From Jon Meacham, The Soul of America: The battle for our better angels, Random House, 2018:
- 82: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions.”—George Washington, 1783.
I am lucky. As the Constitution requires, I am a “natural-born” citizen. I didn’t have to do anything to achieve this status, except being “naturally born” (I wonder if there is such a thing as being “unnaturally born”?) Anyway, I also enjoy an extra bonus status, that of being a white male of European descent, being naturally born into a two parent middle class family. Yippy! I am automatically an American without having to take a test or jump through hoops. I live the American Dream.
Not that I didn’t have to struggle at times. Still, looking back at it, opportunities opened up for me that likely wouldn’t have for anyone of a different skin color, ethnic background, or gender. I appreciate that.
There are those who would like a piece of The Dream as well. Like my ancestors, they are fleeing poverty, oppression and religious intolerance. They want an opportunity to start a new life in America. They want to continue to make America great. But some natural-born Americans don’t see it that way. They fear that immigrants are bringing crime and drugs. They fear they will take jobs and displace the natural-born. Even worse, they fear they may marry their daughters and produce brown children. Build a wall and close the doors!
Now we are engaged in a great debate about immigration policy. The President insists on building a wall. Others see a wall as unnecessary, ineffectual, and expensive. There are reasonable solutions: enhance border security through technology; green cards to ease the worker shortage in some sectors; a path to citizenship for DACA people; more immigration judges to hear asylum cases, to name a few. Bipartisan solutions have been drafted. What’s stopping their implementation? Fear. Fear that amnesty will be granted and the country will be overrun. Fear that newcomers will vote Democrat.
FDR in his 1941 State of the Union speech identified four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Our current POTUS will be giving his State of the Union speech next week. I wonder if he will be touching on any of FDR’s themes in it? I think not. I think he will likely bloviate about building a wall, his great achievements, and how great he is. I think I could write if for him.
So, like Martin Luther King Jr., I have a dream. It is an American Dream. I dream of a generous country open to all who dream of achieving FDR’s four freedoms. I dream of a country with a common sense immigration policy, a country, where, as King said that the arc of history bends toward justice. A country where leaders actually work together to solve problems. A country that is safe and prosperous. A country where we all work together to achieve the American Dream. In the meantime, dream on.