Liberty Just in Case

A Dialogue for the September 12th World

Can We Just Move Along Now?

Posted by Mark on May 15, 2006

Okay, so the President spoke tonight on immigration. Here’s the money quote from the President:

America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue and as we work it out, all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone’s fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.

I’ve managed to avoid the whole debate. I haven’t blogged about it. I’ve paid scant attention to the marches and the counter-marches. My commute to work forces me to listen to some of it on Bill Bennett’s morning show, at least until I can find a decent CD to play until he moves on to something else.

The ugly truth is…I don’t care. I know I’m supposed to. I know I should. But, I don’t.

I know too many folks on both sides of this issue to have a firm opinion. So, I’ve avoided the whole question. I just can’t seem to get up a good head of steam on this one. Does anyone else feel this way? Am I alone in my inability to get all emotional about immigration?

Or is my attitude what’s needed to actually come up with real solutions to the problem? Can we step away from the yelling, the emotion of both sides and actually look at the issue of immigration? The history of our nation tends to say we can’t. From “Irish Need Not Apply” to “No Chinese Wanted Here” to the Know Nothing Party, American history has been one long adjustment to the stranger coming to our shores. That Stranger has always forced change on society. It was true of the Irish, the Eastern Europeans, the Chinese, and the Boat People. It’s true now of the Hispanic Immigration. Yet, assimilation has occurred. And it will occur again.

America has always been a balance between stability and change, fresh blood and bloody prejudice. Nothing has really changed except the language spoken by the Stranger. In the past it was an Irish brogue, a Mandarin dialect, a Krakow accent. Today it’s Espanol. Yet adjustment has occurred, and America has continued.

Because America is more than a language. It’s an idea, a standard of freedom. That’s why the Stranger keeps coming to our shores; the hope that they can stop being the Stranger and become the grocer, the teacher, the Neighbor Next Door, and ultimately, the Citizen in the next voting booth.

But Americans have stopped teaching the American idea, that tapestry of true myth that binds us together. We’ve stopped telling our children the American stories, the Story of America. Chopping Down the Cherry Tree. The Miracle at Philadelphia. The Duel. Lexington and Concord. Valley Forge. The Battle of New Orleans. Shilo and Gettysburg. The Ardennes and Armistice. Bataan and the USS Missouri. Columbus and Ponce de Leon. Washington and Jefferson. Adams and Madison. North and South. Lincoln. Grant. Lee. Whitney. Edison and Einstein. Glenn and Armstrong.

And the silence is deafening. In order to drown out the silence, we substitute “multi-culturalism.” And in doing so, lose that which makes us Americans. The silencing of the American stories in our schools is frightening.

The fear of that silence, of losing who we are produces fences, National Guard troops on our borders, and a desire to stop the Stranger. When we stop telling the American stories of which we are a part, we lose that which makes us Americans. We become strangers to each other, separate from those we once called Neighbors and fellow Citizens. In becoming strangers to each other, we lose the ability to welcome the Stranger from beyond our borders. When we silence the history of who we have been, we lose who we are, and therefore, who we may become.

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