I want you to think about what America has endured. Is there any other country who has a woman welcoming "your tired and your hungry" but yet we have a hard time getting past good looks or family tribulations to interpret a woman's ability to run our nation? We have let everyone come into our country because freedom is what we stand for. We have freedom of religion although I do not think we interpret that to mean tying explosives to our body and detonating them in a crowded mall while screaming Jesus. We have freedom to bear arms but I do not interpret that to include hijacking a plane to another country and killing innocent people because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am a White American born here from parents who were born here, however, the new trend appears to be natives from other countries delivering children in America. I have worked since I was 14 and have paid for medical insurance, car insurance, social security, taxes, homes, cars, and any other debt thrown my way. For this freedom I have also paid for Medicaid, homeless shelters, and donations for underpriviledged, yet I still get up every day and go to work and return home with most of my energy drained out of my very being. So when my country endures terrorists and people taking advantage of our hospitality, I feel used. When people get used repeatedly, sooner or later they lack the desire for existence. What would you do if America no longer existed? Who is going to feed, shelter, clothe, and protect the disrespectful and thankless people who come into our country? I'm waiting for the candidate who runs for President who says we're going to close the doors to America. No one comes in and if you don't like it get out. We're going to take care of our own. Seems simple enough but I'm sure someone has an explanation of why it just wouldn't work. But I haven't forgotten that terrible day on September 11, 2001 and I hope Canada never has to feel the pain of such terrible tragedies--it tends to make you (in the words of Cary Tennis) weird.
Well, that just pissed me off. So I ended up writing the following, instead of a lighter blog post, which I will deliver soon:
"I am a White American born here from parents who were born here.."
Really? Me too! Wasn't it awesome when the vortex opened in Kansas in 1946 and time began?
I too started working at 14 and have been working ever since, first in restaurants and bars and for the last twenty odd years swinging a hammer. Usually side by side with at least a few folks of questionable immigration status. In my experience you are only half right. Maybe...say...half of them were just here to make money and take it back home with them (probably less now, with tighter post 9/11 borders). The other half did, as you say, come here to bear their children in this country. Because out of all the countries in the world, most of them far easier to sneak around in-even the sports bar down the street now scans the barcode on my driver's license-they figured their children, their children's children, and future generations they will never know will have a better chance here in this country than anywhere else. It is the same decision and sacrifice my great, great grandparents made. The same decision...wait for it...someone in YOUR family made, long ago.
They are working their asses off, just like you are, and I am. Except they won't have a social security account when they're too tired to work in the future, and they won't be covered by workman's comp if they hurt themselves today.
They are not our historic burden, they are our historic advantage, the reason it is the Canadian official who worries about sleeping with the American elephant, not the other way around.
Frankly, their energy and drive, their wide, optimistic vision of a possible future...we need it. Those are qualities once synonymous with the American Character, gifts from immigrants past, reinforced by the scale of our geography.
Now, I just don't know.
When I read you ask people of other nations to "...think about what America has endured," I wonder if we've lost the immigrant's connection to the larger world beyond our borders and the suffering in it that drove them here; if this is the same country that once found the strength to pull itself back together after over 600,000 died in the Civil War. And when I read Autopolitica beg the world to "have some compassion for us. The root cause of all this dysfunction is the simple, unspeakable fact that we, as a country, were humiliated on 9/11...We grew up knowing we were the greatest power on the planet and were laid low by a band of psychopaths with box cutters," I wonder if this country that lost so much more to the microscopic Spanish Flu virus and still turned the tide of the First World War has become so Fat and Unhappy we've lost the strength to push forward, retreating into either world weary, ineffectual psychobabble or a revisionist nationalism that scares hockey lovers.
Then I look around the job site at the Jamaican plumbers, the Polish electricians, the Japanese tile guy and the carpenters from south of the border and I take heart. They are not whining and their work vehicles don't sport jingoistic bumper stickers. In general they are industrious and entrepreneurial. They are quite aware of and interested in the other countries of the world, at least in regard to the relative strengths of their soccer programs. They are tough and pragmatic and have perspective. I have hope they will help replace some of the glass that has found its way into the jaw of this country and I feel lucky to be able to, in a sense, work side by side with the immigrants of my family who came here years ago with the same attitude, the same spirit, and did the same work.
Of course, they will not be chanting at any political conventions and won't be seen on television being interviewed by reporters. But they are here, keeping the melting pot boiling, and if I was Canadian, I'd rest a little easier with that knowledge.