Melting the Pot

America used to known as a melting pot. People came here from all over the world to become Americans. They yearned for what we had here--freedom, opportunity, and hope. A few months ago, we stood where millions stood in line at Ellis Island to be cleared through immigration so that they could become something brand new. The great composer John Phillip Sousa's father came here from Italy with the last name So. He added the letters "usa" to his name in tribute to his new home.

These people wanted to be here. They wanted to be Americans. They wanted to be us.

Today I read in the Washington Times online edition that the Denver Public Library System is planning to make seven branches in the city Spanish language oriented. Any English materials will be put at the back, and all the workers will have to speak Spanish. This is wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.

It was in the library that I discovered what America had been--where my father took me when I was six years old to get a library card of my very own. It was there that I checked out "The True Book of Snakes"--the first book ever put on the record of card number 70 at the Linebaugh Public Library. But I went on from there to bigger and better things. I learned about George Washington and Patrick Henry and Paul Revere. I read Bruce Catton on the Civil War and Cornelius Ryan on World War II and William Manchester on everything he wrote about. I learned our common American culture in the library. (Yes, at home and at school and at church too, but those stacks of books held a special magic.)

America is blessed with a rich mix of ethnic heritages, cultures, cuisines, arts, and entertainment. But these have been made part of the overall American culture. Encouraging newcomers to our nation to hang on to their past language and not assimilate is a recipe for disaster. Many of the nations in our world are riven by rival tribes, fighting for prominence, preminence, or independence. We've seen genocidal struggles in the former Yugoslavia, in the Sudan, in Rwanada, and many fear a bitter civil war in Iraq lies in the future.

America has been spared that kind of strife precisely because we have been a people who come together. I'm an American whose ancestors came from Ireland (mostly). The days of the "no dogs or Irish" signs outside businesses are now long in our past. And that's a good thing. It takes a while for new groups to settle into our American culture. But it's a vitally important process. Short-circuiting that process undermines the foundations of this country.

There are now more people of Hispanic descent in America than there are people of African descent. And the demongraphic trend is accelerating. If we do not find a way for Hispanics to see themselves as Americans first and foremost, the social unrest of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s will pale in comparison to what is coming.

Spanish language libraries are a step in the wrong direction. A big step. We're encouraging people not to become part of the common culture of our nation--because if you don't share the language, you can't share the culture. I believe this is a well-intentioned effort, but a tragically misguided one.


At 12:43 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Hi, I found your site via Froggy's.
I am in total agreement with you.
In the Denver area there have been many topics related to this issue.
We really need to establish an English only law. English only was shot down here in Denver not too long ago, passing it off as politically incorrect and hateful.
In the hospital for instance, I'm told that over $15,000 dollars are spent on Spanish interpreters alone monthly. I can think of many more effective ways to spend all that money. (It used to be that families would bring in folks that spoke English to translate, but now with consents, legal documents and patient confidentiality, they need an official Spanish interpreter.) Taking this a step farther with calls to 911 needing Spanish interpreters etc.. It is so vital that folks that come here learn at least the bare mimimum of emergency terms, but it is expected that interpreters are available to them.
With the schools being bilingual, I used to think how wonderful that they were learning English. That isn't the case, they are being taught in Spanish and many that have gone from elementary through some high school still don't speak English. (Many don't finish school my thought is because they don't speak English)We are setting them up to fail, and we're also failing our community as a whole.
Legal immigration needs to be enforced, pure and simple. When folks come for the free stuff (emergency medicaid) that we give them and not to be Americans and be us we're going down a dark path.

I also am a person that feels you need to earn things, not be given stuff for free to really appreciate it. I see alot of illegal immigrants that expect to be handed most things and it kills me that they get it. I see emergency medicaid being misused over and over again, this really needs to be reworked, seriously.

At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I totally agree with you!!!
I work in a hospital and see so many people abusing the medicad system. They come into the E.R. for being constipated, they can cause they have no copay and then there are the people who actually pay for their insurance who can not afford to go to the doctor because their co pays are too high. Same with perscriptions those on medicaid get theirs for little or no cost then there are those of us with real insurance who can not even afford the generic. I have seen these people on medicaid have baby after baby, they come to the hospital for any little thing, dont you think they should maybe have a small copay so they will think twice about coming to the E.R. for a stubbed toe? It is all wrong how they are taking advantage of us tax payers!!! What can we do to bring this to someones attention? Signed, Frustrated


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