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"A nation of immigrants?"

A couple of days ago, I heard a caller on a talk show make a really interesting point:

"If the United States had been founded by immigrants, we'd all be speaking Indian today."

That crystallized matters for me. People who move from one nation to another come in two forms: colonists and immigrants.

Colonists bring their own culture, their own language, their own ways to the new land and attempt to adapt it to the new area. In our specific example, the earliest Americans saw themselves as British and tried to expand the British way of life in the New World. Those already living here were displaced, killed, or assimilated. (Right or wrong, it's historical fact.) There was no attempt to assimilate by the colonists, no efforts made at fitting in and becoming part of the existing structures -- they were overwritten with an adaptation of the European model. It wasn't until after we won our independence and established ourselves as America that we started welcoming immigrants.

Immigrants are different. They are not looking to expand their home culture, but become a part of a new one. They might keep some of their old ways, but for the most part they have chosen to set it aside in favor of a new way of life. The Irish, for example, focus on one day a year to return to their roots.

The recent mass protests in favor of illegal aliens showed their true colors -- red, white, and green. Mexican flags were highly prominent, in some cases even being flown over United States flags (and in one stunning display of contempt, flying over an inverted American flag).

These are not the actions of immigrants. This is a declaration of intent by would-be colonists.

America is, indeed, a nation of immigrants. We owe much of our explosive growth from a shabby baker's dozen of colonies into the world's sole hyperpower to our policy of taking in refugees, cast-offs, the "wretched refuse" and "teeming masses" of the rest of the world and converting them into Americans. We are the mongrels and the mutts of the world, and we are top dog.

And that is why we must still continue to embrace and welcome immigrants of all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, and cultures. But we have to draw a distinction between immigrants and colonists. Those who want to come here purely to enrich themselves, to gain as many of the benefits of being in America without giving back to America, to make their largesse off Americans to send money back to enrich their homeland, are not immigrants. They remind me of one of the more unpleasant aspects of my own ethnic heritage -- the Viking pillagers who ravaged the European coastlines. They took what they wanted, and gave little or nothing back in return.

We must continue to embrace immigrants. And we must not accept colonists.


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Comments (18)

The distiction between colo... (Below threshold)
Bill:

The distiction between colonists and immigrants is an important one. I would add that the ancestors of most Mexican immigrants today were ALSO colonists. The accusation being leveled at anglos--"This is stolen land!"--applies to their ancestors as well.

I am a first generation Ame... (Below threshold)

I am a first generation American, born of Italian immigrants. In Brooklyn, where we first settled, hundreds of Italian flags fly proudly. We speak Italian at home. We help our family members in the old country immigrate here too. Our food, music, language, religion, and culture have radically changed the character of this country.

My family has received nothing but acceptance and warmth in this country. We love our American home, and our Italian culture. No one has challenged my Italian heritage, or claimed that being very Italian somehow makes me less American.

Should it be any different because most immigrants of this generation are Mexican?

SomeGuy,By your to... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

SomeGuy,

By your tone and usage of the English language, you have assimilated into America quite well.

That's the difference between you and a colonist, which was the point Jay was making.

Many of the Mexican illegals come here and don't bother to learn to read or speak English. They make NO effort to assimilate into America. They seem to think of America as North Mexico, and treat it as such. That's what has many of us 'natives' and legal immigrants angry.

As an immigrant, you are quite welcome here. As a colonist, you would not be.

Hmmm.@ SomeGuyInDC... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

@ SomeGuyInDC

The difference is fairly stark as Sheik Yur Bouty pointed out. But here's a question for you:

If you were involved in a protest would you be shouting "Italia! Italia!"? or "America! America!"?

That's really what is going on here. If your loyalty is to America, then that's perfectly ok. If your loyalty is to Italy, then that isn't. It's great to feel love for your birth nation and it's people and I approve heartily, and not just because I love Italian food either. :)

The problem is that many illegals aren't here to become citizens whose first loyalty is to America. They're here to suck all they can out of America before returning to Mexico or whatever nation they originally came from. They're not here to build a life here, but to build a life back home.

And that is a problem.

Good distinction Jay Tea. A... (Below threshold)
tblubird:

Good distinction Jay Tea. And good comment from ed.
I have French lineage (yea, I know but like Jay Tea says, facta are facts). I sorta like some French food - but it would be over my cold dead body before I'd fly a French flag (isn't it white?).
When in America, by choice, be an American. Or go home.

Excellent distinction. Won... (Below threshold)

Excellent distinction. Wonderful post. I love blogs that add to the discussion and this post is further evidence that Wizbang does that. Good job.

Fantastic insight into the ... (Below threshold)

Fantastic insight into the distinction between a Colonist and an Immigrant! I'm the son of Spanish Immigrants and when my father became a US citizen he was so proud he but on the Same Tux with Tails he got married to my mother in! My father and mother braved deportation because they came to the US on a student Visa. They went back to Spain and waited in line for their Green Card because that was the LAW in the 1960's! My father was a well educated General Surgeon who was serving the good but poor people of West Virginia but that didn't matter the Law trumped the good he was doing in this Country. I and 2 siblings were "Anchor Babies"! We went back to Spain too and then came back the right way. The Hispanic display in Los Angeles was Morally and Legally Wrong! Why don't the illegals do in their country of origin what they do in my great Country! Their lack of gratitude and arrogance make me ashamed of being a HISPANIC for the first time in my life! Proud to say I'm the son of immigrants and not colonists! This is a Reconquista Invasion. At least when Spain conquered the Aztecs they introduced them to the Wheel, God, Jesus Christ, Guitars, Music, Philosophy and Literature... What will these Locos introduce our great country to? Francis of www.powdertracks.blogspot.com

My paternal ancestor e... (Below threshold)

My paternal ancestor entered the Americas likely during the Revolution, and quite likely illegally. His home country was in turmoil, he had apparently run off to London initially, then somehow ended up in the colonies, undocumented. He hightailed it to the mountains, and fathered through two wives (in succession, now :-0) what became a significant population of descendants. Melangeon, Cherokee and Irish blood was sprinkled in amongst the Scandinavian, Scottish, English and German. Other than being buried in his dugout canoe (an interesting twist on Scandinavian culture), it doesn't appear he cared much for or passed on much from his native land's culture.

A generation or two later, the Civil War divided members of the family. One dishonorable branch played both sides against the middle, stealing horses for whichever side was advantageous to support. The majority of the rest served or supported the Union.

No one that I am aware of in the family's history made any nationalistic flag waving or saber rattling for their Scandinavian forebears. There is no record I've found of anyone speaking anything but English (though certainly in local dialect). Yet English was the native language of only a small proportion of these ancestors.

So were they colonists or immigrants? They certainly colonized the Native American lands. They certainly immigrated but assimilated the cultures of their fellow colonists.

Rather than arbitrarily differentiate the two, I think you have to recognize that although our North American culture is based on colonization (and suppression/eradication of the previous inhabitants), it is being threatened with re-colonization from South of our border. We managed to wangle the SW and Texas from Spain/Mexico over a century ago. If we wish to fail to learn from the history of our Native Americans, we could easily share their fate as Hispanic culture wangles it back.

Excellent post John. Living... (Below threshold)
Razorgirl:

Excellent post John. Living in Northwest Arkansas, we are seeing the "colonization" of this area at warp speed. Due to the rapid growth in the area, "mostly hispanics" it has placed a major burden on the infrastructure and especially our school system. Signs are now displayed in both English and spanish. The car insurance rates here are astronomical (due to all the uninsured drivers.) Loud music is blasting at all hours of the night in what were once quiet neighborhoods. They don't care to learn the language or the laws. You'd think they would want to learn basic traffic rules for their own safety. I personally have stopped my car on high traffic streets to drag their children from the middle of the road. The crime rate is escalating. Tyson, was it worth it?

Sheik Yur Bouty:Ma... (Below threshold)

Sheik Yur Bouty:

Many of my older family members only speak Italian. All of my family members born in this country speak English, although our first language was often Italian. Many of the Hispanic immigrants who come to this country only speak Spanish. The overwhelming majority of children born in this country learn to speak English, even if Spanish is still their first language. By the third generation, many immigrants only speak English.

It wasn't too long ago that Italian immigrants were feared and reviled in this country, a fate shared in turn by many other cultures. Remember history. Remember the signs that read "NINA" for No Irish Need Apply. Remember the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party. The children of the current wave of immigrants are just as American as you are or I am. Their presence will change American culture, as every wave of immigrants has changed American culture, helping to make our country the most dynamic and powerful in the human history.


Ed:

Italians march(ed) in the streets carrying Italian flags and proclaiming their loyalty to Italy, as did Irish immigrants, and most other sizable immigrant groups. St. Patrick's Day? Columbus Day? (Which was an Italian American pride day a century before it was a national holiday).

Immigrants are not here to "suck all they can out of America before returning to Mexico or whatever nation they originally came from." The vast majority desperately want to stay here, and build a life, just like every other immigrant group that has come here over the centuries. If you would like to have a separate debate about how low the minimum wage is or how poorly current immigrant employment laws are being enforced, I would be happy to have that discussion.


tblubird:

The French flag is red, white, and blue - the colors of revolution. Perhaps that combination of colors is familiar to you? The French flag was created by Marquis de La Fayette, a hero in both America and France. Many historians believe it was inspired directly by the American flag.


I find the subtext of racism against Hispanics that is sometimes present in this debate very disturbing. President Bush has done his utmost to be inclusive of all immigrants. If conservatives wish to exclude the fastest growing portion of our population, they will reap the whirlwind of their decisions in the coming elections.

SomeGuy,Were your ... (Below threshold)

SomeGuy,

Were your Italian ancestors claiming that this land actually belonged to Italy?

Q: What do you get when yo... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Q: What do you get when you cross a mexican with an octopus?
A: I don't know, but it sure picks watermelons!!

SomeGuyinDC:I don't ... (Below threshold)
bnorm:

SomeGuyinDC:
I don't care if immigrants come here, as long as they do it LEGALLY. Be they Irish, French, Italian, Mexican, Spanish, or whatever. We welcome all LEGAL immigrants. It's the ILLEGAL ones we're concerned about, the ones ruining it for legal immigrants. So do you support ILLEGAL immigrants?

I agree with the basic poin... (Below threshold)
wistfulvista:

I agree with the basic point of your posting. There is a crucial difference between immigrants and colonists. This is a difference I am aware of because I am a descendant of colonists (Massachusetts, New Amsterdam, and Jamestown, VA) as well as Indians. I have to take issue, however, when you say that there was no effort on the part of the early colonists to 'assimilate.' There was no country per se then, no dominant culture (there was no monolithic Indian culture, but many scattered groups) and there was no established government. Assimilation was not an issue, as it was later, when there was an established nation with a common culture and a system of laws.
I may be a little sensitive on this issue, as my colonist ancestors seem to be the favorite whipping boys these days. One of the illegal supporters in today's protests carried a sign saying 'The Pilgrims were the first illegals.' This is just ignorance, and it's a slander on the original founders of this country. Yet thanks to our poor school system and biased media, this is considered sensible by many people.
Lately it seems to be fashionable to identify with immigrant origins, since we are bombarded with the phrase, 'a nation of immigrants'. The more recent the immigrant origins, the better, apparently, which is kind of a reversal of the old days, in which having colonial ancestors was a mark of status.
Many people, knowing of my Indian ancestry, expect me to join in the anti-colonist sentiment, but I see no reason not to be proud of both my ancestral lines.
America is a nation of Americans.

Humanely deport them one at... (Below threshold)
Ditto:

Humanely deport them one at a time. It is true illegal aliens pay social security taxes of 7 Billion dollars a year. While we as Americans pay 50 Billion Dollars a year in Services Costs for illegal aliens. The Washington Post reported, that if amnesty were given, the services cost would Triple. The federal government already spends about $10 Billion a year on Social Programs alone like welfare for illegal aliens. If they were legalized, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates the Social cost of amnesty could jump to $30 Billion a year for social programs. The minute illegal aliens get a green card they are eligible for social services. This is Extremely Unfair to America.
One third of all prisoner in our jails and prisons are illegal aliens which cost American tax payers 3.3 Million Dollars a Day. The Federal government spends 51 Million dollars a year on air fare deporting illegal alien at $600.00 a head, just to have them return. In 2002 the cost to arrest and process an illegal alien was $ 1,700. Last year 3,900 illegal alien child molesters were deported. The costs of Identity Theft and Gang and Drug violence are devastating, 50 are on death row.

70% of all illegal aliens in America have less than a 6th grade education. 50% of all Mexican immigrants and anchor babies will drop out of high schools each year One out of every ten babies born in America have an immigrant mother and is likely on social services.

To claim something by and illegal act, is illegal. These people do not want to be Americans, they want to reclaim the land for Mexico, that they claim Americans stole from them. The politicians that are Latino Elected Officials want open boarders and legalization for all of Mexico. What will happen when Mexicans get 51% of the vote? Americans will lose control of their own country.

Illegal aliens from special interest countries apprehended in 2005 were: Algeria 11, Egypt 17, Iran 25, Iraq 31, Jordon 27, Pakistan 101, Philippines 85, Syria 13, Thailand 29, Yemen 7. In March 2006 in Seattle, Wa., 21 Chinese smuggled themselves in ship cargo container for 2 weeks. When they arrived at port they simply let themselves out and were apprehended. One half million illegal aliens have been ordered to leave the United States, they don't leave they just disappear in society.

Our boarders are in Chaos, we must insist that immigrants follow the law and immigrate legally. Our elected officials must be reminded, too, that we all took an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution and the law of the land. To do less would be a violation of that oath.

We must Demand that illegal aliens will have to use legal channels to enter the country. Americans in no way should reward illegal aliens for illegal behavior. The bill that is before the Senate as of April 2006 offered a cleverly disguised Amnesty for illegal aliens. This bill has not passed. Let's make sure the new bill includes, NO AMNESTY IN ANY FORM FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS A FENCE ALONG OUR SOUTHERN BOARDER AND MORE SECURITY AT OUR BOARDERS AND PORTS AND AMERICA MUST STRINGENTLY ENFORCE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS. We are all under deception that cheap labor is healthy for America when in reality we are endanger of collapsing our infrastructure. Your help is Desperately needed Right Now to save America, Please Write or Email your Congressman and Senators today :

whitehouse.gov
senate.gov
house.gov

After discovering this blog... (Below threshold)
THX1138:

After discovering this blog for the first time this morning, my first thought was, "My God! People with brains who can actually think critically!" Thank you, thank you, thank you all. My faith in humans had almost completely washed away in ever-growing cynicism. Nice to meet you all...I'll keep watching.

This discussion seems a bit... (Below threshold)
La Socialista:

This discussion seems a bit one sided.

Immigrants are an important part of our history; Italians, Irish, Chinese, people came frome all over the world to America, looking for opportunity. Generally, the older generations did not learn English at all. Their children, however, learned it fairly easily, but it made no difference in the fact that they were trying to give back to this society. People came here for work, and work they found, and though they did not learn the language, does that mean that they did not assimilate properly? It is very hard to learn a language, and I don't think it is something that should be faulted them.
It is much the same today. People, those you call 'illegals' with such distaste, are coming here to escape the poverty of their homelands, and they work hard, legal or not, for a bit of money. It may be that they only have a sixth grade education, as Ditto suggests, but that would be because they have to earn some extra money to support their family. Many drop out early to get a job.
Immigrants today are trying their hardest to be 'assimilated,' and they are begging for acceptance. They want to live better lives, should we not allow them to have them?

to DCGuy -- The comment ab... (Below threshold)
Bess:

to DCGuy -- The comment about the French flag being white - it was meant to be funny - a white flag is the flag of surrender.

LaSocialista said "People, those you call 'illegals' with such distaste, are coming here to escape the poverty of their homelands, and they work hard, legal or not, for a bit of money. "

It's not too hard to understand - people who enter our country without going through the proper channels, break the law - thus are illegal - regardless if they are here to "work hard." And -- not all are here to "work hard" - there's a sizeable criminal element as well.

Great entry!




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