Adversity or Diversity

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A look at the diversity of the United States

Submitted: June 06, 2018

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Submitted: June 06, 2018

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Diversity or Adversity

 

I will direct this question to citizens of the United States. By a show of hands, how many of you can trace your lineage back to the pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620? Hmm, not many are there? 

 

I am the grandson of immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to America in 1912. They were seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. Like so many millions after them they suffered discrimination, prejudice, violence and hatred. 

 

My grandfather, and others like him were called sons of hunky, Italians were dagos, Jews were kikes, Irish were micks, and Polish were polaks and so on. In order to survive they established their own churches, for example if you were Irish you would be going to St. Patrick’s, not to St. Theresa’s, the Italian congregation. 

My grandfather and some other men started a Ukrainian church so they could worship together. Forget getting involved with someone that was not your ethnicity. Happily that custom would also change in time. The other way these people survived was to band together in social clubs that spawned the Polish Club or the Sons of Italy.

My grandfather worked in the coal fields where life was controlled by the Company. You lived in a company house, shopped at the company store, and so on payday you really didn’t have much net income from your wages. My grandparents had a cow at one time, and as a child, I remember the chicken house in the backyard where a life lesson was learned. Don’t put your finger in between the wire, or you will get your finger pecked. 

There were no labor unions, and lobbying for one would bring the Coal and Iron Police (which were no more than hired company thugs) down on you.

Prejudice, and misunderstanding ruled the day. These people, these immigrants, they don’t speak English, they have odd customs, they are taking jobs away from our citizens, and they don’t fit in. We did not invite them, and we certainly don’t want these strange people in our country, so why in heavens name are they even here? Sounds like an editorial from today’s newspapers doesn’t it? 

 

So flash ahead to 2017,and what has changed? Today’s immigrants come in a kaleidoscope of skin colors from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia, and India and from the Middle East. Simply put the immigration of the Twenty-first Century are people of color. The wave of immigration of the Twentieth Century was predominately white.

 

My family changed their name so it was easier to write, and understand. Many people had their last names changed at Ellis Island, or other landing points mostly due to the fact that the Immigration Officials just could not properly pronounce them. My grandfather became an America citizen, grandmother remained a legal alien. I can still remember the commercial that ran each year in January urging all legal aliens to register. Each year my father would dutifully take her to the post office to register. My father, and his three brothers served in the military, Dad being wounded in World War II. Most of my family have college degrees, and have contributed in many different fields to our society. My family’s story is a microcosm of who we are as a nation.

 

On a recent news network show, a guest while in a debate about immigration made a great point. 

"If not for people immigrating to the United States none of us would be sitting here." How true...

So what about these new immigrants who are arriving daily, or who are waiting to get here? Some cannot speak English well like my grandparents, and have different religious beliefs, and customs. Are they any more frightening than my grandparents or yours? 

I have worked with people from different countries, and for the most part they are not much different from you and me. Most of the time their children assimilate more quickly than their parents, and the fear of losing their cultural values troubles the parents.

 

I understand the argument for security, and safety that allows us to go about our daily lives in peace. But the value that the new people bring has made us rich in spirit and rich in ideas. Are the only real Americans, the Native Indians or are we all citizens, and part of a patch work that defines us as Americans?

 

Diversity, or Adversity

 

 


© Copyright 2018 John Shore. All rights reserved.

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