Immigrants, we get the job done.”
Earlier this month my husband and I saw the musical “Hamilton” at a theater in Los Angeles. In a show filled with memorable lines, the one mentioned above received the biggest ovation from the audience. I wondered if that was just true in Southern California. I did some internet research and learned that the line about immigrants gets a huge ovation everywhere including, surprisingly, London. It even inspired an incredibly popular video, the Hamilton Mixtape, which has over 8 million views on YouTube.
I think that most of us, including those in the “Hamilton” cast and audience, know that it was mostly immigrants who created this country. Whether they were white Protestants fleeing religious persecution; Africans criminally dragged here in chains; or Irish, Jews, Asians or people from any other race or religious group in search of a better life, we all, with the exception of indigenous peoples, came to this country from somewhere else.
America’s founders looked at the faults they found in the governments they or their ancestors had fled, particularly their English rulers, and created a nation that addressed those ills. That the forefathers were all white men meant that they imbued our founding documents with their own perspective, thus “all men are created equal,” but they had the foresight to leave room to change and improve those documents. Such changes took far too much time, particularly to end slavery (87 years) and to give women the vote (144 years), but these transformations did happen. While women and people of color are still fighting for equal rights, we continue to battle on, because we love this country, and because we are patriots.
My maternal grandparents traveled here in the early 1900s seeking the American dream, and in their own ways they found it. My grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, became a well-known celebrity photographer whose work has been exhibited in museums all over the world. By today’s metrics a Google search for Irving Chidnoff that reveals 10,300 results certainly makes him an American success story, even five decades after his death.
Although my grandfather’s story is one of inclusion and achievement, during the same century he came to the US, many Jewish immigrants were turned away from our shores while trying to escape the Nazis, because of antisemitism within the US government. In the current century, antisemitism is once again increasing. I believe any form of hate and discrimination is unpatriotic.
Some people drive around with flags on their trucks trying to prove their patriotism. Others, like pardoned felon Michael Flynn, embrace their interpretation of the Second Amendment while ignoring the part of the First Amendment that says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”
I remember protestors of the Vietnam War being met with the response “my country, love it or leave it.” In a piece I wrote about citizenship last year, I said “To me, being a good citizen means loving this country while acknowledging its flaws.” I believe that patriotism is standing up, speaking out, working to fix the things that aren’t perfect in this country and VOTING.
Patriots believe in the American ideal, a dream of what our country could be, not a blind commitment to what it is now. Patriots will never stop working to make our country better.
What does patriotism mean to you? We are working with Patriots Believe to reclaim patriotism and our American flag. Please tweet your response using the hashtag #PatriotsBelieve or submit your story via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may even win a free t-shirt!
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