Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Assimilated Immigrants Culture Day

Today we celebrate the American-ized cultural references of people who left their country because of religious persecution and rampant poverty and hunger. When they came to our shores we hated and feared them for their differences. They had a different religion (that wasn't all that different), a different appearance that we ridiculed (but secretly admired), different food. They may have come from a nation we were at war with, but they disagreed with their rulers and sought out a place where they could be free of the persecution. We may have brought them here without a choice. We were suspicious of them, afraid we were harboring dangerous people who could tear apart our society. We were afraid they were organizing attacks, if they were it was on someone else, not us. We complained they took our jobs (that none of us wanted to do anymore anyway), that we had to support them (though our society wouldn't have run without them doing the work they did). So, we segregated them, maybe even interred them, fearing that they would disrupt our society. But after time, we warmed up to them, we even assimilated parts of their culture as they had to do of ours. Now we celebrate their addition to our society.

This could be Oktoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, Kwanzaa or MLK Day, Festival of Lanterns, or many alternate New Years. But today is St. Patrick's Day.


It's easy to forget, but time and time again as new waves of immigrants have come to America, we have treated them the same way, even ones that looked and acted and spoke and worshiped very much like most of us. The Irish were one of them. Though they were European, and Christian, and like most when they came to us they were socially and economically poor, they were treated as second class citizens, especially in the city that we now think of most - Boston. In order to claw their way to even a poor life they had to take the lowest paying, most unpleasant or even dangerous jobs yet they were resented by the 'native' working class for working for whatever they could get. They were even seen as possible terrorists and threats to our national security as were Germans and Italians among others.

Of the Irish immigrants the Chicago Post once wrote "The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses...Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic. Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country."

Sound familiar? Try replacing "Irish" with Mexicans or Muslims, or even Blacks (who one politician recently called 'immigrants' though they were slaves forced to come here) in the quote above and you could easily see it in a quote today. So many times we have gone through this, and yet we never learn. You may be part of one of the people who experienced this, remember that when calls come to repeat it on others.

When will we learn that the quicker we accept the next wave of immigrants the quicker we will all be a more united, safer country? The more we resist, the more resistance we create.

As you go out today and celebrate (fill-in-theblank)-American heritage, whether you are of their people or not, remember what it took them to get the acceptance, recognition, and celebration they now have.