Little by little, a great country, consisting of people of every sort, is separating into two parts. One part is intent on building ugly mud forts around themselves, designed to keep “undesirables” out. At base, these forts are intended to punish the classes of people they deem undesirable, and to separate them from their right to the American experience. But it goes beyond that, because the same fortresses are also intended to prevent everyone who does not subscribe to this group ethic from exercising their basic American rights, like the right to vote.
To be closed-minded is against
everything America has come to stand for.
The latest manifestation of this ugly spirit, and only the latest, is the Arizona ruling that an ethnic studies program that seeks to explore the experience of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the US, who have always been a significant part of the Arizona population, is illegal because it is divisive. It is very, very obvious that ethnic studies are no such thing. There are thousands of ethnic studies programs all over the country, each of them designed to teach about the lives of people of various segments of society in some detail, many of whom have been largely ignored in the larger history of the country. Oh, then there’s the proposed Tennessee law that says anti-gay bullying is OK if it’s for religious reasons. These people are working from an ugly series of false assumptions.
Another manifestation is the series of laws that build obstacles to the vote, all of which will eventually be declared unconstitutional, just as their predecessor poll tax laws were.
Since when did America benefit by being so nasty, so stingy in spirit? We are a great nation because of our compassion. Compassion and community are not character defects, but these fort builders are trying to pretend they are, by closing themselves off from all others who are not exactly like them. We who rescued Europe in two major wars, then helped all of Europe to rebuild. We who absorbed so many waves of immigrants from all over. We who rejoice in the many choices our immigrant populations offer us. This is not a nation of the closed-minded.
Since when did America benefit by being
so nasty, so stingy in spirit?
To be closed-minded is against everything America has come to stand for. We celebrate our diversity, the many backgrounds from which we come, all over the world. We are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, except for the very small remainder of American Indians. Successive waves of immigration have taken their rightful place, and they or their children have all become productive citizens.
Particularly in recent years, there have been many ugly mud forts built. All in all, these forts are indications of pinched minds. This large segment of American society apparently sees everyone who does not fit their vision of exactly what is American and acceptable as the enemy, as an uncouth horde that threatens to destroy America if they aren’t discriminated against. That segment is the usual one, consisting of Anglo-American protestants who don’t know anyone outside their hateful little group. Such closed minds dominate in some places, and have elected politicians with similarly closed minds. These brainlocked politicians are building exclusionary forts to keep everyone else out. Listen to the current crop of Republican candidates, as they cite one group after another that is inferior and not fit for America.
A hundred years ago prejudiced people entertained the same prejudices we do today. Will our minds still be as pinched a hundred years from now?
One by one, we are overcoming the social evils that limited the US, slavery, laws against Asians, the rejection of women’s voting rights, inequality for African-Americans, sexual prejudices, and so on. With every new group of immigration from whatever part of the world, there was always a vocal group—who themselves had arrived earlier—who saw these newcomers as unworthy. They dressed differently, spoke an unusual language, ate odd foods, had bad habits. This happened to every single immigrant group, including today’s immigrants. And today’s immigrants, wherever they come from, are just as strong, just as worthy, as any of the previous immigrants. The current animosity for Mexican- and Latin-Americans is particularly loathsome because this population was in many parts of what is now the US long before those territories became part of the nation.