Friday, November 23, 2007

An Awkward Moment

An awkward moment occurred at our Thanksgiving table this week when one person mentioned the oft-cited lament that whites in our great country will soon be in the minority. There was a moment of silence and quickly shared glances until one brave soul responded by inquiring whether or not, in effect, a Hitlerian-type solution to this problem was being suggested. This was, of course, followed by more silence and a quick dropping of the subject. On to more genial topics and the feast at hand. Upon further reflection, the question in my mind is whether this ultimate reality (that we, as whites, will someday be a minority in our great country) is really at the heart of the anti-immigrant animus that is such a large part of the presidential campaigns. Actually, the last statement is not entirely correct. Other than Bill Richardson, the Democrat hopefuls try to avoid the issue entirely while the Republicans, except for John McCain try to outdo each other with their tough guy approaches to the issue. Numbers are tossed about as though they are facts. I have read that somewhere between eleven to thirteen million people are in the United States illegally, but where does this figure come from? Apparently it is a Republican issue to thwart the potential legalization of these people because they might vote as Democrats. Its either that, or as one candidate persists in claiming, that undocumented illegal aliens take away jobs from those citizens who actually need the work. Yes, and I do believe in the tooth fairy. And I will not write home to my friends and family in Mexico that many employers in the United States are willing to hire and pay substandard wages to workers off the books. And yes, Virginia, here is a Santa Claus. But I digress.

There is an entire symptom complex that feeds into the fear that the face of America is changing in ways in which "whites" consider undesirable. One of the symptoms is the aversion to languages other than English. To put it most simply, you cannot be an American unless you speak English. You cannot be an American and share in America's rich cultural heritages if you sing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish. I am bandying about the topic and, instead, I should just say what is on my mind directly. What is wrong with our society just welcoming foreign speaking persons and asking them to assimilate into our society on a gradual basis, allowing them to immerse themselves in the fabric of American life, including its ideals (all men are created equal)? From what I have observed in Florida, albeit superficially, Hispanics are the hardest working group of people in America. They treasure family values. When given the opportunity they assimilate into our society very nicely and become responsible, law-abiding citizens. When I was a kid, I lived in a neighborhood which was comprised mostly of Italian and Polish immigrants. Most of my friends' parents couldn't speak English. Politicians at the time did not mock these people officially, but the populace in its own way did. Calling someone a WOP or a Polack was a regular part of our every day conversation if the 1950s, not to mention the use of the n-- word as well.

What I think is at the heart of this fear is that whites think if they are to become a minority, they will be treated as badly as tradition and practice in America has been to treat other minorities badly. There I've said it. I don't imagine I could run for president with such thoughts being expressed. People in power want to stay in power. The real solution requires trusting; trusting our systems, trusting each other.

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