29 April 2006

A nation of immigrants

I have been paying attention to this whole illegal vs legal immigration debate that has seem to pop up recently. This sort of debate is not uncommon in this nation's history. However, I haven't seen such hatred and vitriol in the longest time as the debate currently has become. I don't know if it is the extremists on both sides of the aisle trying to direct it, but this is starting to get silly. This nation has always been a nation of immigration and movement. Even the Native Americans weren't here originally, the immigrated from different parts of Europe and Asia. Most of the people here have arrived at some time in their families history.

I know my own family were mainly immigrants from Germany at two different time periods. My fathers side came to the US during the rise of Otto Von Bismarck in Prussia and his attempts to unite the Prussian states. My great-great-great-and a few more greats-grandfather arrived in New Orleans around 1858 and settled into the Illinois side of the St. Louis area starting a blacksmith and carpentry shop. He joined the militia and because of previous military service (he fought as a member of his local Prussian citiy's Milita) was elected to be captain of the company from the area. The company he was with marched south with Gen. Sherman and meet his future wife up in around the hills of Georgia and the rest as they say is history. I read notes and journals of his and his family from that time period. He was happy to be an American and to be in American making do with what he could to make his town better and to become integrated. He belonged to the local social German social club, the local Civil War vets group and basically turned himself into a find upstanding member of the city, state, and nation. Though they spoke German for the most part, they also learned to speak and write English and made sure that their kids "...became fine Americans too by speaking only English to them." The worst thing that happened to my father's family was that my great-grandmother's family had to change their name because of the hate stirred up by President Woodward Wilson's (a progressive democrat by the way) about the German people. So they changed their name from a traditional Germanic sounding one to a more English (as in UK) sounding one. One of my relatives actually dug up an article about a lynch mob from St. Louis coming close to stringing up cousin of the family because he spoke with a slight German accent and was applying to work for a manufacturing company making ship boiler parts for the World War one war effort.

My mothers side most of her family arrived around the turn of the century. My great-grandfather settled into an area around Philadelphia. He went to work at a local manufacturing mill. After being settled for a couple of years paid to bring his wife over from Germany. They both came through one of the receiving areas for immigrant control in Philadelphia. After being cleared by the authorities, then became American citizens. From there both of them became up-standing members of the town they lived in. My great-grandmother stayed at home as was the family tradition, while my great-grandfather worked at the mill and served as a member of the volunteer fire-squad. They made sure that their 3 kids went to school and although they could speak English it was with a heavy accent, they too made sure that the kids learned English and became Americans as well. My grandfather picked up his nickname because of the fact that up until his father passed away he use to be able to speak German with an understanding. His mother took to English better then his father, so after joining the Navy himself (my grandfather)during World War 2. He lost for the most part how to speak German, since most of the people he knew in town and the navy spoke English.
Again, this side of the family went through all sorts of problems during World War 1, when my great-grandfather was actually investigated by the precursor of the FBI and almost lost his job. However the company found that he was a hard worker and that he had no ties to any of the "evil Germans" stereotypes that the Wilson administration had created. Though a few of their neighbors had to move because of the hate being created. The worst though happened during the run up to and the start of World War 2. The family was again investigate by the FBI for ties to German or Italian fascists. Mainly because my great-grandfather use to play cards at the social club with a couple of gentlemen who had very loose ties to the German-American Bund. He was cleared of doing nothing more then just knowing a couple of people and sharing a card and kind word with them. It did affect my grandfather and his brother, because they both had joined the Navy. My grandfather had the capability to enter the intelligence side of the house, again because he could speak German with some degree of fluency, however because the FBI had flagged the family instead be became an engine mechanic working down in Corpus Christi Naval Air Station working on N3N's that were used to train new US Naval Aviators. My uncle was talented enough to get into electronics, but instead he had to chose something non-vital and instead went on to become a Hospital Corpsman and served on a US Navy LST that was part of the D-Day landings and was attacked by a German E-Boat on a return from Normandy with injured soldiers. He rose to the occasion and from reading the paperwork on him was award the Navy-Marine Corps Medal for being the surviving corpsman of the ships company and directing the treatment of over 20 severely injured personnel. At the end of the war my grandfather got out of the Navy and went to work for Pepperidge Mill factory in his home town and settled down. My uncle went on to serve a few more years and retired as a HM1 from the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and went on to serve as a health inspector for same town he grew up in. My uncle died of a heart attack before I had a chance to really know him. Both of them though became what their parents wanted of them and that was to become productive members of America.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well the big debate is over whether we should give carte blanc passes to citizenship to a number of the illegals. That seems to me a spit in the face and a kick in the knee to all of those that struggled and have struggled to become citizens of this great nation through out its history and have faced the problems of trying to assimilate themselves into this nation while still staying true to their own heritage. So why do those that are protesting un willing to try and assimilate themselves and take the measures that are required to become American Citizens?

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