Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I just watched the PBS Ken Burns documentary about the Statue of Liberty. I love these docus from Ken. Sometimes they can be a little over the top but this was very entertaining. I know the story of the statue pretty well, but the photos from the construction were really neat.
The interview that I really liked was ex-New York Governor Mario Cuomo paraphrasing his mother's interview at Ellis Island. Husband? ditch-digger, money? none, prospects? my son will become Governor of New York. Certainly a little over the top, but very indicative of what the immigrant experience has been to America.
This brings us to horrendous immigration problem in the US today. Millions of Mexicans rushing across the border to take all the po folks jobs and suck social security to death!
I'm am compelled to look at the history of immigration in this country to get a little perspective. In the 1880's thousands of Chinese were brought in to the US mainly to work on the construction of the intercontinental railroad. As these immigrants moved out of the railroad market and into other areas the US forbade them from becoming US citizens. San Francisco's China Town is a well known remnant of this influx. (I won't get into the Japanese internment camps. Left overs of the anti Asian sentiment of the turn of the century.) Later we saw large numbers of Italian, Irish and German immigrants at the turn of the century. All of these immigrants were looked at as a pox on this country. (Side note: All my HO-Chunk friends have T-Shirts with Geronimo's picture. Caption: Home Land Security Since 1492) Where I'm going here is, the immigration situation in the US is little different then what it was 100 years ago.
"They won't learn English" In Milwaukee in the first quarter of this century there were neighborhoods where you couldn't buy a loaf of bread with out speaking German, or Polish, or Lithuanian. Nana barely spoke any English, Mom and Dad spoke it with a thick accent and spoke their native language at home, the kids speak English and appease the family with a few words of the "Mother Tongue" here and there. What we need to understand here is that this country has been built on the the labor of immigrant groups and this has not destroyed us in the past and won't in the future.

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