Sunday, July 4, 2010

America for the Americans

July 4th, 2010

Independence Day is a colorful holiday, summer time and fireworks, barbeques and lemonade (or beer). A day to remember we live in the land of the free home of the brave. To feel proud of being part of a great machinery of citizens that make this place the land of opportunities, a place where the dreams are possible and where hard work, honesty and spirit counts.


The 13 American colonies declared its independence from the British Empire back in 1776, in a document written mainly by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and with the main objective, besides stating the obvious separation from England, to ensure "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights," and "that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Equal. That is one strong word.

The United States of America is a country built mainly by immigrants. People from all around the world were welcomed to settle in a country in need for inexpensive labor force and offering hope for those getting away from hunger, religious persecution and political instability. European immigrants mainly from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Poland along with millions of Afro-Americans already in the country during colonial times started it all. Diversity in all senses: creed, ethnicity, culture, language. Asia made its great contribution of people along with Mexican agriculture workers. Scandinavians were lure to the other side of the Atlantic by the promise of free land in America. Nobody arrived uninvited. They all wanted a piece of the dream. A dream described mainly by the letters from their own relatives already living in, by exaggerated descriptions of the so called opportunities.

Historically and cyclically immigrants had been discriminated by the native-born –and most likely garnished by surnames such as Fitzpatrick, Bauer, Rossi, Roosevelt, Murphy and Garcia – with unfair acts ranging from verbal and physical abuse to burning their homes and deporting them for taking the American’s jobs. Immigrants have been taking turns in the path of discrimination: African-Americans suffered the most by slavery and denial of human rights; Irish treated as second class citizens, carriers of diseases and filth. Mexicans treated as criminals, ignorant and second-class human beings. Stereotypes applied without further reasoning or logical foundation.

I am an immigrant. I was born in Mexico. I was naturalized American therefore became Mexican-American. My family lives in Arizona. I pay my taxes; we contribute to the great American economy. I am as proud of my background as I am loyal and grateful for the opportunity to be in the United States. My two beautiful nieces are half-Mexican, they will always be. I was told, more than once, I don’t look Mexican… neither do my nieces. I don’t take that as a compliment…it insults me and my heritage to the bone. Nobody should have the right to decide who is good or bad, who has the right to live or should leave by the way it looks, the ability to speak more than one language, an accent or the amount of spices you can tolerate in the food. Arizona’s government is enforcing a state of fear and encouraging the ignorant idea of supremacy based on racial profiles.

One of my best friends, who is also one of the smartest human beings I know – which happens to be Mexican – once told me “Illegal immigration is a social phenomenon not a crime”; by treating illegal immigrants crossing the southern border of the USA as such, and granting the authorities the right to apply subjective criteria to determine who is not an American, a greater evil is encouraged: racism and superiority. A few clarifications for the record: not all the darker-skin, short height, dark-hair, Spanish-spoken aliens trying to cross the border are illegal; neither are all Mexican – Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras and the rest of the central and south American places are, in fact, different countries (it might come as a shocker to some, but America is not just the United States). Not all “Latinos” look alike.

The United States of America, as well as any other nation in the world, has all the right to regulate immigration; nobody should live illegally in a country, without paying taxes and without basic living conditions. But one would think that a first-class country should have the capability to find better means of control; criminalizing an act of desperation and self-preservation goes against human nature, against the nation’s ideals and foundation. Yes, it is against the law and should be treated like that; but no, it is not a crime. Yes, it is something that should be regulated; but no, it does not give the right to become human-hunters.

Some of the greatest contributions to the American culture came from immigrants: from literature to food, from financial institutions to music. Immigrants willing to work hard and become part of a new generation of people open for change and respectful of each other’s right for freedom, to equal rights, equal obligations, and equal opportunities . Call me naïve and romantic, but I still want to believe in America for the Americans – whatever the background, whatever the country – but willing to be free.

To Mia and Amy - always feel proud of who you are.

13 comments:

  1. Rafa: lo prometido es deuda. Esta es mi muy personal y respetuosa forma de sentir sobre la ley SB1070...

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  2. Well said sister! I am so proud of who I am, I am proud of where I came from. I have been told over and over how "I don't look Mexican at all". I have also been stuck in a room with people I might not know very well where they decide to talk "about those Mexicans..." Wow, talk about the worst feeling ever. During those comments I struggle with a rollercoaster of emotions. Do I say something? If I do, then I make it awkward for all the other people who had nothing to do with the comment...But if I don't say something then am I betraying who I am? It goes on and on...I want my girls to grow up feeling proud of both races. When asked to fill out race forms I don' want them to always feel like they have to select "white" and "Caucasian" when they are also given the option to mark "Mexican". Argh..but I have a feeling that new laws such as SB1070 might end up pressuring them to only one choice...I will need your help to keep them grounded and I know I will always have it. Keep writing!!!

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  3. Olga, gracias por compartir tus sentimientos sobre un tema tan complicado y que tanto nos afecta.

    Siempre he sido un admirador de los valores y principios en los que se fundó Estados Unidos (por cierto, muy liberales); a pesar de que aún hoy no han alcanzado esos ideales, y a veces-como es el caso de la Ley Arizona-parecen retroceder en ese camino.

    Desafortunadamente, en tiempos de crisis económicas, los rasgos más desafortunados de la sociedad se exacerban. Por eso parece crecer un sentimiento anti-imigrante (en realidad, es un sentimiento contra la piel café, no contra imigrantes europeos) principalmente en sectores de menos educación y desarrollo económico en EU (el sur).

    Eso es hasta cierto punto entendible. Es la naturaleza social, basada en la ignorancia y el miedo a lo diferente: el mexicano me quita el trabajo, recibe beneficios gratis, comete delitos. No olvidemos: cuando Arizona tuvo uno de los crecimientos mas importantes en materia de construcción, los mexicanos eran más que bienvenidos. Tan pronto colapsó la economía, los mexicanos son criminales, que "roban, secuestran y trafican drogas".

    Lo que es triste y decepcionante es ver que la clase política de ese país está explotando el miedo y odio irracional de la población.

    Ese es el mayor peligro de Estados Unidos hoy. En tiempos de Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt y hasta Clinton, los gobernantes de ese país se atrevieron a hacer progreso social, aún en contra de sectores importantes de la población.

    Ojalá prevalezca la razón sobre el miedo y la ignorancia. Esa ha sido la grandeza de Estados Unidos.

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  4. You are an amazing writer. I agree with everything you have written, and I would like to believe that most US citizens would too, if they thought about it. I am so sad for the US and the constant fear-mongering. The US is so far off track I am having trouble believing that it can be righted, and I am typically an optimistic and hopeful person.

    I took an anthropology class that studied the differences between races. It turns out that scientifically, there are more similarities between races than within races. When I hear people talking about "mexicans" or "jews" or "blacks" or "gays" it makes me sad, because I can't tell the difference, and even if we look different, I can't imagine feeling as though I have the right to feel better than someone simply because of a label. I believe that embracing our differences makes us all better more compassionate people anyway. I am teaching my children this the best I can!

    Thank you for writing about this.
    Katie

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  5. Olga:

    Una excelente entrada. Todo lo que has dicho es preciso y objetivo, un análisis histórico conciso y difícil de rebatir (sólo el odio injustificado que generan los prejuicios puede evitar ver lo que es claro). Me gustó sobre todo la sinceridad de lo expresado, de los sentimientos compartidos. Es muy doloroso ver en algunos lugares medidas que creíamos desterradas como parte de la siniestra historia de la primera mitad del siglo XX. Y más doloroso es cuando ese lugar es en el que uno vive (o compra).

    Cuando parece que la humanidad ha avanzado para no dar vuelta atrás en algunos temas, la infinita estupidez humana se impone a veces y lo único que podemos anteponerle para contenerla es la honesta defensa de la razón. A Estados Unidos no lo hizo grande ningún grupo de chauvinistas, ni la pureza racial, ni la homogeneidad. Fue la fuerza de la idea de igualdad y la ley como recurso para PROTEGER al individuo -no para esclavizarlo, estigmatizarlo o hacerlo sufrir-. Si el país pierde esos principios rectores, lo único que vendrá después es la decadencia y, con eso, la humanidad habrá sido saqueada de uno de sus más grandes valores.

    Te mando un abrazo grande,

    Rafael Barceló Durazo

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  6. Olga! Como siempre, lúcida y cierta, estoy de acuerdo con tu sentir. Me agrada que te sientas orgullosa de nuestra cultura, cuando has conocido otros paises, otras formas de vivir y de trabajar... y sabes qué me agrada más? Que les dediques la entrada a tus sobrinas. Esto que les dejas por escrito vale más que todos los regalos materiales. Sé que lo van a apreciar mucho!

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  7. Nada mas que agregar, perfectamente dicho, impecablemente definido y totalmente real. realmente con mucho juicio critico, me encanto Olguita,

    Me encanto, y apoyo totalmente el escrito, es un privilegio y placer leerte (en el idioma que sea jaja)

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  8. wish I understood/read spanish :)

    Olga - thought provoking and well written!

    for me its not a black and white issue - many shades of gray. I am guilty of ......hmmm perhaps its best if I email you my crime. you never know who's watching.

    Interesting quote your friend made... we are all immigrants, and yes, we all took our turn.

    My father, who is Irish, forgives but has not forgotten.
    My daughter, who is Chinese/Irish, has experienced social favor and discrimination. And just as latino's - all asians do not look a like.

    when she was 5 I "played" the minority card and got her a partial ride in a private school. In appreciation, I donated a lot of my time volunteering. Two years later, she lost her scholarship when full paying asian enrollment increased and they're minority quote was full.

    she was also excepted into a college that she had no business being in simply because they wanted asians on their campus. and she was kept out of others because her grades were not up to par compared the the national asian average.

    what we need to do as american's is write/speak our truth - educate, enlighten those who may not be aware of their ignorance.



    -

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  9. Very well said! Came by way of WOW....

    I think the majority of people need drama. So they create it in the only fashion in which they know how... by hate, greed, racism... We are America, made up of misfits, but yet we are the biggest hypocrites.... I'm proud of my own familly roots, which came through Germany, Russia, and Ireland... As well as English. Hines 57 you would call me.

    I love all kinds of people. It's what's on the inside that makes you, not the color, religion, language or creed.

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  10. Well written and thought provoking. I agree with you. Illegal immigration should not be a crime. I do not have the solution but I do know when something is wrong. And Arizona is wrong.

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  11. Thanks for stopping by on my BON day.

    I love this post. Living in Australia where "Border control" and "refugees" are the hot topics heading into an election, it has lead to an increase in racism and treating people unfairly just before they weren't born here.

    As you said, so long as people pay their taxes and abide by the laws of the country, I see no problem with them settling here.

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  12. I love the cultural diversity of America - the melting part where, like a delicious stew, all the different flavors make something outstanding! However, I do think that those entering the U.S. should do so legally - just like every other country, who arrest you if you enter illegally. I like the law-abiding part - the respecting the rules established. However, whether one enters a country legally or illegally, our citizens should treat everyone with kindness and respect. Thanks for pointing me to your post!

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  13. Thanks OJ, and so glad I could 'follow you home'.
    About this post.
    I fear we are hard wired to suspect difference. Charles Darwin and his 'Survival of the Fittest' does not only apply between species, but clearly applies to races within a species.
    In a conflict there is an advantage in being able to distinguish between friend and foe by appearance and/or language. (Modern man also uses flags and military uniforms).

    The challenge for us is to rewire ourselves to individualise (opposite from generalise) and in that way push past our natural instinct to trust only our own. (as John Lennon said, 'It's easy if you try').

    The ability to change (evolve) to become an inclusive global community is essential if we are to manage nature's accelerating rebellion against human driven environmental degradation, a threat that exceeds even cold war Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction (MAD).

    Unfortunately we are still far from that ideal. Education and travel are two ways to draw closer but consciously engaging in dialogue with a person of different race, colour or religion is the most effective tool.

    Opportunities arise every day and it costs nothing. We soon learn that our diferences are so minute compared to our human commonality and distrust is replaced by sympatico. (I hope that translates to 'understanding and compassion').

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