Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Do you know what July 4th really means?

Do you know what July 4th really means?

I considered doing a July 4th posting, for all the obvious reasons, the chief of which is my strong opinion about the definition of patriotism, and how it applies to being a US citizen.

Instead, I offer my anti-July 4th posting, and it goes a little something like this (cue acoustic guitar)...

US citizens more than two-to-three generations removed from immigration do not, in my experience, understand what freedom is. Many of them can be excused in part for their separation from the coin of liberty (blood shed in defense of or in acquiring it), but those who have seen this payment cannot use that excuse, and it is all the more damning for their lack of understanding in the face of the proof.

I do not ask anyone to reverse their course concerning the current firestorm over immigration. We are all, myself included at least twice so far in this post, free to be wrong and to declare our being wrong in a loud voice. I do demand that everyone, opponents and supporters alike, stop for a few minutes and put yourselves into the shoes of the impoverished Mexican who risks his life to cross the border. What is he thinking? What is his goal? What motivates him to take those risks?

If you are having difficulty imagining any of that, and I am not faulting you if you are, then allow me to give a brief synopsis of my own background. I'm sure you can find someone near you with a similar story, who may even be pleased to share it with you and help you answer those questions.

Father: raised in a militaristic culture (Montenegro) to support yet another militaristic culture (Serbia), he was on the losing side of a civil war (Tito's communist conquest of Yugoslavia), held in prison as a possible war criminal (losers often get charged as war criminals), and was saved from extradition and certain death only by the grace of the Allied liberation of Italy.

Mother: raised in a Jewish family in Croatia, she with her brother and parents escaped the Ustashi (the local Nazis) only because a Catholic priest helped them acquire false baptismal and confirmation papers, and because they were wealthy enough to travel quickly; made their way to northern Italy, where for almost four years they survived only due to the noble grace and sacrifices of the Italian peasant farmers who refused to be accomplices to murder, and gladly entered the displaced persons camp outside of Asti when the Allies came through, which is where my parents met.

Family: my eldest sibling was born in Asti, which with the marriage papers made them Italians in the eyes of US immigration, forcing them to the end of a very long waiting list for the quota. So, they spent many months in Santiago, Chile, to establish residency and qualify for the Chilean quota. They finally arrived in the US just before sibling number 2 could be born in Chile. I'm number three. Of my father's three brothers only the youngest survived by fleeing to Switzerland, the other two were captured and executed along with their father. None of his sisters had children; his surviving brother had one daughter that I know of, and has two grandsons. Of my mother's extended families, more than 75% were murdered by the Nazis.

That is the blood price of my citizenship.

I'm not saying Mexico is that bad, or that it is better. I am saying that you should all make an effort to get the facts and stories straight before deciding either way about illegal immigration from that country. Understanding the blood price may be the most important history lesson you ever learn.

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