Saturday, January 16, 2016

Immigration and Icky Thump

A photo posted by derek webb (@derekwebb) on

I know a little about my family history. I know a little about American history. I know that, although we call them immigrants, many of my relatives, perhaps most, were refugees. There were religious refugees that fled persecution from the Church of England. Others fled economic hardship in Germany only to face unwelcoming 19th century Americans who were suspicious of their strange religions (Lutheranism and Catholicism), worried that they would take American jobs, and concerned that they didn't want to assimilate into greater US culture, as evidenced by their German-language schools, newspapers, etc.

That was just my family. Similar stories can be read about the Irish, the Chinese and many other groups. Suspicion and animosity toward immigrants is by no means a new phenomenon.

I suppose this is what I don't understand: Is timing really that important? What makes a refugee from 400 years ago or 200 years ago more palatable than a refugee today? What makes today's immigrants less tolerable than the immigrants of the past, whom we proudly call "family"? Are we just doomed to repeat the same sins of our forefathers and foremothers?

In the words of Jack White:
Well, Americans,
What, nothin' better to do?
Why don't you kick yourself out?
You're an immigrant, too.
Have a listen. It's a good song:

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