We Choose America

The history of the United States has been written in fits and starts, through periods of rapid progress and stubborn stagnation. Yet, the movement, however painstakingly slow at times, has always been forward. Always moving in the direction of a more fair, just, and equal United States. That is not to say that our journey is complete, nor is it likely to ever be, but it is without question, that the directional trajectory of America has always been in the direction of reaffirming and strengthening our commitment to the ideals written into our founding documents and not the contrary.

While it may be difficult to not be cynical in times like these, when the rancor of our debate drowns out the real reasons for our divisions, we should not be. However difficult it might be, we should not for one second be cynical about America’s prospects or doubtful whether the strength of our union can sustain the weight of our dissonance. For the issues we face today are nothing more than remnants of a messy, imperfect but absolutely necessary past; they represent the final vestiges of a painful history that still linger in the inevitable inequities created by our difficult journey.

While the problems that still linger are without question difficult, they pale in comparison to the battles waged, and won, throughout America’s path towards becoming a more perfect union. The battles of today are not on scale with the intractable struggles that litter our past, but instead, are the lingering resentments of the progress made during those times of angst. For the perpetuation of our Union is no longer in doubt, nor are we fighting to have a Union at all. 

We won those battles, with grit and determination, and a steadfast dedication, borne on the backs of generation after generation of patriots, to a concept larger than any one man or one side on a battlefield, continuously reaffirming that we will stand united no matter the disharmony of our days. At every moment of utmost urgency and doubt, when our very union could have perished, America has revealed the better angels of its nature, chosen unity over division, hope over fear, turned inward and pulled its disparate parts together instead of allowing itself to be torn asunder by the weight of current events. This is no accident. 

The perpetuation of our union, however laborious it has been, is no mystery. America survives because we choose for it to survive. For 241 years, generation after generation of Americans have decided that our union is worth choosing, that it is worth defending, and perfecting. During periods of both – war and peace, upheaval and stability, poverty and prosperity – we have, without hesitation or doubt, chosen America over any other option or construct. The indisputable progress of our past and the strength of the binds which tie us together leave us firm in the belief that no matter what storms may come we will assuredly be buoyed through the most turbulent of times and safely delivered to the grace of a more tranquil future. 

Our history gives us hope, our struggles give us strength, and the will of our people gives us the energy to continue forward. And so I will always believe in the ability of America to weather the most severe of challenges and come out a better, more perfect union. We must remember that our union is bigger than any one person or party, stronger than any singular threat against the character of our nation, more malleable than the most rigid of debates, and more enduring than any battle protracted against the heart of its identity. I know that sometimes in the vitriol of our debates, the issue that we are debating in the first place gets lost in the heat of the moment. But what can never get lost, what we must never forget, is that the true reason why we care enough to engage in impassioned debate at all is that we love our country, we love America, and we choose it, just as we have for 241 years, everyday. 

Nation of Immigrants

One of the main problems I have with Donald Trump is that he either does not know what the United States stands for and represents, or he does, and just does not care how that fits in with his own personal ambitions. Either way, the immigration bill he publicly put his support behind yesterday is an absolute embarrassment to America and our values. 

By supporting a bill that reforms our immigration system into a point based system that heavily favors admission for highly skilled and English speaking workers, while also cutting in half the amount of legal immigrants admitted over 10 years, he is directly contradicting American values and disregarding our history. I do not care what kind of system Canada or Australia have, as some have noted, they are not the United States and they do not share our history. That is not to say their system is wrong, or worse, but it is fundamentally different and defined by their own histories which are distinct from our own.

Look at the history of the American people and you will find that we are and always have been a nation of immigrants. More than any other nation we are defined and enriched by the diversity of our people, not diminished or divided because of it. Outside of Native Americans, every United States citizen today, including Donald, can trace their heritage back to someone who immigrated to this country at some point in time from some place other than these United States. 

Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. The sum of our disparate origins is far greater than any singular identity we carry. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

Those who came before did not set out for our shores with anything more than hope for a better life and the belief that if they did the right things, were willing to work hard and make sacrifices, that they would be granted the opportunity to obtain that life they sought. They arrived not seeking a hand out, but instead a hand up, not to be given everything they desired but the fair share they were willing to work for. 

They looked across the ocean, or over the border, and saw a shining light upon a hill, a beacon of liberty and justice, equality and self-determination, evaluated what lives they led, and decided to pursue their own American dreams. Never before have the dreams immigrants opted to chase here in America required them to be highly educated, nor did those dreams cause them to be discriminated against if their English was broken, or even non-existant. 

Their pursuit required nothing more than good will, an honest desire to contribute to a nation and dream much larger than their individual origins and interests. Their entrance to the United States did not require that they be the perfect citizen upon arrival, but that they always strive for something more, something better, that they contribute in their own small, but not insignificant, way to perfecting this union. It did not predicate the likelihood of the admission upon their country of origin or on their religious beliefs, nor upon their linguistic or intellectual capabilities.

We must not forget that disparaging stereotypes such as dangerous or criminal, lazy or unqualified, that are so commonly unfairly bestowed upon Muslims and Hispanics today were once used to describe Italians and Irishman, Jews and Poles, and other immigrants of all different origins. We must be reminded that our history has not always been perfect, for if we fail to forget the missteps of our past we are sure to repeat them in the future. 

We are weakened when fail to read our history, when we turn our backs on the facts of our past, when we refuse to study the roots of our origins, and fail to acknowledge the errors of our ancestors. In the wake of Donald’s statements yesterday and his support for this bill, it is important that we recall that on our Statue of Liberty there reads a poem that says,

 “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

For nowhere in those words, nor in our history, does it say someone must be well-educated or speak English, to pursue their own American dreams, nor should it ever in our future be a requirement either.