Tomorrow marks the 240th Birthday of this great land. It is a day of picnics, parades and celebration of being here, in this great melting pot known as America. In Church, as I’m sure it is across this great land, we sung “America the Beautiful.” The song itself is beautiful, and I hate to say this, but I do not know all four verses by heart. We can all sing the first verse by heart, but in Church; the verse that got my attention was the second verse:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
The lyrics to America The Beautiful were written by Katharine Lee Bates, in 1895. This served as a good reminder to me, that, in our current political season; maybe we all need to take a step back and take a deep breath. I, for one, do not think that Muslims coming into America to resettle are as big an issue as the political class (i.e. the Republicans in this case) are trying to make it. I don’t particularly care for this type of rhetoric, I myself do not understand the finer points of the Muslim faith. But I do know they are not alone when it comes to religious persecution. Think of it this way, why did the Pilgrims come here? Religious persecution. Why did the Muslims come? To practice their religion according to their views, not their government’s interpretation. They too are seeking refuge from religious persecution, much like the Pilgrims 400 years earlier. This “less than smooth” transition is not the first time immigrants to this land have been seen as the undoing of America…
- Catholic migration; mid-19th century. At the time, the prominent religion was Protestant. They (Protestant leadership) felt threatened by the Catholic religion, with its hierarchies and traditions. In the early 1920, immigration laws placed quotas on the number of people allowed from each foreign country. Quotas for Catholic countries were so low that immigration of Catholics was practically halted by 1924. One big culprit of the mass immigration was the potato famine in Ireland.
- Chinese migration; 19th century. The Chinese also had a rough go during their assimilation into American culture. Much like the Mexican “mules” who extract high fees to bring people across the border, the Chinese who made it here were forced to take, and work for whatever they could. They were also the first to be accused of “stealing” jobs from other Americans. Some argued that allowing the Chinese into America would lower the cultural and moral standards of American society. In 1882 the “Chinese Exclusion act” became law. This law suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years. In 1892 the act was renewed, also including peoples from Hawaii and Philippines. Later, the requirement for the law to be reviewed in 10 year cycles was removed, and the law was put in place indefinitely until it was repealed in 1943.
These are just two of many groups. You see; change is never easy. I know I prefer to keep my ways when possible; but the times are a changing. America is a melting pot, as the great lady says, “Give me your tired, your poor…” For over 200 years, our country has struggled with new groups coming to our shores. I think we’ll be just fine; we don’t need to over think this.
I think the community of Hamtramck, MI has the opportunity before them to prove to the rest of the country, and the world, that poeple can co-exist. This is not new for Hamtramck though. 100 years ago it was the Polish who were invading the original German town. Now it is the Muslims moving into the Polish town. Saad Almasmari, the new head of the towns city council says, he found himself an American, now he has to serve this country, as an American. His rules are the US Constitution and city law. Can Saad serve in both rolls, as a Muslim and an American? Yeah, I think he can. One of the great foundations of America is religious freedom, how about we put our beliefs into action.
Our overall generosity as a nation, our caring for one another, despite our backgrounds and heritage. That’s what makes us strong; let’s not give in to the pettiness. How about if we try and live up to our own ideals…
The land of the free; yes we have some flaws, but I think we’re still the best game in town! As Johnny Cash sings in the Ragged Old Flag: “She’s been burned, dishonored, denied an’ refused…But she’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in. Cause she’s been through the fire before, and I believe she can take a whole lot more.”
What say you? Here’s a card to celebrate the day!
Some pretty neat (NOT all inclusive) information regarding our nation’s laws and immigration policy.
- Naturalization Act of 1870. Revised the Naturalization Act of 1790 to include those of African descent. Asians were not included. The link provided here is a good read in general regarding immigration law.
- Immigration Acts of 1882 & 1891. First set of comprehensive immigration laws. Created guidelines of exclusion through the creation of inadmissible aliens (convicts, polygamists, lunatics, idiost [??], or any person able to take care of themselves).
- Naturalization Act of 1906. Standardize procedures and made knowledge of English a requirement of citizenship [I did not know this and found it very interesting!].
- Immigration Act of 1907 & 1917. Restricted immigration for certain diseased/disabled people and those from an Asiatic Barred Zone comprising of the Middle East, India and SE and S Asia. China was already barred. This act was initially vetoed by President Wilson, but congress overturned the veto.
- Emergency Quota Act. Restricted the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 3% of the number of residents from that same country already living in the United States (as of the 1910 census). Those countries already blacklisted, remained so. This act was primarily a response to the number of refugees after W.W.I. I encourage you to read “American Would Lose Its Soul” A very good paper regarding immigration between 1920 – 24. An unintended consequence of this law was increased immigration to Canada and Mexico. After which they slipped into the United States (sound familiar?).
- Immigration & Naturalization Act 1952. This act abolished racial restrictions. Created three classes of immigrants: those with special skills, average, and refugee. The ban on Asians is lifted. The act started a quota system, which was repealed in 1965.
Kind of off the topic I wanted to focus on today, but for our Country’s birthday, what the hell. The following poem was also written by Ms. Bates, and I found it pretty good, its about our national ensign, OUR flag. She wrote many other poems, including this one about our flag. The poem is from the Book “America the Beautiful and other poems” by Katharine Lee Bates (1911). It’s titled THE FLAG:
It is not fair to see, our starry banner? You, as an artist, who have pledged allegiance only to beauty, find it crude in color, stiff in design, void of romantic symbol, unvenerable? England’s golden lions, Japan’s chrysanthemum, imperial flower blooming in red as on a field of battle, the holy cross of Switzerland, out-value to all impartial, pure, aesthetic judgment the flag our patriot folly terms Old Glory?
I cannot tell. Perchance I never saw it. When on the seas or in some foreign city, nay, here at home above a country school-house, I find it floating on the wind, it beckons my heart into my eyes. It is not bunting, mere red and white and blue, — that starry cluster, those gleaming folds; it is the faith of childhood, the unison of strong, rejoicing millions, the splendor of a vision men have died for, the passion of a people vowed to freedom.
Speaking of our flag, there is a pretty good song by Johnny Cash entitled “Ragged Old Flag” which I encourage you to listen too, make sure your speakers are on when you click the link.
Some more interesting links I stumbled across while preparing this article: