September 25, 2020
Most people would probably agree that the biggest influence on their lives came from values taught by parents.
What shaped my belief system is having grown up as a first generation American. My dad came to America from Southern Italy at age 14, while my mom was born shortly after her parents emigrated from the same small village.
None of my grandparents attended school after the 4th grade as they were all required to work to help put food on the family table. My maternal grandmother had the additional responsibility of raising her four younger siblings after the premature death of her mother.
My grandfather helped build railroads while traveling back and forth from Italy to America before meeting and marrying my grandmother. While illiterate in English, he built a successful business in gardening and masonry.
Grand Dad didn’t want his children to live a life with one hand tied behind their backs, as he did, due to lack of a good formal education, which was the key to a better life. The only days this hard-working man ever took off was to attend the high school and college graduations of his children.
My parents benefited from this emphasis on education. My dad graduated from the City College of New York, the college of choice for that city’s impoverished, and later served in the US Army in WW II. Afterwards, thanks to the GI Bill he received a Masters Degree in Education from Columbia University. His motto was “learn as if you are going to live forever.”
My mom also graduated from college, a rarity for Italian-American women in the 1940’s. My grandparents didn’t want to see her potential limited in any way. Their view was that they didn’t come to America to fool around, but rather to grow and prosper.
They taught us that if you worked hard and were committed to whatever you pursued, there was a bright future in America in which you could realize your dreams. I’m sure that my family’s experience is similar to that of millions of immigrants from different countries.
While some in America complain about limiting illegal immigration, the truth is that the USA allows almost one million people per year to legally emigrate. Today, these are overwhelmingly what some would call ‘people of color.’
Currently there are 44 million Americans who are foreign born, the largest number in our nation’s history. This includes 11 million from Mexico, 3.5 million from Central America, over 3 million who escaped Marxist dictatorships in Vietnam, Cuba, and Venezuela, almost 3 million from the Caribbean West Indies, and 2 million from Sub-Saharan Africa.
I suspect if you took a poll of these folks, they would overwhelmingly express deep gratitude and appreciation for America. We must then ask why so many native- born Americans are critical of the USA, describing it as a racist and evil land. Why do some people advocate for a Socialist economy, when time and again this has proved to be a complete and utter failure?
Have they learned nothing from history?
My parents told me quite often how lucky I was to be growing up in America. They always flew the flag; to them the thought of burning it was an absolute disgrace and disrespectful to the nation they loved.
I remember a time in 1972, during the Vietnam War and a presidential election. My dad and a number of his friends, all immigrants from his native village, were watching the news. First there was a segment on how one candidate, George McGovern, proposed to give every American $1000. They laughed at this idea saying, “why would you give somebody money for doing no work.” These folks all had a strong ethic that valued work over welfare.
The news then showed protestors opposing the war while burning the American flag. This incensed them; they started shouting at the TV while uttering some choice words in Italian. They were disgusted that these protestors would disrespect the nation that had given them so much opportunity.
I guess history does repeat itself as we observe the current mayhem. My personal opinion is that any politician who ignores or tolerates such behavior isn’t worthy of leading this great nation.
I strongly believe in the Christian concept of redemption. America is not perfect; our history is complicated and includes some things we’re not proud of. But the ability to repent, grow, and change results in necessary redemption. America has proved itself capable of such positive growth.
Moses led the Israelites out of bondage, yet himself never made it to the Promised Land. We may not yet have the perfect union we all desire, but the simple truth is much progress has been made, with more needed. If we remain committed to America’s founding values, then unlike Moses, we will get there.
While not perfect, what we have is pretty darn good, and for that I say, God bless America!