By means of an introduction, I am writing a series of essays covering a variety of current issues in modern society. When my friend, Kevin, approached me about writing about some topics for a new forum he created, I was hesitant to say the least. I served with Kevin in the U.S. Army in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has always encouraged me to reach beyond my self-imposed limitations. The idea grew on me after some time elapsed and I realized it might actually be therapeutic for me. More importantly, my words could possibly inform, inspire or offer a different perspective on some aspect of our culture. It’s beneficial if it helps even one person to become more thoughtful, to better protect his or her family, or to improve something in his or her personal or professional life. This is my hope for my readers.
The first of two articles addressing the immigrant experience in America will follow. With all the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the air these days, it is imperative that we remember the valuable contributions of the last Century’s immigrants to the current Greatness of the United States of America. We should absolutely screen all new immigrants to this country. It has to be every immigrant from every country of origin and not just certain groups that we think pose a threat. As we now know, terrorists come from many types of backgrounds. We must also keep in mind that the next group of people to take the oath of citizenship could be made up of researchers with the keys to finally conquer cancer, or student- scientists that can help put human beings on Mars, or young people willing to serve in the United States Military.
The “melting pot” of the 20th Century was a social experiment that worked. A work force of highly motivated people from many different cultures was able to build the infrastructure of the modern American cities. It was not without tension and violence, but these growing pains paved the way to make America the most powerful industrialized nation in the modern world. Just like today’s newest Citizens, there were challenges to adapting to a new culture and new language. As will be discussed in the next installment on this subject, my ancestors had to find a balance between retaining the cultural traditions of their ethnic heritage and embracing the new culture of their adopted homeland. More than once I have heard the saying, “We may have come over on different ships but we were all in the same boat”. Although it was a humorous approach to the immigrant experience, it was accurate in describing the challenges the new arrivals from the “Old Country” faced in the early 20th Century. Perhaps this awareness that everyone was getting a fresh start enabled people from different nations to eventually get together to build highways, bridges, skyscrapers, automobiles, and ships. This same common ground also created the environment to reach the common goal to build tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and warships that allowed us to win two world wars. How fortunate we were that a number of scientists from Germany emigrated to the United States instead of supporting the Nazi war effort!
Part of understanding people who are different from ourselves requires opening the lines of communication. I would encourage everyone who reads this to try to learn something new about a different religion or ethnic group or nation of the world. I am guilty of assuming certain things about a culture based on a very limited knowledge of it. Finding facts can break down stereotypes and reduce animosity towards “the other”. Actually meeting and talking to a person from a different background can open our eyes to the human beings and not just the cultural characteristics of a group My hope and prayer is that we as a people, a Nation of Immigrants, can once again come together to find a common ground, to appreciate our differences while at the same time recognizing how similar we are to each other. This will lay the groundwork to solve problems and to contribute more to the survival of this Great Nation. Even today it is true that we are all still in the same boat.