Nation descended from immigrants

By Ken Hughes | Published Thursday, August 26, 2010

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Bigotry shows its ugly face in many disgusting and revolting forms. Beyond the racial context which, in view of America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution, is troubling enough in its own right, and with which the word is normally associated in America, there’s ethnic, sexual, religious and socioeconomic bigotry still being peddled in America into the 21 century.

One would have thought and hoped that, in America especially, most would be pass by now. However, hate-mongers seem never to mature beyond the prejudices imbued by parents and/or society in childhood and never learn anything new.

Anti-immigrant sentiments are old. One can only wonder what the original “illegal immigrants” to this continent, who entered uninvited from far northeastern Asia into the continent’s extreme northwestern corner, thought when those pale-skinned European second-wave immigrants staggered ashore on our East Coast. Did they think, “well, there goes the continent?”

A prominent American once lamented, “Few of their children in the country learn English. The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages. Unless the stream of their importation could be turned, they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious.”

The author was himself the son of two immigrants from Norfolk County, England. Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, T-Partiers? Nope, it was Benjamin Franklin, protesting the apparent preponderance of German immigrants. Xenophobic nativists in contemporary America should remember that at some point in their ancestry they are themselves the children of immigrants.

Irish-American, Italian-American, Chinese-American, Japanese-American and others who are today accepted as “real” Americans were once as reviled and treated as badly as those of Latin-American heritage are today by those of cleaned-up immigrant progeny. Moreover, the face of America is changing and the xenophobic nativistic politicians and their like-minded supporters will one day be, if not already, in the minority, and will eventually bear the onus of their despicable actions, words and behavior.

Would they spray “Null and Void” or “No-Vacancy” graffiti across the base of the Statue of Liberty plaque that reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door?”

America has always been and will always be a nation of freedom-seeking immigrants.

Ken Hughes

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