Call writer ignorant

in

To the Editor:
It must be hard to be as fearful as E. O. England appears to be, based on his racist and anti-immigrant letter published in last week’s edition.

England is worried that our leaders are “deconstructing the United States as an historical nation” — that is, as a “European” (white) nation. In fact, England doesn’t know much about US History. England seems to want to return to an imagined America that excluded everyone who wasn’t white. Actually, it wasn’t until 100 years after independence that Congress passed the first anti-immigrant measure, a 10-year ban on Chinese immigration. African Americans, Chinese and other non-European people helped build America as we know it. If they weren’t enfranchised, they should have been.

Many years ago, I lived in a vital immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, in a co-op built in 1906 by Finnish socialist immigrants. Daily, as I left home, I’d see the wonderfully welcoming Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor (dedicated in 1886) with its line from Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Those masses weren’t all white. (And even those who were didn’t have the “culture, language, race and national consciousness” that England imagines held them together as a nation. They spoke many languages, had many cultures and often did not get along well) Unlike E. O. England, the Statue of Liberty represents the best intentions in US history. The old Finns and most recent immigrants in this Brooklyn neighborhood, many from Mexico and China, have a lot in common: They came here to work, and they work very hard. They have strong families. They make New York one of the most productive and vibrant places in the world.

All Americans, of course, are immigrants or descended from them, even the surviving Native American whose ancestors first arrived 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately, E. O. England is part of a nasty and often violent history of those who want o close the door behind them. Worse, England believe that “we may need an American Cesar who…. Will expel all those millions of non-legal ‘New Americans’…” A dictator to sweep those scary huddled masses out of the country? Talk about un-American.

The US is hardly a flawless democracy. We have a long history of shanghaiing and enslaving unwilling immigrants whose descendants are many of our fellow Americans. About a quarter of our land and it inhabitants was “bought” from Mexico. Some came from Spain; some from France. The Northwest and Alaska, with its many nations and people, was “acquired” from England and Russia. On behalf of Dole and other Protestant missionary sugar plantation owners, we absorbed the Hawaiians and their land. We took Guam and the Philippines and the Filipinos for a while. The list goes on.

I could recommend some excellent history classes that are close enough (Delhi) that England could even commute from Arkville. But it might be a bit scary: the student population is diverse. Like America.

Michael Kaufman,
Bovina