sound of the Eastern  European languages from my childhood with my grandparents; languages that I never learned to speak. I could pick out words and phrases here and there. It was like music to my ears though I didn't understand the lyrics.

My take away lesson from this is, even in a welcoming and accepting country made up of immigrants, it probably takes three generations for complete assimilation. To expect that first generation immigrants can abandon their culture, their traditions and their identity simply because they had the unimaginable courage to leave everything else behind to come to this great land of opportunity is, at best naive and at worst, willful ignorance. It seems to me the best way to honor the experiences of our grandparents is to offer a better welcome to these shores to new comers than the welcome our grandparents received. (I remember all the dumb Polak jokes that seemed to subside as soon as the world gained a Polish Pope.)

As for the "threat of Sharia Law", please forward any evidence that there is some area, some town or municipality where Sharia Law is showing some sign of supplanting municipal, county, state or federal laws. I would be very interested is seeing something beyond some anonymous cracker's "hair-on-fire" blog post. (World Nut Daily articles and their like don't count as evidence.)

from your note: "3.  Political correctness has run amuck!  Unlike in the video, people are no longer willing to take a stand for what is important to them and they know is right because they are afraid to be called a racist, etc when it comes to common sense issues and even larger ones." 

By "political correctness running amuck", I presume you're referring to all those photo-shopped images of Obama as Hitler, watermelons on the White House lawn, lynched effigies of a current sitting president found throughout the American south and jokes about the First Lady being offered $50 to pose for National Geographic? Perhaps I'm missing something.


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