American Dreamers

When I was a kid, our family knew lots of Polish, Italian, or German immigrant families. We liked them so much, we married lots of them.

In one family was a little old Italian grand mama from the old country, who never learned a word of English. My mother asked her once why she did not wish to learn it. The woman replied that why should she; in the neighborhoods she visited, the stores, etc. everyone spoke fluent Italian. She was a citizen of the United States who never spoke a word of the native language, and no one ever harassed her, called her names, or told her to go home. She was home. (Maybe the Cosa Nostra would have had something to say to anyone who did).

These were hard working, hard loving, loyal Americans who themselves or their parents struggled to make a life here. (My paternal grandmother was a Scottish immigrant). They added a piece of America to their lives, but still danced polkas and ate lots of sausages. They joined the military in droves and we were damn lucky to have them. They worked the factories for long hours and wanted their kids to graduate college. They were the perfect embodiment of the American Dream, and it was my privilege to be inspired by them.

We all know that Japanese Americans in WWII were interred (outside of Hawaii), and to a lesser extent German Americans suffered the same fate. Italian Americans were also listed as “Enemy Aliens” even if in they had been in the country for generations. All these “enemies” struggled for years under very inconsistent and unfair burdens and sometimes imprisonment. Being a good American was not enough; your heritage counted more than your heart.

However, there were some in the War Department who saw the value of persons who spoke the enemies’ languages and knew their culture thoroughly. These people served with distinction for their adopted nation. Even the Mafia was a major asset in our arsenal.

In the current conflict, the same “Guilt by Birth” ideal has been going on for 14 tiresome years. When 9/11 occurred, the FBI had 7 non-native Arabic speakers. five years later, they had 8. One young man was refused a job as an Army translator because he was of Arabic heritage, despite the fact that his family had lived in New York for 125 years.

I see vitriol poured out on these people every single day. Hatred of their religion, culture, or their skin tone by people who carry their ignorance like a badge of honor. Approximately 55 people have been killed in the last 14 years in the US by Islamic inspired terrorists, almost all of whom died in 3 incidents. But thousands die each year from English descended white males. When they shoot up a school, church, theater, home etc. or plan to bomb a high school, or even murder an entire town in upstate New York, they are just said to be mentally unstable, and politics, religion, separatism, or race are never a factor with them. The double standard should be obvious.

That Italian grand mama never hurt anyone, and her cooking was the enemy of any weight loss program. She wanted to live in the United States and for her family to enjoy the benefits that our nation brings. She just did not want to learn a foreign language.

I hope that one day these modern “Enemy Aliens” will be treated the way all Americans should be treated. But who knows; my mom has been here since 1960, and stupid people still say she should go home. She is home, moron.


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