Today, I read an Associated Press article concerning the views of United States citizens about our nation’s identity crisis. [“AP poll: Americans worried nation is losing its identity,” March 7] My understanding after reading this article was that many thought the influx of immigrants from outside countries diluted our American flavor. Some seemed to think everyone should be white, Christian and mandated to speak English. This is a mind-fix which has bubbled to the surface many times throughout our history.
How many of you have participated in DNA testing? If so, I imagine that your results surprised you, perhaps pointing to your lineage in a part of the world you might never have considered. But one thing I am sure of: you didn’t see “American” show up in your findings. Our country was a blank slate 600 years ago.
Eventually, word of this wonderful place reached those who wished to make their own way, free of the shackles imposed on them in their mother countries. They gambled on safe passage to this land, coming from varying climates, governments, religious beliefs and cultures. Somewhere in that mix were your ancestors.
Back to that DNA test. Just suppose some governmental body in the United States, with the power to enforce its decrees over you, ordered you to go through that testing process. The results from the test would be shared with you and that governmental body. Now, suppose that, for some unfathomable reason, the members of that body decided that select persons in the United States, citizen or not, should return to the predominant country shown in those results.
You think that could never happen? It already has happened in other parts of the world, in the past and ongoing now. It is called “racial bias” and “ethnic cleansing.”
Fear has driven even United States citizens to do unspeakable things. During World War II, fear and distrust of the Japanese people spawned the internment camps which housed 110,000-120,000 Japanese Americans across the country. Many were citizens with businesses and daily lives which threatened no one. Most had dwelled on the west coast. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order which ordered the forced relocation of these Japanese Americans. Sound familiar?
A later investigation in 1988 regarding these internments concluded that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
Those wanting to live in the United States are of different hues, skills and backgrounds, and should be allowed to keep their religious and cultural beliefs as long as they follow the established laws of our country. Stripping an immigrant of his identity does not make you stronger; indeed, that person could be an asset in many ways if allowed to contribute to his new country using the profession or skills he had followed in his former homeland.
Not since Woodrow Wilson was president have I seen this country so eager to wall itself in under the mistaken impression that we can do everything on our own and keep the rest of the world out. Not these days.
The term “global” describes our world better than any other. And that includes our population which I, for one, have always considered interesting because we have such an appealing mix of flavor. That is the American flavor and its identity.
Evelyn L. Pearson