As the earth turns its 237th revolution around the sun since the Revolutionary War gave birth to our nation back in 1776 we must ask ourselves, “What has America become?”
Our nation has celebrated its immigrant heritage for many years, most famously perhaps by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…” (The New Colossus, 1883)
What seems generally accepted is that we ARE a nation of immigrants – although the native Americans among us might have a different point of view. What seems to change is that some immigrant waves are more acceptable than others. Nonetheless, the reason for immigration remains constant, that we need a vibrant labor force to help build the nation’s future.
In order to build an enduring and thriving nation we accept people who believe in the American dream – a dream which is made more accessible in the USA compared to their native countries. What some intellectuals fail to understand is that Hispanic immigrants come to America driven by the same dream that induced the British, Irish, German, Italian and Asian immigrants to come here…the chance for a better way of life for themselves and their families. Patrick Buchanan (State of Emergency, 2006) likes to purport that some of us want to transform America back into our native countries (in reference to Aztlán and the Southwestern United States)…but he really misses the point. Although recent Latino immigrants feel a sense of responsibility to provide assistance to our families south of the border, we know we came to America because we believe the USA’s values and economic system will better enable us to succeed. Frankly, America is much more of a meritocracy than most other nations and certainly more so than the average Latin American nation.
During last Sunday’s mass at my local parish, presided over in English by our Spanish-accented pastor, the choir (led by a Spanish-accented soprano) ended the mass with the revered song “God Bless America” (Irving Berlin, 1918). Although the majority of participants, even at the English mass, are Latino (bi-lingual, no doubt) the performance of this song was perfectly befitting of the occasion and reflects accurately the feeling of Latinos in America today. YES, we are patriots – in 2009, 114,601 foreign-born individuals served in the U.S. military (Immigration Policy Center, 2009). And YES we frequently indulge in customs from both our American and Latino cultures, even if we have mixed feelings about our home countries. After all, our hemisphere was named after an Italian-born explorer deployed by Spain towards our Eastern shores, to capture riches and to spread Christianity (Catholicism) — yet most Latin American nations continue to host a huge disequilibrium in wealth that keeps too many of their citizens in extreme poverty and illiteracy.
So, at your next 7th inning stretch, feel free to pronounce América with an accent and be proud that patriots come in many authentic flavors.
Do you have an opinion or question regarding this subject? Please feel free to reply.