A couple of days ago, I heard a caller on a talk show make a really interesting point:
“If the United States had been founded by immigrants, we’d all be speaking Indian today.”
That crystallized matters for me. People who move from one nation to another come in two forms: colonists and immigrants.
Colonists bring their own culture, their own language, their own ways to the new land and attempt to adapt it to the new area. In our specific example, the earliest Americans saw themselves as British and tried to expand the British way of life in the New World. Those already living here were displaced, killed, or assimilated. (Right or wrong, it’s historical fact.) There was no attempt to assimilate by the colonists, no efforts made at fitting in and becoming part of the existing structures — they were overwritten with an adaptation of the European model. It wasn’t until after we won our independence and established ourselves as America that we started welcoming immigrants.
Immigrants are different. They are not looking to expand their home culture, but become a part of a new one. They might keep some of their old ways, but for the most part they have chosen to set it aside in favor of a new way of life. The Irish, for example, focus on one day a year to return to their roots.
The recent mass protests in favor of illegal aliens showed their true colors — red, white, and green. Mexican flags were highly prominent, in some cases even being flown over United States flags (and in one stunning display of contempt, flying over an inverted American flag).
These are not the actions of immigrants. This is a declaration of intent by would-be colonists.
America is, indeed, a nation of immigrants. We owe much of our explosive growth from a shabby baker’s dozen of colonies into the world’s sole hyperpower to our policy of taking in refugees, cast-offs, the “wretched refuse” and “teeming masses” of the rest of the world and converting them into Americans. We are the mongrels and the mutts of the world, and we are top dog.
And that is why we must still continue to embrace and welcome immigrants of all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, and cultures. But we have to draw a distinction between immigrants and colonists. Those who want to come here purely to enrich themselves, to gain as many of the benefits of being in America without giving back to America, to make their largesse off Americans to send money back to enrich their homeland, are not immigrants. They remind me of one of the more unpleasant aspects of my own ethnic heritage — the Viking pillagers who ravaged the European coastlines. They took what they wanted, and gave little or nothing back in return.
We must continue to embrace immigrants. And we must not accept colonists.