Sunday, July 4, 2010
America for the Americans
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.