Florida, My Florida. Citizens Wish to Change Their Racist Tune

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

This morning, as I rose, I was reminded, of racism and how prevalent it is in America.  I have been aware of this all of my life.  My own history made me more familiar with what life must be like to be Black and live in America.  I do not envy the experiences of those that are told in America “We are all created equal”; yet, they know, with each breath they are not considered so by the dominant white culture.  As I listened to the radio, I learned signs of the Confederacy, principles associated with the Slave States live large in this nation, specifically, in Florida. I had no doubt.  Since moving here, each day, I am astounded. 

In recent years, Left leaning liberals from the North East are flocking to this Southern region.  They stay here not only for the summers; they relocate permanently.  Bleeding heart liberals live in Florida throughout the year.  Yet, the laws in this state remain “Right.”  In recent weeks a discussion began again.  The Florida State Song is a reminder of the past.  Slavery is glorified in the Stephen Foster tune, “Old Folks at Home,” also more familiarly known as Suwannee River.  The time has come for the tune to change.  However, there may be little support for the idea.  Racism is rampant in the Southern States.  In many ways, the Civil War and slavery live on in America.

In January 2001,

About 1,500 members and supporters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, many dressed in Civil War-era costumes, marched a half-mile to the state Capitol Saturday to voice their support for the flying of the Georgia [State] flag.

This banner featured the Confederate symbol, long associated with the advocacy of slavery.  Tens of thousands, of signatures were gather on a petition.  Many Georgians wished to retain this racist representation on their flag.

In June of 2005, the entire country confronted its fatal flaw.  The United Sates had never banned lynching.  Thus, only two short years ago, Americans officially and belatedly stated their regret for a documented 4742 lynchings.  They apologized for their delayed response to a racist reality.  The Senate finally, after decades of trial and tribulation and much deliberation abolished laws that allowed for legal lynchings. America apologized to its Black citizens, not just for offenses in the South.

[T]here were lynchings in the North and West.  In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties.

The causes assigned by whites in justification or explanation of lynching Black people include everything from major crimes to minor offenses. In many cases, Blacks were lynched for no reason at all other than race prejudice.

Racism permeates the American countryside.  The North is not exempt.  In February, 2007, in what might be considered the most cosmopolitan or  most civilized city in the United States, New York City, racial bigotry dominates the day.  Lynching may no longer be legal; however, the use of hurtful terms rules the day.

A city councilman says he hears it over and over on the streets of New York City: young people casually addressing each other using a racial slur that has a painful history intertwined with slavery.

“You hear it 10 times within two minutes,” says Councilman Leroy Comrie.

On Wednesday, Comrie will urge the council to approve a symbolic resolution calling for New Yorkers to voluntarily stop using the N-word. The effort began weeks ago at the start of Black History Month, and has gradually gained nationwide notice and support.

Comrie and other backers of the nonbinding measure say its purpose is to call attention to what they say is a troubling trend among entertainers and youths to try to repackage the N-word as a term of endearment and camaraderie.

Hip-hop artists in particular have been singled out for weaving the term into music and entertainment, which some say waters it down and convinces younger audiences that the word is acceptable.

Some argue that doing so is empowering, and that reclaiming a slur and giving it a new meaning takes away its punch.

Comrie disagrees, saying it is impossible to paper over the N-word’s long and hurtful history.

“This was derived solely from hate and anger, and you just can’t recreate it,” Comrie said.

The word has received increased attention since the incident last year in which actor Michael Richards, who played the nutty Kramer on “Seinfeld,” used the word while blowing up at audience members during a standup routine. Richards later apologized and said that the outburst was motivated by anger, not racism.

I wonder.  It is all so confusing to me; it appears prejudice never truly dies.  People hold on to their traditions, even if, or perchance especially if they reflect a deeply engrained bias.  Perhaps, we as a whole must examine our intent, our interests, and the implications of these.

Today, Florida is.  Citizens are considering their State Song.  This is not the first time in the last seventy years that Florida residents have proposed adopting a new State song.

At least twice in the past 20 years there were serious efforts to replace “Old Folks at Home.”  In 1988, former Rep. Rick Dantzler tried it, met with resistance, and shifted his effort to adopting another song in addition to the old tune.  It failed.

In 1997, former Rep. Willie Logan, of Opa Locka, tried again.  Resistance came from a lawmaker, Randy Mackey, whose district included parts of the Suwannee River.  Again, the effort failed.

The song gets credit as the foundation for Florida’s tourism industry, as people worldwide came to look for the idyllic home Foster described on the river’s banks.  But just because it’s part of state history doesn’t mean it should represent Florida today, said Dantzler, who now works as a lawyer in Winter Haven.

There are other problems with the song, especially if you live in South Florida and don’t feel connected to a tribute for a river that flows hundreds of miles away, through North Florida.  It doesn’t say much about the state, because Foster never saw it.

Stephen Foster never stepped foot in the state of Florida; yet some Floridians are choosing to honor his memory more than the actual state, or the state of affairs that our fore-fathers meant to promote, equality for all.

Floridians that support the change are realizing this harmony leads to divisiveness.  Jacksonville, Democratic Senator, Tony Hill is working to “retire” the song.  Hill states the lyrics are “loaded with derogatory language.”  The newly elected Governor Charlie Crist refused to have this anthem played at his own inaugural.  Crist mentioned to Senator Hill, that tune would never be played in his presence.  However, he explained the final decision is not his to make.  Governor Crist proclaimed, “Whatever the people decide is fine with me.”

“Old Folks At Home” was meant to be an homage to the Suwannee River; yet, it slights more than it honors.

Is a state song really representing Florida if:

  • The lyrics officially adopted seven decades ago are no longer used because they’re widely viewed as racist?
  • The songwriter is from Pittsburgh?  And never visited Florida?
  • The best known line, “Way down upon the Swanee River,” misspells Suwannee River, the song’s sole reference to Florida?
  • The new governor, wary of the racial fuss the song stirs up, axes it from his inauguration ceremony?
  • In addition to these interesting facts, this song was not the original State hymn.  As we review the lyrics, we wonder why this tune was ever adopted.

    Way down upon de Swanee ribber,
    Far, far away,
    Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
    Dere’s wha de old folks stay.
    All up and down de whole creation
    Sadly I roam,
    Still longing for de old plantation
    And for de old folks at home.


    All de world am sad and dreary,
    Ebry where I roam,
    Oh! darkeys how my heart grows weary,
    Far from de old folks at home.

    2nd verse

    All round de little farm I wandered
    When I was young,
    Den many happy days I squandered,
    Many de songs I sung.
    When I was playing wid my brudder
    Happy was I
    Oh! take me to my kind old mudder,
    Dere let me live and die.


    3rd verse

    One little hut amond de bushes,
    One dat I love,
    Still sadly to my mem’ry rushes,
    No matter where I rove
    When will I see de bees a humming
    All round de comb?
    When will I hear de banjo tumming
    Down in my good old home?

    References to slavery and questionably racist terms filter through this Stephen Foster tune.  The lyrics  accentuate an implied ignorance on the part of the slave singer.  The chorus suggests that the ol’ darkey longs for a home back on the plantation.  Could such a silliness ever be true.  It certainly is not a concept current Floridians wish to embrace.  The idea of enslaving equals is loathsome to those living in this state.  Yet, still, many young Florida school children learn this tune.

    One wonders; did those in the past ever truly imagine that people would purposely chose a life of bondage.  Nevertheless, this song stands on the books as the State tune.  Perhaps people did not notice or think through the repercussions.  What we believe we will conceive.  Citizens of Florida do not wish to give rise to greater oppression, or so the organizers of this campaign hope and believe.

    They ask the residents of this state to consider, this melody was adopted to represent the “land covered with flowers” in 1935, decades after Florida, My Florida was chosen.  This song has a history that few would wish to be associated with.

    After it was written, a blackface minstrel performance group called Christy’s Minstrels paid Foster a large sum of money to gain the rights to the song, and they performed the song in blackface for the entertainment of racist white audiences.

    It is time for a change.  The legacy of bigotry has not left this State as of yet.  Racism will reign as long as we subconsciously support it in our State song. 

    Some say, in 2007, we live in a colorblind society.  Oh, were that true.  I ask you, dear reader to consider my own experience.

    I moved to Florida just over a year ago.  Immediately, I was struck; racism not only survives here, it is strong!  Oddly enough, there is a large dark skinned population here.  In South Florida, I encounter more Black persons daily than I ever did in all of the decades I lived in California.  I have long believed, to know people is to love them; thus, my confusion. 

    Much of bigotry is fear of the unknown.  Differences cause anxiety for some.  There is ample opportunity to become closely acquainted with African Americans in Florida.  I was in this region for a very short time before I began to understand.  All of my life, while out and about, I chat with everyone.  No man or woman is a stranger, unless you choose not to speak to him or her.  Here, in Florida, when attempting to converse with many Black store employees, I experienced an astounding reluctance on their part to engage.  I wondered; was management punitive or were there other reasons for this distant demeanor.

    Could cultural differences between the North and the South explain what I observed.  This seemed strange for Southerners are considered friendlier.  Granted, many individuals from Northern territories migrate to the South, still . . .

    I purchased a home that needed some work.  I hired master craftsmen to assist me.  In my interactions with them, I received enlightenment.

    Tony, a tall and wise man.  He worked in my home daily for three weeks.  His work was exemplary; his tales extraordinarily interesting.  Tony’s insights helped me to understand what was unimaginable to me.  I was speaking of my many observations here in Florida.  Racism is among many issues that I think disquieting.

    Tony shared a story or two.  This intelligent and well-spoken man felt a need to supplement his income. In a Right-to-Work state, such as Florida, there is ample reason to have more than one job.  The Economic Policy Institute states. . .

    We find that the mean effect of working in a right-to-work state results in a 6% to 8% reduction in wages for workers in these states, with an average wage penalty of 6.5%.

    However, I digress.  That discussion will wait for now.

    Tony told tales of working as a delivery truck driver for a large national chain of home improvement and major appliance retail stores.  Often, he was scheduled to transport washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and other domestic devices that typically are considered essential for living.

    Upon arrival, a homeowner who may have opened the guard gate for this eloquently speaking man, closed the front door when they actually saw Tony.  His skin was dark, the purplish Black color that glistens in the light.  Tony saw many a curtain drawn as the van approached a house.

    Knowing that a homeowner was within, for he had spoken to them on the telephone or through the intercom moments earlier, Tony would exit the truck and walk up to the home. Gently, as is Tony’s nature, he would knock.  On the rare occasion, he received a reply, people would state they no longer needed the delivery.  Bewildered and not, Tony would turn and return to the warehouse.

    Supervisors, back at the store, stated the customer called.  They want their merchandise delivered immediately; however, they want a white worker to do the deed.  Tony was allowed to “drop” off the appliances at one locale.  Literally, he was told to leave the cargo in the driveway, near the sidewalk.  The homeowner would find a way to bring the freight into the house and hook it up.  Contractual guarantees for workmanship mattered little to these chauvinists.  Their fear and assumptions lived large.

    On this same occasion, where Tony was told to leave the goods and forget the services, he was confronted with further humiliation.  Tony knew that he must obtain the homeowner’s signature confirming that he had received the appliances.  Tony handed the property-owner his pen.  The man refused to touch the writing utensil Tony presented.  He dashed into the house and retrieved his own ballpoint.  Tony offered his hand, a habitual salutation; however, he knew.  He watched as the chap quickly turned, seemingly afraid to be seen with the likes of Tony.

    How sad.  Tony is terrific!  This gentle giant is well read, informed, intelligent, and kind.  The quality of his work is as wondrous as he is as a person.  Nevertheless, in Florida today, he remains separate, equal only in words.  The truth of his predicament is not unique here in the south.  The longer I live here the more I learn.  I am deeply disturbed.  Stephen Collins Foster may have been a great composer of music.  It is said that the musician was a man with a mission.  He hoped to reduce racism.

    Rather than writing nostalgically for an old South (it was, after all, the present day for him), or trivializing the hardships of slavery, Foster sought to humanize the characters in his songs, to have them care for one another, and to convey a sense that all people–regardless of their ethnic identities or social and economic class–share the same longings and needs for family and home.  He instructed white performers of his songs not to mock slaves but to get their audiences to feel compassion for them.  In his own words, he sought to “build up taste…among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order.”  Stephen Foster was a man with a mission, to reform black-face minstrelsy, then the most pervasive and powerful force in American popular culture.

    While this may be true, some thoughts were lost in the translation of this tune.  Perhaps we might honor the original intent of this anthem, the artiste that created it, and the State that sings this tune. 

    Might we each sign the petition and work to embrace a truer tribute to the Sunshine State.  May we choose a song that represents every region of this beautiful state and all those that reside here.  Possibly, if Florida decides to sing another tune, other states will join in.  Harmony might become more real than racism.  We can only act on our stated principles, separate our selves from ancient prejudices, and hope others will as well.

    Floridians sing for their favorite state . . .

  • Voters Rights Act Provisions Sunset 2007. Still Separate and Unequal By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  August 6, 2005
  • Confederate flag supporters rally at Georgia Capitol. Cable News Network. January 21, 2001
  • Repairing Senate’s Record on Lynching, ‘Long Overdue’ Apology Would Be Congress’s First for Treatment of Blacks.  By Avis Thomas-Lester.  Washington Post.
    Saturday, June 11, 2005; Page A01

  • pdf Repairing Senate’s Record on Lynching, ‘Long Overdue’ Apology Would Be Congress’s First for Treatment of Blacks.  By Avis Thomas-Lester.  Washington Post.Saturday, June 11, 2005; Page A01
  • History of Lynchings in America, Talk of the Nation. June 13, 2005
  • An Incomplete Apology, Lynching is No Longer Legal By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. June 13, 2005
  • Lynching in America: Statistics, Information, Images.  The Shipp Trial.
  • Jacksonville Lawmaker Wants to Change State Song, By Jim Ash.  First Coast News. March 30, 2007
  • Racist Screed Or Enlightened Work?  State Song Stirs Up Folks At Home, By Gretchen Parker.  The Tampa Tribune. January 20, 2007
  • The Wage Penalty of “Right-to-Work” Laws, By Lawrence Mishel.  Economic Policy Institute.  August 21, 2001
  • Florida. NetState.
  • Change Florida’s State Song.
  • State Song Wrong? By David Hunt.  The Times Union. March 7, 2007
  • Floridians can pick their own tune.  WLRN Miami Herald News. March 29, 2007
  • The Change Florida’s State Song Petition. By The People of Florida and written by Stancel Spencer.
  • Stephen Collins Foster. Center for American Music.
  • N-Word on New York City Council’s Agenda, By Sara Kugler.  ABC News. February 28, 2007
  • Barbara Bush. Houston Residents. “Send [Katrina] Refugees Back”

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    The traditional, elegant pearls graced her soft white skin.  They hung comfortably around her neck.  Her simmering silver-gray hair was perfectly coiffed.  She spoke with the dignity and the wisdom of a grandmother.  Her words were harsh, though understandably so.  She and the rest of this country were overwhelmed as they reflected on hurricane Katrina and the community it devastated.  This was perhaps, the nations largest natural disaster.

    Everyone was tense; however, few were given the opportunity to talk publicly.  Yet, she was.  The former First Lady Barbara Bush had the ear of Nation Public Radio, Marketplace listeners.

    Mrs. Bush stated, “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas.  Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.  And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them.”  At the time she spoke, in September 2005, the nation was uncertain of how to react to her words.

    Was her comment a flippant slip of the tongue?  Did it demonstrate the difference between the classes and the masses?  What were we to make of this terse judgment?  One year later, we know.  Mrs. Bush was speaking for her fellow citizens; they want the Katrina evacuees to go home!

    Only days after the anniversary of Katrina, on August 30, 2006

    More than 1,700 residents gathered in west Houston Wednesday night to blame evacuees for violent crime rates that have increased almost 14 percent in one district and homicides that have nearly doubled in another.

    The poor relations had worn out their welcome.  They are unclean, unfit, and are clearly criminals.  These poverty-stricken folks were well hidden in Louisiana and Mississippi, before the storm devastated their homes.  However, now they are out and about; they are walking freely among the wealthy, white Texans.  This will not do!

    It cannot be; it cannot continue.  Compassionate conservatism is nice.  As a slogan, the phrase connects “us” with those of lesser means, those whose votes we need in order to stay in power.  However, when destitute drifters enter our real lives, when they live among us and soil our sanctity, it is time to pull the reins in, or so say the genteel citizens of Houston.

    In a town hall meeting, Mayor Bill White was empathically instructed to send the “refugees back to New Orleans.”  The outraged citizens said,

    In District 19, patrolled by the Houston Police Department’s Westside division; violent crimes are up 13.6 percent over the same period last year.  In District 20, homicides jumped from five to 11 over the same 7 1/2 month period from a year ago.

    Enough is enough.  He was told definitively, “These people” have no respect for those that have given them so much.  They have to leave.  Cast them to the wind or send them all back to their homeland.  Humm, I wonder; where that might be, or where do the white residents of Houston think it is.  Do the poor whites need to return to England or Ireland and the Black Americans to Africa, even though their families have been in this country for centuries?  My mind turns.

    The Mayor stood stoic and remained humble before the vocal crowd.  Mayor White was well aware of the numbers and the circumstances.  He understood that

    As many as 120,000 evacuees remain in Houston since the city welcomed at least 250,000 after Katrina swamped New Orleans last year.  Katrina evacuees are suspects or victims in 59 of Houston’s 262 homicides between January 1, 2006 and August 26, 2006.  Those crimes account for all of the increases in homicides over the same period in 2005.

    Considering the evacuees added approximately ten percent to the population of Houston, the Mayor knew this rise in crime was not unreasonable.

    Mayor Bill White and Police Chief Harold L. Hurtt are aware of what is occurring.  The officials have taken measures to alleviate the problem.  However, an impatient and xenophobic populace is not gratified.

    Upon realizing the reality of the current circumstances, the Mayor and the Police Chief reached out and sought federal assistance.

    An increase in violent crime since September 1 and a spate of homicides over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend involving Katrina evacuees have elicited urgent pleas from Mayor Bill White and Police Chief Harold L. Hurtt to the federal government to help pay the cost of providing increased security and to hire more officers.  Hurtt is taking the request to Washington next week as part of a meeting of police chiefs.  White is also in negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    Both officials are careful not to blame Houston’s recent rise in violent crime solely on Katrina evacuees, saying such statistics were rising last year before the hurricane.  They point to what they call the majority of law-abiding Louisianans now living in the city and say the crime rate per thousand for the evacuee population is not greater than it was among Houstonians before the influx of Katrina survivors.

    But the issue facing the city, officials said, is that Houston’s 2 million population grew by about 10 percent virtually overnight, straining all key city services such as schools, hospitals, emergency services and, particularly, public safety.  The addition of the evacuee population has dropped the ratio of police officers per thousand Houstonians to 1.9, compared with 2.3 before Katrina and with the national average of 2.8.

    Additionally, as we assess the “facts” presented by the volatile Houston public we might note that they perceive crime as crime.  They offer no numbers to help us determine how many of the Katrina evacuees are victims and how many are suspects.  These angry residents must know that only late this month, Two Houston Residents [were] Charged with Filing Multiple False Claims for FEMA Assistance.

    Dear reader, I inquire how many more Houston inhabitants are profiting on the backs of former Louisianan residents?  Will the truth be told by those focused on finding the victims of Katrina at fault.  the Mayor, the Police Chief, and I wonder as we attempt to provide perspective.

    After being bombarded by accusations and anecdotal accounts, the humble Mayor attempted to lessen the outrage.  He spoke highly of his Houston constituents.  Mayor White suggested the complaints are “a result of the fact that we have had some gangs and violent crime.”  White continued, “In Houston, generally, we are not very tolerant of the small minority of people who came here from the New Orleans area who are able-bodied and haven’t found a job yet.”

    The Houston administrator declared ??There’s a plan in place for those who break the law, and another plan for those evacuees who want to remain in Houston as law-abiding citizens.’  White said, “If people want do so something unlawful, then we need to catch them, try them, convict them and lock them up.”  The first officer knows, the law is the law and Houston is no place for those that to not honor the law.

    However, after issuing this stern warning the Mayor revealed his own form of Southern hospitality.  He stated, “If they’re [victims of Katrina] just trying to get on with their lives, then we ought to respect our fellow Americans, and there’s not much of a home to go to.”  In truth there never was.  Barbara Bush was “right.”  Those left homeless by the ravages of Katrina were “underprivileged” before the storm.  They lived in substandard houses.  They were employed in menial service jobs, if working at all.  Still, they were and are Americans.

    When Barbara and her neighbors say, “go home,” they exemplify the sad fact that too often we do not want to know the reality of the poor.  We do not want constant reminders in our midst.  We actually prefer not to see, hear, or experience what bothers us, or reminds us of our own frailty and failings.  When we perceive a “problem,” we blame everyone but ourselves!  I find this fascinating and futile!  How will we ever help others or ourselves if we avoid what disturbs us.

    Please Ponder the World of Barbara Bush, Houston Residents, and Katrina Evacuees . . .

  • Houston, we may have a problem.  Marketplace. American Public Media. Monday, September 05, 2005
  • Barbara Bush Calls Evacuees Better Off. New York Times. September 07, 2005
  • Houston residents want Katrina evacuees sent back to N.O. Associated Press. WWLTV.com Thursday, August 31, 2006
  • Residents urge White to send evacuees home, By Anne Marie Kilday. Houston Chronicle. August 31, 2006
  • Katrina’s Latest Damage, By Arian Campo-Flores. Newsweek. March 13, 2006
  • PDF Katrina’s Latest Damage, By Arian Campo-Flores. Newsweek. March 13, 2006
  • Two Houston Residents Charged with Filing Multiple False Claims for FEMA Assistance, U.S. Newswire. August 21, 2006
  • After Welcoming Evacuees, Houston Handles Spike inCrime, Population Swell Fills Apartments and Strains Police Force. By Sylvia Moreno. Washington Post. Monday, February 6, 2006
  • Influx of Katrina Evacuees Strains Houston Police. All Things Considered. December 27, 2005
  • Some of the Uprooted Won’t Go Home Again, By Richard Morin and Lisa Rein. Washington Post. Friday, September 16, 2005
  • Evacuees say blame for crime is not fair,By David Ellison. Houston Chronicle. September 1, 2006
  • Barbara Bush: Things Working Out ‘Very Well’ for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans,By Editor and Publisher. September 05, 2005
  • Houston grows weary of Katrina evacuees: poll. Boston.com News. March 24, 2006
  • Jews, Mel Gibson, War. Rehabilitating Hatred ©

    “Peace is harder to make than war.” – Stanley Weintraub

    Those that know me well might ask why would I write an exposé discussing Mel Gibson.  I am not a fan of Hollywood or its gossip.  I do not go to the movie theatres.  I rarely recall the names of actors.  Show business personalities are of little interest to me.  Their art does not mesmerize my mind.  Most of it, I feel, is meaningless.  As for Mel, I was unwilling to attend a showing of the “Passion of Christ,” even though a friend offered to pay for my ticket.  As much as I believe it is important to know what those that differ from me, think, say, do and feel, the prospect of an anti-Semitic message turned my stomach.

    Though this treatise will invoke the name of Mel Gibson, it is not about Mr. Gibson; it is about hatred and whether or not we can rehabilitate the hearts and minds of those that hate.

    People hate for all sorts of reasons, or they say they do.  The poor loathe the rich, though they wish to be them.  The affluent can’t bear the sight of the destitute.  They fear becoming impoverished themselves and loosing the luxuries that are their life.  Blacks detest whites; Hispanics are becoming a close second.  No one loves the oppressor or the aspiring that seem to be rising above the fray.  Whites find Blacks objectionable.  I suspect color is their concern.  The natural born despise the immigrants; they are frightened that these “low-lives” will take their jobs.  The émigré abhor hypocritical employers that hire them.  Many migrants are offered jobs they take.  Upon completing their work, they are paid with threats.  Supervisors often say they will turn these laborers into the Immigration and Naturalization Services if need be.

    In truth, none of these individuals or groups hates the other.  They merely do not know or understand what is unfamiliar or different.  They are apprehensive when confronted with what they think might hurt them.  Their anxiety causes them to interpret the stranger through a clouded filter.  Rather than communicate what they are truly feeling they lash out.  Instead of asking to understand the unknown, they assume.  People easily become consumed with what they do not comprehend.  They forget what they could know.

    “Hate” is an expression of fear and pain.  We loathe what is foreign or unfamiliar to us.  We are angst-driven when we do not appreciate.  Humans disdain the possibility of harm; any that might impose pain are reviled.  However, those we love are special.  We know all their faults and find these endearing or at least tolerable.  Those we know are not our enemies; nor are they evil.  All the wrongs in the world are not imposed upon our friends or our family.  Familiars are our treasures.  They tame us and we tame them.

    I believe hate is a habit.  We learn it when we are very, very, very young, before we understand that there are other possibilities.  In the last few days, prompted by the arrest and anti-Semantic antics of Mel Gibson I have heard many discussions of habits and whether a person can fully recover from an addiction.  None was more interesting to me than an interview by Journalist Soledad O’Brien of Cable News Network.

    Ms. O??Brien asked marketing specialist, Laura Ries of Mel Gibson’s future.  Is this admitted alcoholic hurt by his actions?  Can he return and be salable?  As the verbal exchange ensued, there was discussion of the Gibson apology.  Was it adequate or sincere?  Talk of his ensuing therapy filled the thread.  All that was well and good; however, for me, Ms. O’Brien offered what was most powerful.  She asked, “Can we rehabilitate hate?”  She then stated, “Rehab can’t cure the anti-Semitism, and can’t cure the nasty thing he said to the female deputy, right?”  Ms. Ries answered “No.”  She thought nothing could be done to eliminate what I believe is the core issue.

    Some say, “Once an addict, always an addict,” my experience differs.  I do think change is a challenge and does not come easily.  Nevertheless, I think it does come if given a chance.  I have witnessed it in my own life and I trust that others have as well. We all can recount stories of a time when we thought another was very unpleasant.  Then, when we got to know the person; they became our friend.  Intimate knowledge informed our perception.  An enemy was now an intimate.  all else changed.

    I wish to provide a parable that relates, one told by Stanley Weintraub and shared in a book, “Silent Night: The Story of The World War I Christmas Truce. The story is true.  It is one of peace; however, it begins as many sagas do during times of strife.  It is the tale of two enemies.  This incident took place during the Christmas season, in the middle of a war, World War I.  Weintraub writes

    At Christmas 1914 there took place in some parts of the British line what is still regarded by many as the most remarkable incident of the War ?” an unofficial truce.

    Mr. Weintraub explains in an interview,

    In part, the truce came about as brief truces in earlier wars occurred ?” as a respite to bury the dead.  This was arranged for first light on Christmas Day.  The joint ceremonies were especially moving.  However, they jointly realized that by clearing No Man’s Land of its grisly dead, they had created a space to fraternize, and even to play football.  The Germans held more formal religious marking of Christmas than did the other side.  But it was football that was the working-class religion.  in sharing food, smokes, and play, each side de-demonized the other (if I can coin such a word).

    The inscription continues,

    During the winter, it was not unusual for little groups of men to gather in a front trench, and there hold impromptu concerts, singing patriotic songs.  The Germans, too, did much the same, and on calm evenings the songs from one line floated to the trenches of the other side, and were received with applause, and sometimes with calls for an encore.”

    Once the battle resumed the troops realized, they could not kill their rivals.  The troops were no longer  foes.  They had become known entities, real people.  With hearts and souls.  They were no long bodies without blood and feelings; these were men no different than those trying to kill them.  After, the truce and all that it involved, soldiers on each side saw their enemy and understood, he is as I am.  Fear fled; hearts filled.  These British and Germans troops were no longer adversaries; they had become allies.

    In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God’s mercy and grace, their lives lose all value.

    ~ Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States

    I think this tale is telling; it illustrates what few imagine as they profess policy.  Silent Night addresses hatred on a human level and confounds the practical.  This narrative honors the philosophy I think is vital; when we diminish and dismiss the dignity of a man, woman, or child, when we relegate the life of a living being to that of an object then we separate ourselves from reality.  We create our own fiction.  We allow ourselves to hate when we react and posture.  When we choose to believe that our neighbor is our enemy or evil, we enable murder.  If we were to recognize our fellow man is our mirror, even our Muse everything would change.  Admittedly, change is a challenge.

    Therefore, I propose that we learn from the history that is too well hidden.  Might we see the story of Silent Night as our guide?  Perchance, if we adopted a policy of acquaintanceship we would progress.  Genuine peace would be our reward.

    I anticipate the claims.  “My actions will not affect others.”  Alternatively, “The task is too broad.”  I have already begun, “Some of my best friends are.”  However, these assertions take me back to the talk of Mel Gibson.

    I feel certain, as a newborn baby, Mel knew nothing of revulsion.  He was unaware of religion or stereotypes.  This blank slate learned.  After instruction, he intentionally never befriended a Jewish person.  if he did accidentally, his preconceived notion ruled.  Disdain for Jews dominated his thoughts.  He intentionally never allowed himself to feel close to one of this religion, race, ethnicity, or creed.  He maintained a personal and professional distance.  However, likely, even for Mel,  one or two Jews may have slipped through the cracks of his loathing.  Such an odd occurrence would be perfect, for it would allow this anti-Semite to say, and to believe that, some of his best friends were, and they may have actually been.  However, as a whole the man differentiated between those he knew personally and those he accepted to be, as he always believed them to be.

    What I put forth is that we consistently open our minds and our hearts, not only to those that enter our sphere, but to all.  I ask to put down our arms and put them out instead.  When there is conflict, when world leaders, family patriarchs, friends, or fellow workers are feeling ready for a feud they require themselves to sit and have a meal with those that think differently than they do.  People ready to pounce must instead purposely choose to live in close proximity with their “enemy” and their enemies’ entire clan for a week or more.

    What a cruel thing is war:  to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

    ~ Robert E. Lee, Civil War General, in a letter to his wife, 1864

    Each individual must speak frequently with their supposed adversaries, and learn from and of the other.  If we do this what might happen?  Perhaps if we knew one another intimately we would be able to see, to feel, to empathize, and relate.  Perchance, we would discover a friend amongst our foes.  I wonder; if we were truly open to discovery, to dialogue, to dining and living with our antagonist might we find a friend or at least not someone we are ready to kill?

    I trust that you, or I can blame the other and state that I am willing; yet, they are not.  I believe someone must begin and believe, if not us who.  The other may not be receptive, initially.  I have experienced that.  However, I find in my own life if I do not accept and allow my fears and feelings of woe to guide me, much is not as I expected to be.  I imagine that each of us has experienced what a smile can create.  As you approach a grumpy or a distracted soul, smile and watch what happens.  Even a gentle and unobtrusive grin opens doors and windows.  Imagine what genuine dialogue might do.

    I ask you dear reader to consider, would there be war if we truly knew our neighbors?  If we were to experience our enemies as allies, if we saw and treated our adversaries as human rather than foreigners would we be able to kill them.  If they were given the opportunity to know us as we are, would they wish to harm us?  I think not.

    Communication and communing might seem a chore too complex too complete.  However, I think we must begin; we must try and see what we can do.  The competitive spirit of centuries past has not helped; it has hindered attempts towards concord.  We witnessed the tale of a World War I truce; we can know peace is a possibility.  Is it not preferable to bombs?  I think we would all agree destruction benefits no one, other than those that produce the bombs.

    Lets us imagine and originate a world where we work together as one, where fear and loathing are not the overriding principles.  Lets us conceive of and achieve a global village where greed is not greater than the sense of equality.  I request rather than fighting against nameless faces, we meet our rivals in their homes and in ours.  I think society be better served if we would invest in knowing, if we become acquainted with the anonymous persons we now call aliens.  Perhaps, war will become whimsy, never be true again if we sincerely endeavor to eliminate the concepts of enemy and evil.  I invite us all to join in peace to work as one, united.  Some may smile, hold hands, and and sing Kum-by-yah; others will softly hum the words of Silent Night.

    There are those playing Guns and Roses, Civil War.  I was among these and perchance I still am.

    “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
    Some men you just can’t reach…
    So, you get what we had here last week,
    which is the way he wants it!
    Well, he gets it!
    N’ I don’t like it any more than you men.”
    Look at your young men fighting
    Look at your women crying
    Look at your young men dying
    The way they’ve always done before
    Look at the hate we’re breeding
    Look at the fear we’re feeding
    Look at the lives we’re leading
    The way we’ve always done before
    My hands are tied
    The billions shift from side to side
    And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
    For the love of God and our human rights
    And all these things are swept aside
    By bloody hands time can’t deny
    And are washed away by your genocide
    And history hides the lies of our civil wars
    D’you wear a black armband
    When they shot the man
    Who said, “Peace could last forever”

    I did; I do.  I trust it begins with me.

    References for Review and Reflection . . .

    “Passion of Christ”
    The Protocols of Mel Gibson, By Katha Pollitt. The Nation.  March 11, 2004 (March 29, 2004 issue)
    Hate is learned and can be “unlearned,” By Caryl M. Stern-LaRosa. Anti-Defamation League.
    Soledad O’Brien of Cable News Network
    Mel Gibson’s Statement, By The Associated Press. Tuesday, August 1, 2006
    Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, By Stanley Weintraub.
    German and British front-line soldiers sang carols, exchanged gifts, and  . . . Status: True. Urban Legends Reference Pages. Snopes.com. 24 December 2003
    Proposals Abound for Mel Gibson Healing, By Jocelyn Noveck. Associated Press National Writer. SFGate. Friday, August 4, 2006
    American Morning Transcripts. Cable News Network. August 1, 2006
    Stanley Weintraub
    Christmas on the Battlefield, The 1914 Christmas Truce. Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez. National Review Online. December 21, 2002
    Divine Words, A missive from the main character of The Passion to director Mel Gibson. By Tony Hendra. The American Prospect. March 2, 2004
    Mel Gibson link to Aussie anti-Semitic group, Lincoln Wright. Herald Sun. August 06, 2006

    America. Freedom Of Speech, English Only ©

    Photograph By Jim Young

    I am dumbfounded or at least, wish I were.  America has once again proved itself xenophobic!  I awoke to the news, “Senate Votes to Set English as National Language.”  Apparently, on Thursday, May 18, 2006, the Senate agreed to declare English this nation’s official language.  The debate, prior to the formal poll was passionate.  The word “racism” was tossed about.  Nevertheless, the bigoted belied what they know to be correct and voted overwhelmingly to impose English upon all that enter this land.  The final vote was 63 in favor, 34 against.

    However, ‘moments later,’ the voice of reason filled the room, Senate members altered their stance slightly.  They again voted, and this time passed a less powerful amendment.  English would be titled the “unifying language.”  I ask how a divisive dictum can unify rather than divide.  Sadly, I am certain I will not receive an answer that I can comprehend.  According to Democratic Senator Harry Reid “Although the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist.  I believe it is directed at people who speak Spanish.”  Mr. Reid, I trust that is true.  America has become focused on Mexican immigrants.  This nation wants the “Brown” out!

    Our countrymen want to forcibly rid this nation of color, if they can.  Any method that might work will be initiated.  Though there are some voices of reason, Speaking of the situation, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a leading opponent of immigration legislation stated, “The Senate should be ashamed of itself.”  There are also reluctant vocalizations within the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican from Tennessee, and potential Presidential candidate, declined to state whether he intends to vote for the plan.  He was willing to offer, “It’s [his decision is] certainly moving in that [the affirmative] direction.

    Should the Senate approve and House sign on, the President, our Emperor will need to accept the legislation.  Baby Bush is conflicted.  White House press secretary Tony Snow said, ‘‘What the President has said all along is that he wants to make sure that people who become American citizens have a command of the English language.  It’s as simple as that.”

    It is as simple as what?  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking on the subject added to the confusion and complexity.  Gonzales declared, “The president has never supported making English the national language.”  The Attorney General then spoke for himself, ”I don’t see the need to have legislation or a law that says English is going to be the national language.”  However, Congress does, or is pretending to in order to please their constituents.

    The prejudiced population in this country presupposes that the English Only imposition is not enough to deter entrants’ citizenship.  Therefore, the formal standards will be made more stringent.  A working knowledge of the English language will not be acceptable; proficiency will be expected.  Congress also added other stricter regulations to the bill.  Mastery of United States history and government theory will be required.  There will be little consideration for competency.  An applicant will pass or fail, become a citizen or remain an “alien” because Americans are running scared and Congress is running for re-election.

    It is for this reason, that the Senate, for the first time in its history has passed such an amendment.  Sadly, states have engaged in similar restrictions for decades.  In America, English only has long been increasingly made the standard.

    For decades this nation and its “silent majority” have spoken.  Subtlety, though significantly, America, has passed restrictive language laws.  Of course, each of these specifies, “English only.”  Nationally English Only legislation first appeared in Congress in 1981.  A constitutional abridgement titled the, English Language Amendment was introduced.  This proposal was never ratified.  Had it been, English would already be America’s exclusive language.  Federal, state, and local governments would have banned all others.  The measure was not voted upon, even in Committee.  Now times have changed; we are more openly discriminating.

    However, it is important to note, since 1981, approximately thirty states have adopted English only legislation.  Four states had approved policies barring the use of other vernaculars prior to 1981.  Hawaii’s is officially bilingual, as is, Alaska.  Arizona attempted to prohibit the use of other forms of speech; it voters passed English-only initiatives; however, these were declared unconstitutional.  In 2002, Iowa became the twenty-seventh state to ratify an English only law.

    Division within the country called for such measures in local elections and now nationwide we will visit the idea.  Currently, citizens are in a tizzy.  They fear for their jobs.  Pensions are being pulled; health care is a privilege.  Outsourcing is the standard.  Life is not as stable as it once seemed to be.  People are apprehensive and nervous; when they call American companies, the voices on the telephone are foreign.  Here at home, the population is changing; neighbors no longer look as they once did.  White has taken flight or is merely out-numbered.  People feel great trepidation; they fear strangers.  Chauvinism and intolerance are on the rise.

    People are seeking solutions; they have explored many.  Logistically, America cannot deport the eleven to sixteen million immigrants that entered this country illegally.  Laws requiring employers to report questionable documentation are not enforced and therefore, do not work.  Homeowners sponsor illegal entrants by offering them jobs.  Trafficking is profitable, and thus the “problem” continues.  Imposing a language on the “illegals” seems to be the only or best response to a growing quandary.

    However, interestingly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, English is widely spoken among immigrants. 

    Research studies show that over 95 percent of first generation Mexican Americans are English proficient, and that more than 50 percent of second generation, Mexican-Americans, have lost their native tongue entirely.  In addition, census data reveals that nearly 90 percent of Latinos five years old or older speak English in their households.  [And]  Ninety-eight percent of Latinos surveyed said they felt it is “essential” that their children learn to read and write English “perfectly.”

    Among these non-natives, education is the lost link.  Desire is strong, active attempts to acquire the English language stronger.  There is a shortage of English as a Second Language classes.  Few states offer such an option.  The states that do, receive little support.  Communities are reluctant to serve those they want out.

    Children of European descent think “Immersion” programs are best; no programs at all would be better.  After all, their parents learned to speak the language, or at least some did.  In years past communities were different and people learned, as they do today, based on need.  Their progeny forget or reject this.  In the last fifty years, “Language Acquisition” has been studied.  Experts offer various theories; however, all maintain fluency in a second language can be a challenge.

    The consensus is it takes approximately seven years to truly achieve fluency.  The first two typically involve listening more then use.  Private speech develops first.  Societal situations, circumstances with a given community, and the history of each individual influences what is learned and exhibited.  It is far easier to achieve expertise before the age of twelve.  Is that not the reason for the amendment, at least in part?  Eliminate entrance into America; require English proficiency.

    There are other motives for such a measure.  Eliminating the “Brown” is but one cause; elections are another.  Members of Congress want the support of their constituents.  Daily they receive a barrage of mail, electronic and snail.  Calls are placed and the voice of the voters is influential, more so than the voices of immigrants.  There is ample anxiety expressed.  “Who are these aliens and why are they living in my country?”

    Congress answered.  In December, the House passed the Sensenbrenner Bill and the nation exploded.  This law cut to the core; in country of eleven to sixteen million immigrants of questionable status, many were directly affected, or would be were this amendment became law.  The legislation would make it a federal crime to live in the United States without written permission.  Millions of immigrants that have long worked and resided in the States would become felons; they would be barred from ever obtaining legal status.

    According to this initial proposition, individuals who assist or shield undocumented migrants would be subject to prosecution.  Regardless of their title, an offender, be they a priest, nurse, or social worker, could face a five-year prison term.  If convicted of such a crime, authorities would have the legal right to seize a portion of the individual’s assets.  Spouses, and the employers of such émigrés would not escape judgment.  They too could find themselves in jail for an extended time.  Any association with an “alien” could be considered criminal.

    This proposed law spoke to the people that thought it worthy.  It also screamed to those in the helping fields and those actually working in the fields of this country.  This agenda spoke to the millions directly and indirectly affected by this plan.  The immigrants themselves stood up, shouted, and insisted they be noticed.  They were.  Millions of them flooded the streets, carried flags from their countries of origin [along with the red, white and blue], and they sang the American National Anthem in Spanish.  Sigh.

    If those that entered this country without certification thought they were being mistreated before, and in my opinion, they were, after these displays, further wrath would befall them, and it has.  Thus, we have the latest proposal.  English will be the official language in America.  The “melting pot” will no longer be fluid; the ingredients will congeal and separate.

    In decades past, signs were posted, “Whites Only.”  Assuming this measure becomes law, might we expect banners asserting “English Only.”  What this means legally is still in dispute.  What it signifies ethically is unquestionable.  Racism is rampant and we are a reactive society.

    In this nation of immigrants, we want none.  We want to remain pure, white, and bright.  Thus, we accept émigrés that will advance our brilliance.  We permit the highly educated to reside among us.  Whites are always welcome and if an individual can verify by our own subjective standards, they are not tainted, we might consider their entrance, temporarily.  They can work for us, be our guests.  These barely benign can clean our homes, hotels, and offices.  They can bend over in our fields; they can be our guests, for a time, as long as we are able to ensure that they never learn to speak English.

    We want the Mexican migrants here and we do not.  We want them to work and pay taxes; however, we do not wish to support their needs.  We want no evidence of their permanent presence in our neighborhoods.  We are willing to hire these immigrants for a day or an hour.  Then we put them out as refuse.  We have them in our homes; still, they are not in our hearts.  In a nation founded on freedom, there is little for those not native born.  Yet, less than a few centuries ago, few of us were.  How quickly we forget.

    “We’re [also] a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.”

    George W. Bush, President Bush’s Address to Nation, The Washington Post.  Monday, May 15, 2006
    For your pleasure. Please peruse . . .
    Senate Votes to Set English as National Language, By Carl Hulse. New York Times. May 19, 2006
    Senate: Make English official, By Frank James. Chicago Tribune May 19, 2006
    U.S. Senate says English is national, unifying tongue, By Donna Smith. Reuters. News.scotsman.com. May 17, 2006.
    English? Si. Maybe. White House backs both sides, By Suzanne Gamboa. Chicago Sun Times. May 20, 2006
    On Immigration, Bush Seeks ‘Middle Ground By Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman Washington Post. Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    Senators wrangle over English’s status in U.S., MSNBC. May 19, 2006
    Sessions: ‘The Senate should be ashamed of itself’ CNN News. Friday, May 19, 2006
    The Legendary English-Only Vote of 1795 By Dennis Baron, Excerpt “Do You Speak American?” MacNeil, Lehrer Productions. 2005
    Immigration Bill Shapes Up in the Senate By Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times. May 20, 2006
    The Official English Question By James Crawford, Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    S. J. R. 72, April 27, 1981
    Language Legislation in the U.S.A. By James Crawford, Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    State Language Legislation ?” 2003 Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    Congressman Toby Roth on English As The Official Language PBS Online Forum April 3, 1996
    Anatomy of the English-Only Movement, By James Crawford
    Arizona’s English-only law ruled unconstitutional CNN Interactive. April 29, 1998
    ACLU Briefing Paper Number 6 “English Only” American Civil Liberties Union
    Action Alerts National Association for Bilingual Education
    Bush: Sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in English, CNN News. Friday, April 28, 2006
    In English Only? By Bob Schieffer, Host of CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation
    Meeting the Needs of Students With Limited English Proficiency Report to Congressional Requesters, United States General Accounting Office. February 2001
    ESL Programs for Immigrants and Refugees English as a Second Language Information Center
    Second language acquisition Wikipedia
    Bill on Illegal-Immigrant Aid Draws Fire, By Rachel L. Swarns. New York Times. December 30, 2005
    The Sensenbrenner-King Bill’s  “Greatest Misses” National Immigration Forum February 16, 2006
    NCLR Terms Sensenbrenner Bill “Appalling” National Council of The Raza. December 8, 2005
    Sensenbrenner Bill
    Illegal Immigration and the English Language, By Victor Davis Hanson. Tribune Media Services. April 17, 2006
    Language Immersion Education and Research
    • UPDATE: President’s Radio Address May 20, 2006
    Repealing Bilingual Ballots
    The English-Only Question. An Official Language for Americans?, By Dennis Baron. Yale University Press
    The Bill of Rights Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution
    U.S. Constitution FindLaw For Legal Professionals
    President Bush’s Address to Nation, CQ Transcriptions. Washington Post. Monday, May 15, 2006

    Immigration. Why Wail For A Wall or Agitate About Amnesty? ©

    Al Podgorski, Photographer. Sun-Times

    On Monday, May 01, 2006, another May Day will come and go.  However, for those in the United States this international holiday that honors laborers will be different. This one will live in the memories of Americans forever.  In this country, citizens, and non, will speak out on the issue of immigration.  For, it is the newest immigrants that makeup a large portion of our labor force.  These persons are planning not to go to work today; nor will their supporters.  They and their allies will stand up for themselves, their beliefs, and their desire for freedom.

    Other will also venture out.  They will take to the streets, the blogs, the bars, and airwaves.  They will wail for walls.  Some will agitate over the issue of amnesty. Whether they themselves are residing in this country legally or not, people will demonstrate.  They will express their opinions loudly and openly.

    The undocumented workers here in the USA are not loved; they are loathed by a vast majority of the populace.  Numerous liberals, those that usually support the downtrodden have turned their backs on this population.  They see them as law-breakers, union busters, and less than those born in this country.

    On this day, people from any and many political parties will be heard denigrating the status of those that migrated to America recently without proper papers.  They will call them “illegals,” as though they are less legitimate human beings than the rest of us.

    Americans, whose ancestors came from abroad, will chastise those that are now doing as their families had done decades earlier.  Citizens living in this country, those who can rarely produce the papers that brought their relatives here will shun those that arrived in the States in this century without authorization.

    Our countrymen will claim to be compassionate and they are, when their livelihood is at stake.  George W. and his buds welcome entrance of the undocumented.  They are willing to promote the idea of  “guest workers.”  They embrace cheap labor; however, only if, how, or when, it serves them well.

    Yet, other Americans find this plan or any agenda that offers opportunities to undocumented distasteful.  Many Americans are singularly focused.  For them, it is my family, my familiars, and me first.  These US citizens are clannish.  They are often heard to utter words such as these, ??We were here first and those that wish to follow are forbidden or must be filtered through [our subjective] system.’

    However, some recognize their dependency. Thus, they reluctantly offer official pardons to those that have helped them survive.  They have housekeepers, landscapers, chauffeurs, and nannies.  The faces of these employees have become real.  They feel as “family.”  American homeowners that pay these people can relate to their plight. Therefore, they are willing to offer them amnesty.

    However, even these immigrants must prove themselves pure in the empty eyes of the native born.  There must be fines.  People need to be punished for intentionally placing themselves in a land not their own.  These laborers too, must pay a price.  Everyone knows, there is no free lunch, no free ride, and migrants must set their pride aside.

    Have they not?  Is it not true that many immigrants are bending over crops in order to collect a pittance of the pay that professionals do.  They clean toilets, wash windows, and work hard for their earnings.  They pay and contribute to society daily; they always have.  I offer these findings from the Pew Charitable Trust Research Center.  This may assist some in understanding the impact immigrants have on America’s labor force. Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey.

    About 7.2 million unauthorized migrants were employed in March 2005, accounting for about 4.9% of the civilian labor force. They made up a large share of all workers in a few more detailed occupational categories, including 24% of all workers employed in farming occupations, 17% in cleaning, 14% in construction and 12% in food preparation.

    Nevertheless, according to that native born and some naturalized, the nascent émigrés must fit-in better.  They must speak English only.  “They” must immerse themselves in our culture; they must forget their roots, at least when they are in front of us, US citizens.

    If they do not assimilate with the authority of official papers, we will deport them.  At least that is what the House of Representatives declared.  People of the United States protest and postulate; it is those Mexicans that are the problem.  Minutemen and more express their desires; ??Let us build a wall between the States and the nation south of the border.’

    Though geographically these two countries exist side by side, both being part of North America, people in this sanctioned land see themselves as separate and unequal.  They profess, America is better, and America is the best.  Are we?

    Is an egocentric superpower better even when they attempt to maintain an ethnically clean country?  I think not.  For me, being the best does not merely equate to being the wealthiest or the place where people living in poverty wish to flea.  I think there must be more.

    For some there is; the problem is more than Mexico.  A few of our fellow citizens state, ??We must also wall off the borders with Canada.’  These naysayers consider themselves objective, not xenophobic for they acknowledge that Latinos, Hispanics, or those of Spanish descent are not the only trouble.  However, these more “liberal” lefties still deny what is.  We live in a world of disparate conditions, opportunities, and circumstances.

    Walls will not solve the crisis; they never have fully.  Thinking that the calamity is a calling will end what now exists.

    I believe the disaster is not whether those in Mexico cross or whether those in Canada pass through the poles that separate the two countries.  It is not the fact that immigrants come from throughout the world, though they do.

    ?¢ Please review the local statistics from the Chicago Sun Times.  It won’t just be Latinos marching.

    Read of the 120,000 Filipinos in the Chicago area alone or of the 250,000 nationwide that have lengthened their once legal visits.  Cogitate on the five to seven thousand Irish immigrants dwelling in Chicago and out lying areas.  Reflect upon the seventy thousand Polish migrants milling about in America’s heartland or the one hundred and ninety thousand throughout the United States.

    Consider there are Rumanians, Russians, and those from Ukraine.  European émigrés are a plenty.  There are Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and more migrants living here as well.  People come from many nations.  Not all immigrants are Mexican or South American.  As in one my earlier exposés, I offer outdated government statistics, those collected during the 2000 census.  A reader may ask, how many were never counted, never found, and never presumed to be here legally or not.

    Yet, for me, the issue is not immigration at all.

    Most of the migrants in the USA have adopted this land as their own.  Registered citizens or not, those from afar think of themselves as our newly arrived family members once did; they are Americans.  A large number of settlers do as our forbearers did; they prosper.  I refer you dear reader to a recent Pew Charitable Trust report.  Please peruse . . .

    According to the Pew Charitable Trust, Pew Hispanic Center and the Urban Institute  . . .

    “Nearly 80 percent [of Mexican immigrants] live above the poverty line, and 68 percent of those who have lived here for 30 years or more own their own homes.”

    While this revelation is not as expected, there is a stereotype that seems likely true.  The Latin culture advocates hard work.  Those born into it endeavor to do their best. Their well learned beliefs and practices have empowered them.  Therefore, many Mexican migrants have “pulled themselves up” and out of poverty; they have done well.  These emigreés are as our parents, grand, and great were; they are melting into, and becoming a meaningful part of the American middle and working classes.

    Some strive to do even better.  They want to become entrepreneurs, and they too succeed.  “Census figures show Hispanic firms growing three times faster than average,” By Scott Miller, Washington File Staff Writer

    Washington — Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States are growing three times faster than the national average for all firms and generating more than $200 billion in annual revenue, according to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    The bureau’s March 21 Survey of Business Owners: Hispanic-Owned Firms: 2002 indicated that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002 to nearly 1.6 million. Those firms generated about $222 billion in revenue in 2002 — the most recent year for which data are available.

    Yes, there are other reports that might support the cynics view and a few of these are also from the Pew Charitable Trust. You might wish to assess ,“Unauthorized Migrants, Numbers and Characteristics,” By Jeffrey S. Passel.  You will notice that aspects of this study conflict with the accepted and other aspects strengthen the impression, immigration by the undocumented is awful.

    Immigrants in general, but especially the unauthorized are considerably more likely than natives to have very low levels of education.  For example, less than 2% of natives have less than a 9thgrade education, but 15% of legal immigrants and 32% of unauthorized migrants have this little education.  (Note that education in Mexico is currently compulsory only through the 8thgrade, so finding this many with this little education is not surprising.  Further, the level of compulsory school attendance was recently raised from 6thgrade.)

    At the upper end, legal immigrants are slightly more likely to have a college degree than natives (32% versus 30%).  This difference is particularly noteworthy given the high percentage of legal immigrants with very little education.  Even the unauthorized population has some at the upper end of the educational spectrum, with 15% having at least a college degree and another 10% having some college.  Not all of the unauthorized population fits the stereotype of a poorly educated manual laborer.

    Nevertheless, for me, the issue is still not one of immigration into the United States of America. What for me is the topic for a truer discussion is, America as part of a whole.  We are citizens on a continent, one of many on this planet.  We must assess our attitudes and expectations, and realize that they are egocentric.

    I believe we must evaluate our place in this universe.  We are not here alone; nor are our priorities and preferences the only reasonable ones worth considering.

    Whether we refer to statistics that strengthen the argument for or against immigration, the true subject is the same.  We as a nation are engaged in what might be a possible evolution.  If we choose to embrace it, we will learn from our history, our errors, and our misperceptions.  If we seize the opportunity and avoid shortsighted solutions such as walls or amnesty, neither of which has ever completely resolved similar issues, then we can grow greater, together.

    We could as a nation and as part of a globe recognize that we are as the wave in the story that Morrie Schwartz shared.  We are part of the ocean.  If we act as one, think as a whole, we can and will progress beyond.
    “I heard a nice little story the other day,” Morrie says. He closes his eyes for a moment and I wait.
    “Okay. The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air — until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore. “
    “‘My God, this is terrible,’ the wave says ‘Look what’s going to happen to me!'”
    “Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, ‘Why do you look so sad?’ “
    “The first wave says, ‘You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?’ “
    “The second wave says, ‘No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’ “
    I smile. Morrie closes his eyes again.
    “Part of the ocean,” he says. “Part of the ocean.” I watch him breathe, in and out, in and out.

    – Tuesdays with Morrie, page 179

    Once we acknowledge that America is not an island and our concerns cannot be ours alone, then we can create a world in which all people, men, women, and children are genuinely created equal.

    Let us unite, not as states, or as a continent.  Let us join, together, and help each other.  After all, we are all people and have similar needs, wants, and wishes.  As long as Mexico, South America, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Japan, and other nations work separately, we will bicker, belittle, and belie what is true.  This Earth is our global village.

    References for your Review . . .

  • Immigrants Stage Protests Across U.S., By Maria Newman, New York Times. May 1, 2006
  • Employers Gird for Immigrant Boycott Today, By Monica Davey. New York Times. May 1, 2006
  • Amnesty or wall? Issue splits U.S., By Eric Herman, Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • “Unauthorized Migrants, Numbers and Characteristics,” By Jeffrey S. Passel. Pew Hispanic Center
  • It won’t just be Latinos marching, Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • Bush pushes immigration bill; Bipartisan Senate delegation backs him. Chicago Tribune. Apr 26, 2006
  • Cheap labor? It just looks that way Illegal workers fuel a ‘gray’ market and demand rights – and we all pay the hidden costs, By Warren Strugatch
  • Homeowners say the day laborer system works USA Today April 29, 2006
  • “Census figures show Hispanic firms growing three times faster than average,” By Scott Miller, Washington File Staff Writer
  • 2002 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) U.S. Census Bureau
  • Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S. Estimates Based on the March 2005 Current Population Survey. By Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Research Associate, Pew Hispanic Center
  • What makes U.S. great? Hint: not intolerance, By Neil Steinberg. Chicago Sun Times. April 30, 2006
  • Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • Land of Opportunity, By Mortimer B. Zuckerman. US News and World Report. June 20, 2005
  • Global Village. Wikipedia
  • THE NATION; He’s the Stickler of the House; Rep. Sensenbrenner, holding the line as he sees it, stands in Bush’s way on immigration. By Mary Curtius. Los Angeles Times.  February 13, 2005
  • Immigrants To America, People With or Without Papers © By Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think
  • Random Searches, Racial Profiling, Deport, Kill, All Xenophobia! ©

    Weeks ago, a plane was “forced” to land.  Actually, the crew chose to land; “character” was the concern.  Who are these characters?  Pakistani passengers were walking the aisles.  People panicked.  They knew.  Pakistan is the breeding ground for terrorists; clearly these men must be among those. Passengers and the flight crew agreed; these men must be planning, pacing, and readying for an attack.  Numerous people were puzzled; when would the suspicious swarthy men pull out the guns, the knives, and how were they able to get these on the plane.  Actually, why were these men allowed on this or any airbus; they are dark characters.  Their complexions were cause enough for concern. What was the airline thinking?  Everyone knows of persons such as these.

    What do we know?  We know what they look like, not who they are.  People judge and document the rationalization for their personal reality.  They forget. A book, a boy, a man, a woman, a terrorist, or even a candidate, cannot be judged by its cover.  Character cannot be captured in a moment; it is more than an appearance.  Yet, people believe that they know.  Individuals and groups alike deny the inevitability of xenophobia, the fear of strangers.  Police and politicians, profess profundity, as does the general public.  Opinions masquerading as “facts” flourish, and unjust practices become policy.

    The facts are America was attacked on 9/11/2001.  Terrorists claimed responsibility.  These radicals were said to be Middle Eastern.  Therefore, people in the West understand, they must fear Middle-Easterners.  These individuals must be considered the “enemy.”  Trepidation for those that appear to be Muslim, Persian, foreign nationals, or merely “strange,” is thought to be valid.

    The recent London bombings reinforced this belief.  It seems the Western-World is under attack.  Terrorists are everywhere.  Discovering that the London bombers were homegrown only advanced greater suspicion.  Even hometown boys and men are suspect.

    Since the London attacks, cities throughout the western world are on high alert.  Police in New York City are checking the bags of subways passengers.  The searches are “random.” New York City police are posted at the entrance of the subterranean train stations.  They arbitrarily choose whose bags they might explore.  If the prospective rider elects not to be searched they will not be allowed to ride.

    Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stressed officers would not engage in racial profiling.  Subway and rail passengers are free to “turn around and leave.” Yet, are they “free,” or are those individuals refusing to be searched now defined as criminals?  If their skin is dark and their clothing bulky, will they be told to halt, as the Brazilian in London was?  If the “free” to go, man or woman does not respond immediately, or in a manner that pleases the police, will this person then be shot and brutally killed, accidentally?  These questions must be asked.

    When queried, officials stated they would not specify how frequently the checks would occur.  Nor would they define how they determined whom they might suspect of carrying explosives.  How could they; this information would reveal that the police are in fact, assessing a person by their appearance.  They are human, and that is what we do.

    New research published in the Science Magazine, Inferences of Competence From Faces Predict Election Outcome, shows that voters prefer political candidates that appear able. Alexander Todorov, a research scientist at Princeton, verified that people prefer faces that they believe reflect substance; competency is considered a “wining” characteristic.

    Todorov designed a research study assessing an individual’s reaction to facial appearances, nothing more. The intent of the experiment was to determine if attractiveness influenced voting practices.  It did not.  Attractiveness was not the deciding factor; the appearance of competency was.  Professor Todorov claims “when people are not burdened by ‘facts,; they decide quickly.”  Seemingly competent, and self-assured persons are perceived as stable.  Knowledge of the true individual only confuses the evaluation.  He determined inferences are powerful.

    Leslie A Zebrowitz, author of “Reading Faces,”, and a psychologist at Brandeis University, offers her comments on the Todorov findings.  She states, in her research she too discovered impressions are influential.  Our notion of a person predicts more than the truth does.  Zebrowitz  declares those with stronger chins and longer noses are considered skilled.  A person with a rounded-baby-face, bigger eyes, a smaller nose bridge, and shorter chin is thought to be less mature.  People with these physical qualities are considered less knowledgeable, less experienced, and less proficient.  People that look young, or naïve, are judged less able to take care of business.

    Todorov, Zebrowitz, and others conclude, people assume and presume. No matter how hard individuals try to be impartial, detached, neutral, or without prejudice; they are not.  Human beings are not objective.  Claims to the contrary, however interesting, seem to be self-serving rationalizations for law enforcement and xenophobic souls.

    Dr. Donn Bryne, of State University New York, in Albany, is a social psychologist.  He too evaluated judgments.  Bryne did extensive research on the subject of attraction.  It may be argued that emotional or physical, pull has little to do with the afore-mentioned stereotyping; however, if we are honest with ourselves we see that it does.  We are drawn to a particular person and repelled by another.  We form opinions about those that disgust us, as well as those that delight us.  Opinions are subjective.

    Just as the other studies did, Bryne’s experiments assessed how people decide much, with few facts. Dr. Bryne actually created the “Bogus Stranger Technique.”  He developed a system that distorted what is true of another person.  Dr. Bryne created an attitude scale consisting of twenty-six topics.  The subjects were scattered; there were areas that would be of major importance [God and premarital sex] and subjects of less significance [Western movies and televisions programs].  He asked participants to rate these.

    Two weeks after filling out their own assessment scales, Bryne told participants they were part of a study on how well people can predict the behavior of another person. They were then presented with attitude scales filled out by this other person, the individual whose behavior they would later, be asked to predict.  In truth the other person was the experimenter.  The experimenter created a bogus set of answers.  These responses were calculated; they would either be very similar to the subjects’ own answers or very dissimilar.

    Participants were given time to assess the rankings of the “stranger.”  Following their evaluation, the subjects were asked a series of questions about the “other.” They were queried of their personal feelings toward the “unknown” person.  Questions such as, “Would you like to work with this person?” “Do you believe they are intelligent; does he or she have knowledge of current events, morality, and are they well adjusted?” were posed.  In each case, the conclusion was the same.  People that are similar to us are those that we prefer, think highly of, respect, and judge as credible.

    Those that appear to be similar to “us”, are not persons we will frisk, search, shoot  accidentally, or deport.  We honor what we think is. If “it,” he or she is as we are, we will show respect.  If “it,” he or she is not, well, that is a different story.  We may shun, accuse, kill, or deport individuals that are not as we are.  We will do this even if we “suspect” that they are dissimilar.  “Facts” and information cloud our “objective” mind.

    Thus we have it; random searches, by definition, given human nature, are acts of racial profiling.  It has been proven, over, and over, and over again.  Xenophobia is alive and well; it is the human condition and in recent years it is law!

    Today, August 5, 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair promotes more xenophobia.  Please read and consider, Blair Proposes Stricter Deportation Rules Against Terrorism, Los Angeles Times.  In this article, Blair is quoted, “We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don’t meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it, you are going back out again.”

    I ask, who defines extremism and is the judge objective?  I “suspect” that the arbiter will be human, likely xenophobic.  Fear of the unfamiliar, the unknown, and that which we do not understand, or chose not to is our common bond.

    An Incomplete Apology, Lynching is No Longer Legal ©

    The apology was weak and meekly delivered.  Senators did not choose to vote on the record; they revealed their position in voice only.  They did not speak in single file; nor did they state their stance strongly.  They delivered their dictum as a group.  The Senate stated their regret.  They regret the 4742-recorded lynchings.  They regret their delay.  Nonetheless, here and now, they apologize.  Finally, the United States Senate concluded, it is time.  America must legally forbid hangings.

    The United States Senate has had many opportunities to rescind what is “a stain on American history;” however, until today, they refused.  In recent years, on three separate occasions, the House of Representatives voted to revoke the law that allows for legal lynchings.  Yet, each time the bill was sent to the Senate floor, influential and vocal Southern Senators spoke out.  They invoked their right to filibuster.  Ultimately, and repeatedly, the measure died.

    Death for this law was never as brutal as a death by hanging; nor was it ever as public.  These frequent congressional deaths were not proud moments for America.  They were rarely discussed.  However, there were those that knew of them.  Descendants of lynched victims knew.  A man that was once hung from a tree, yet, survived, he knew.  These people worked tirelessly, and with devotion, to ensure that change would come.

    It has, though this is only a beginning.  An apology, the repeal of an antiquated law, does not resolve much of what still is.  What is, is a history of promises, and acts that contrast with these.  We as a people promise equality for all.  Our Constitution asserts this principle and philosophy.  Yet, in practice, there is little equity.  We enslave a people; [we identify others as illegal,] while simultaneously encouraging and professing freedom.  This is not simply our past; it is our present.

    There are times that we see the errors of our ways and then, we grant emancipation.  President Lincoln did this.  However, he too spoke of one truth and acted on another.  Actually, he held two beliefs, concurrently.

    During the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, on August 21, 1858, Lincoln stated, “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the White and the Black races.  I hold that . . . there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Four weeks later, on September 18, 1858, Abraham Lincoln again addressed the people’s concerns.  He reflected aloud, “while they [Whites and Blacks] do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race.”  Lincoln, his words, and his actions are emblematic of America’s posture towards Blacks.

    In fact, Whites were [and are] given a superior position in America.  While separate and [un] equal is no longer legal, it is still apparent.  Black bathrooms, Black schools, and restaurants that bar the presence of Negros may have not disappeared.  However, the history is still with us.  In fact, there are guilds that deny African-Americans entrance.  They do so in the name of exclusivity.  Some restrict membership, only the superior and the elite are allowed in.  These organizations have no desire to include what they consider an inferior race.  They dare not say these words aloud and they do not.  They reveal this attitude in their actions.  These associations are much like the United States Senate.  They sheepishly accept change.

    Change, embracing Black citizenry, is not a concept that sits well with many Americans.  We speak of such and then act slowly, if at all.  105 years ago, the White majority, assured African-Americans, racial injustices would be removed.  The first anti-lynching bill was proposed in 1900.  Yet, it did not pass.  It was easily dismissed and diminished in importance.  American citizens continued to lynch, to do so publicly, proudly, often in town squares, and frequently, on a Sunday, the holiest day of the week!  The last documented lynching occurred as recently as 1968!

    In executing, Americans did not discriminate; nor did they limit the practice to the south.  All, but four New England states are known to have strung-up persons of any race or religion.  Immigrants were frequent targets. In retrospect, this embarrassed twentieth-century Americans.  Therefore, early in the 1900s, the United States agreed to pay close to $500,000 to China, Italy, and Mexico.  Americans hoped that these funds would serve as an apology.

    Yet, the people of the United States were not ready to apologize to their own Black citizens.  This nation was reluctant to rescind the law that allowed for abominable behavior.  Lynching remained legal.  We waited, we postponed; we did only what was compulsory.  Correcting our errors was not necessary.  Protecting our Black citizens from the White was not mandatory, and there were many that did not wish to do this.  Thus, centuries of neglect continued and even after this apology, they will.  We have yet to address the truer issues.

    African-American citizens are still being killed in cold blood, though the death is not always a physical one!  While we may no longer lynch persons of color, we can and do eliminate them from society.  We imprison them in ghettos, in the hood, and in under-funded schools.  We arrest them, often on trumped-up charges, and then we incarcerate them.  We assume that they are guilty; after all, they look it, at least to those that are not Black.

    In 1999, the number of Blacks in American prisons approached one million.  Former federal prosecutor and associate dean of Loyola Law School, Laurie Levensen, stated, “We’re incarcerating an entire generation of people.”  African-Americans comprise fifty percent of all prisoners, yet they are only 13 percent of our population.  Poverty and a lack of [equal] opportunities may be the cause; or there may be others.  We must ask ourselves, why is it that Blacks do not succeed proportionally in a country that prides itself on providing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all?  Can we justify this?

    Yes, we can apologize, subtlety, in a soft-spoken vote.  We can annul an obsolete edict.  However, these actions do little to reconcile what we as a nation have done to our Black men and women.  What we, as a nation, continue to do to our Black people group cannot be brushed away with an apology.  Quashing a law that should never have existed will not change what is.

    On June 14, 2005, historian and civil rights leader John Hope Franklin offered a brilliant commentary on the subject.  You may wish to listen to this essay;

    All Things Considered, Hearing the Senate’s Apology.