Jimmy Carter was President when I was born. He was the Sunday School teacher who wore sweaters when it was chilly, carried his own bags and had no real discernible ideology other than a commitment to peace. As a child, I don’t ever remember hearing, “That might be how President [George H.W.] Bush talks but that’s not how we talk in the house!” But here we are, six Presidents and forty years later, talking about “shithole countries.” This exact story might be new but this is by no means “new” news. This is the “grab ’em by the pussy” Donald Trump who “schlonged” his way to the White House. After the 2016 election, the principal of my daughter’s school held an all-school assembly after students taunted others with chants of “Build the Wall!” Yes, my daughter heard what I never had, “That might be how the President talks but that’s not how you will.” I don’t want to focus on Trump. I want to focus on the “rapists” who come from “shithole countries.”
My maternal grandmother’s parents arrived from Avellino, Italy just before World War I. They were also undocumented. My great-grandfather who conscientiously objected to compulsory service in the Italian army, promptly registered for the American draft because America was a “home worth fighting for.” All three of his sons served during World War II, and one of them with the 82nd Airborne that liberated his hometown. Yes, “dreamers” who were born in America, grew up American and proudly served their country, their home, the United States of America.
My paternal grandfather’s mother, left her “shithole” country of origin twice. She was the daughter of Irish tenant farmers who were so desperate, they gave her to her “rich” uncle (a coal miner) and spent her childhood in Pennsylvania. When her uncle died, she returned to Ireland. She was the first in her family to learn how to read and write. She was also a gifted painter. She brought her family to America herself, convinced that her children were too promising to stay in Ireland. Her daughters married well. Her elder son became a successful business executive, as did her younger son (my grandfather) who was also a wounded war hero.
My 2nd-great-grandmother arrived in New York from Scotland as a young single woman at the age of 16.
My earliest American ancestors were Puritans and Huguenots — like those seeking freedom from persecution.
Those fleeing “shithole countries” are fleeing shitty circumstances in search of the promise the American Dream offers, a peaceful and prosperous existence for our families, and a home worth fighting for.
So, this is how I leave you with the “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus: