Immigrants Change Us!

When a society suits one part of its citizenry, those people tend to resist change. Those who call for change are the ones who are not satisfied.

When I was raised in a small town in northern California, the world seemed to me to be a pretty nice place. My earliest memory I can date with some precision to about the 10th or 12th of May, 1945. I was just 2 years, 9 months old. I did not know it, but the war in Europe had been over for only a couple of days. The war in the Pacific, which was also outside my consciousness, would be over before my 3rd birthday.

My family wasn’t rich but we certainly had plenty of stuff beyond subsistence level. My dad, a building contractor, was never without work and always had a good income. In my neighborhood, no one locked doors except at night. I was welcome in every yard and could walk into any house on the block. I did well when I started school and was liked by teachers and friends alike.

I miss those days, especially when I lock a car door or lock the house when we’ll be gone for a few hours. I wish America could go back to that simple small-town lifestyle. We had a Black family whose sons were our best athletes, a Chinese family who ran a nice market and another Chinese family running our only laundry, a Jew who ran one of our two high quality men’s clothing stores. I went to school with this smattering of “others” and cannot recall ever having heard a word spoken against any of them. I don’t remember even hearing any mention at all about them being unique in any way.

The flaw in my thinking is obvious: America wasn’t working that well for everyone equally. I had no idea that Black Americans in the south were being treated horribly and was surprised when the civil rights movement began to make America uncomfortable. It didn’t take long, of course, for me to learn why there were demonstrations in the South — they were responses to injustices, injustices which I had never seen, injustices which demanded and deserved correction.

I was equally surprised as I learned that many people in America were angry at the “Negroes” for complaining. It took a long time, but eventually I came to understand that those for whom the society works do not want it to change.

Now in America I see the same kinds of tensions. Many people complain that immigrants are changing America. There is great anger against them. The problem, despite the ridiculous blustering of Trump, is not that most of them are bad people but simply that they are different. People like Trump — and Adolf Hitler — know how to get personal mileage out of those differences by blaming our problems on the ones not like “us.”

Whether it is Hitler blaming Jews, George Wallace blaming Blacks, or Donald Trump blaming illegal immigrants, the idea is the same. “Those people” are a threat because they are changing things in America.

The irony in my mind is that most of the great change in our society comes from people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. When I see a group of teens, standing together, each texting others who are not present, I don’t think of immigrants or Blacks or Jews, I think of Apple computers and Smart Phones and Windows.

Do I miss the days when I could pick up the phone and my friend Eugene’s mother, the operator in our town, would say, What number do you want to call, Mike? Yes, I do. Will I be like the Tea Party and fight to get us back to those days? Never. They are gone and were not as good for others as they were for me. If we were to go back to the times that were good for me, it would cause a great deal of suffering for those for whom the times were not good at all.

Republicans want to undo the Civil War, to take us back to the days when most folk packed a six-shooter, when one race was terribly used and abused, and states were free to force evil upon anyone they chose.

Let the changes come! Let’s work to make them changes not back to yesterday’s selective blessings but to tomorrow’s justice. Let’s keep changing America until we come as close as possible to fulfill our founding ideals. . . .such as, All men are created equal.

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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