“My grandparents didn’t come over to this country to see it run by a bunch of immigrants!”
Besides revealing yet again that this man is as dumb as a clod of dirt, there is something in his quote that the “good ole boys club” recognizes. That some immigrants are the right ones, the ‘real Americans,” and others the wrong.
But let’s take a closer look. Who are the real Americans? Which ancestry qualifies?
Is it the British-Americans? Hmm, didn’t we overthrow the British to claim our very identity as American? German-Americans? Hey, we fought a big war against them and named our principles in direct opposition to Hitler’s tyranny. Italian? Again, Mussolini. Dean Martin and pizza are okay, but no way do they qualify. Spanish? Well, the Spanish-American war and now the proposal to wall out many of the descendants of the Hispanic diaspora. Irish? Well, it’s okay for them to build our railroads and run some pubs in Boston, but way too low class to run this country. You know what I’m talking about. French? Remember Freedom Fries?
Well, how about the German, Eastern European, Russian Jews? Are you kidding? They can run Hollywood and get in the music biz, but heck, we won’t even let them in our country clubs. And there has never been a Jewish president. (Nice try, Bernie.) Polish-Americans? Heard any good jokes lately? African-Americans? Dream on. We made clear from the beginning that they’re lucky to be even 3/5ths of a human being, even if they win all our Olympic Events, create extraordinary music, dominate the sports field, win a bunch of the Oscars and produce some of the most spiritually-inspiring leaders of the 20th century. Surely the Native Americans qualify? Well, perhaps running them off to isolated reservations was a way of saying, “I don’t think so.”
Shall I go on? We appreciated the laundry services and fortune cookies of the Chinese and thanks Japan and India, for what would today’s yuppies and hipsters be without sushi and yoga? But let’s face it, Congress is not exactly overrun with Asian-American representatives. We appreciate the falafel and corner stores, Middle Easterners, but you do know that Islam is the wrong religion, don’t you?
So what’s left? Which ancestry qualifies for the Real Americans?
Maybe it doesn’t have to do with ethnic identity, race or religion. We’re all immigrants, after all, even the Native Americans who crossed the Bering Straits. Maybe the real Americans are the ones the recognize that from the start, our identity was formed from the confluence of immigrants bound by the as-yet-unrealized ideal of "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Maybe the “real Americans” are simply the ones that take this seriously and work on behalf of the country’s “mission statement.” They come from all walks of life, all identities, all genders, races, religions. Maybe the others who seek to deprive others of life (the stories of Emmett Till and Eric Garner and thousands of others), liberty (the Trail of Tears, Jim Crow, etc), and the pursuit of Happiness (banning Gay marriage, defunding schools and health care, etc.) are traitors to the American Dream, not real Americans at all. There’s a lot of them in our midst now, trying to remake democracy’s promise into their Chosen People Immigrant Fantasy of exclusivity, domination, greed.
So next time someone asks my nationality, I believe I’ll claim myself as a Real American and let the conversation fly.