Thursday, May 20, 2010

You're the Writer: (1)

This section has been created for those who would like to be part of the "Mimi Speaks" writing team. I welcome contributions of articles related to New York City, New York State and American history. Share with my readers your opinions, memoirs, neighborhood and immigration stories, historical events, as well as other pertinent subject matter. All contributors will be given proper credit and listed accordingly. John J. Burkard , historian of the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, New York has been a frequent contributor to's writing team. I will be posting some of his articles on my blog. Welcome aboard John.

"The Melting Pot!" by J.J. Burkard Red Hook historian Brooklyn, New York

Melting Pot was the name everyone called our great metropolis New York City. In part because of Ellis Island being the main immigration center for the entire country. Most of us old timers at least have heard of Emma Lazarus and her beautiful poem The Great Colossus, " Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning to be Free" etc. With those immortal words spoken by the statue herself, concluding -”I Lift My Lamp beside the Golden Door."

Although today it's hard to imagine even the average high school student being aware of this poem, since we seem to have lost the idea about teaching history related subjects in our school system today.

All nationalities, taking strong measures to economize and amass their life savings to become part of the greatest nation on this planet. They came and still are coming, these men and women of different cultural and genetic make-up, bringing with them their academic knowledge, talents and every working skill imaginable, from laborers to qualified engineers, doctors, lawyers and many other numerous professions.

Isn’t it funny, how most immigrants seeking citizenship approval are required to know more about the United States history, than your average grade school, high school, and yes even your college students? I should not use the word funny, because it is sad, really sad but true, the way our school systems across America have let us down.

Nonetheless, getting back to the melting pot, my question has always been "when do they begin to melt? Assimilate? Become Americans once and for all. It seems to me there is an abundance of cliques and clubs forming made up of every nationality in the world. We have Irish Americans, Black Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, Polish Americans, Greek Americans, Oriental Americans, (Chinese-Japanese- Korean- and the list is endless. They merge together usually in one neighborhood, effectively eliminating anyone who doesn't meet the nationality requirements. This is not what America was intended to be by our founding fathers.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think people have a right to cherish their homeland, their precious memories of growing up there. And by all means, have your parades to celebrate this heritage; no one should be prevented from enjoying those fond memories.

But with those memories should be the memory of why they came to our countries’ shore in the first place. For the opportunity that was not available to them in their parent homeland. We are or should be Americans first, anything else second. It seems to take too long for our citizens to emotionally feel this way, to really melt in this great melting pot.

Perhaps that may be one of the problems with America, no one it seems calls themselves American. But then again what do we call ourselves? "What nationality are you, the question was asked: the answer- "I'm an American." Oh!, are you South American? North American? Central American? You see, this could be our problem, maybe we could use a new name for our country? After all it's pretty hard to reply - " I'm a United States Of American"

Of course I'm being somewhat facetious, but it would be nice if we could just try to put America first, and our origin second, after all most of our for-fathers left the shores of their former homeland to seek out the opportunities not available to them where they emigrated from. We must never forget this. And while we could use a lot of improvements in this great country, The United States is still the land of opportunity for all peoples, and all are welcome to pursue this opportunity when they arrive here.

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