Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D               [ Back ]    [ Home ]    [ Next

OPINION COLUMN “Here’s a Thought.”

Double Edged, Double “Tongued”

I read that an American theme park wanting to open in another country had to essentially dispense with its American features for that country’s culture. Fine, but why build an American park? Before I go even farther here, know that I am not opposed to immigrants, minorities, alternative groups, or cultural/religious/politically differences, but that I am disturbed at how we’re made to be “politically correct” to every group in existence when we are first Americans!

My father emigrated from Italy at eleven.  He did it properly, he did it legally. He rode a boat that today would challenge even today’s strongest. Landing at Ellis Island, the clerk, who didn’t understand Italian, bestowed his own version of my dad’s last name upon him and all my father’s  future generations; he accepted it. He found himself attending school at the same time working menial jobs to help his parents who didn’t speak English. After fulfilling the strict Naturalization rules of the 1930s, he became a proud American.

He seldom found schoolmates, co-workers, grocerers, or doctors who spoke Italian. He didn’t have the luxury of picking up directions for, say, assembling a coffee table for my mother, sleds for my brother and me; no literature was written in both English and Italian, or English and any other language, for that matter. He never demanded to be accommodated as a foreigner during his school years, or in any minority situation. He attended school daily, earned his high school diploma (GRE while in the Army), and served his country as a medal-earning Merrill’s Marauder. He understood that he was desiring to live in a country that wasn’t his by birth, and so it was his responsibility to learn the country’s language, get a job and respect that job, assimilate into the culture and adopt the mores, rules, and values of the new land. He expected nothing from his neighbors, his employers, the government.

Part of this assimilation was attempting to not stick out as a guest in the New World but rather to embrace the people and their ways.  He never expected special treatment, or attention to his beliefs, his culture, or inclusion in American activities, textbooks, or films, or theme parks. I can’t imagine him getting together a group of Italians–Americans or immigrants–to protest an American parade as a way of dictating that his culture be featured.  In fact, he mastered English so well that you had to listen hard to detect an accent. Yet he was taunted  for being a foreigner, slammed for being “different.” His goal of wanting to become one of them-- not make them become him--never wavered.  He and my mother and relatives never taught our generation the beauty of the Romance language lest it “mark” us; it wasn’t considered beneficial for American-born children to be bilingual; uniformity brought opportunities in the land where anyone of anyplace at anytime could become anything they wanted with honesty and sweat.

What happened?  Suddenly we’re worrying about offending anyone with backgrounds different from ours. We feel compelled to provide literature in multiple languages; to provide special consideration  in hospitals, churches, even theme parks for those not of our soil. When we Americans are told that we cannot create something strictly “American,” that it has to take in other worlds, something’s wrong. We are rapidly losing our identity, culture, sovereignty in attempt to please everyone.

So here’s a thought. Let’s start by making English the national language. Let’s do embrace visitors and citizens-to-be to our country while making them understand that they are not entitled to our native-born rights and privileges until they meet regulations after living here a good long time. Let’s take a serious look at hiring foreigners when Americans can do the same job, and let’s review the visas of those who have been in this country too long on a work or school permit. Let’s bury the sins of our fathers’ fathers–those who treated others so sinfully--and start anew without the past always hanging over our heads and preventing solid, trusting co-existence. Let’s stop catering to every single minority and alternative group just to please them. We are built on democracy...majority is supposed to rule. Giving up the Lord’s prayer in school because one woman complained isn’t majority rule. And most of all, those who come to our country should be made to understand in the most tactfully way that they are, after all, bound to fit into our country and not visa versa.

Computer Word count without headings/blurb: 747

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes