Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hyphenated America

My good wife saved a piece from a recent Washington Post for me to read at dinner last night. It was from the “Ask Amy” advice column. Apparently there had been a recent letter from someone that didn’t like the term “African-American” and yesterday’s column was filled with responses about the issue.

There were many people that supported the use of the term, citing the de-emphasis of skin color as a descriptor. Some didn’t like the use of the term as being too generic or not having any real relevance to them. One, God hhelp me, actually said she didn't consider herself an African American since her family came from the carribean some generations ago.

Reading the section, I was brought to mind of a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and that subject is "hyphenated" Americans.

My take on hyphenating is this: While it is fine to be interested in one’s heritage, spending your time identifying with a country or continent (and taking it seriously) that your ancestors left generations ago is a waste of time.

Every St. Patrick’s day, Columbus day, and Cinco De Mayo, The American descendants of Irish, Italian, and Mexican immigrants throw huge celebrations, and wear buttons that say Kiss Me, I’m (insert group here). Throughout the spring and summer, all over America there are Scottish or Celtic festivals, at which you will see no small number of men (and even women) wearing kilts and dancing to the beautiful skirl of that most wondrous of instruments, the great highland bagpipe. During the month of February, Black History month is celebrated. For those four weeks we are bombarded with television and magazine ads highlighting the contributions that American descendants of Africans have made to the building of this country. The list goes on and on… In some places it is the German festival, or Polish festival and what-have-you.

All of this celebrating is good fun, to be sure. Like most Americans, I love a good party, but I worry sometimes that we get just a little too attached to our self-affixed labels. How often have I heard someone describe himself as “Pure” Irish or Italian. When I ask such people where they were born, they often look at me like I have three heads and say: “here in Virginia” or somewhere else in the U.S. I’ll then ask: “where are your parents from?” and when I get another answer that is also somewhere in the U.S., I ask: “what do you mean that you are pure Irish/Italian/Polish? You aren’t a Pole, you’re an American!" In response, I usually get: “yeah, but you know what I mean” Yes, I do know what you mean, and so do you, for shame.

You see, I’m an American, with all of the rights and privileges thereunto pertaining. I can want no more in terms of nationality. My ancestors are a wide and varied lot, from English indentured servants (white slaves), African slaves, French religious refugees (Hugenots, anyone?), Irish transportees, and fleeing Scottish rebels. My ancestors, black and white fought in the American Revolution, Civil War, The World Wars, and all the way up through the first Gulf War. I could, if I were inclined, wear a button that says “Kiss Me, I’m FrenchEnglishScottishIrishAfrican"… but that would be stupid. National heritage is only important for a generation or two… by that time, most people quit being whatever they were in the old country and have begun being Americans.

As I have said before, and some of you that know me, know that I am proud of my ancestry. If you know me, you also know that none of it means a Tinker’s damn when stacked up against being an American. Be honest,folks... if the places where most of our forebears were from were so great, they'd have stayed there.

I think that hyphenating yourself is a means of self-segregating. I also think that hyphenating promotes divided loyalties. I think it is high time that we quit doing it.

Every time I talk about this subject with someone, I am inevitably asked if I don’t think that it is great to have an entire month devoted to the history of a(major) portion of my ethnicity? I usually respond by telling them that if they were paying any attention to history at all, EVERY month is a part of my history(and theirs, too!)

For my part, I think that it is past time to do away with Black History Month. Is February the only time that black Americans can learn about themselves? How would many black Americans feel if there was a move to start White History Month? I can see it now; there would be an incredible din from various parts of the black community and many of the race-hustlers that purport to be their leaders.

A little earlier in this piece, I used the term “becoming Americans” and I think that it might be a good time to talk about that here. Most immigrants that come to the United States to live permanently, do so with the intention of becoming American citizens. Most people come to this country because they believe that being here is much better than being where they are from. Because of this, most immigrants strive to become Americans culturally as well as by dint of citizenship. Take a look around… at my daughter’s school, you will find no small number of kids who named Meghan or Abby, or Justin, whose parents, whom you know from talking to them at the PTO, aren’t from this country. Those people want their children to be Americans. Not Korean-Americans, Indian-Americans, or Bolivian-Americans. Just Americans.

It seems to me that people that want to hyphenate are just trying to find ways to opt out of our society or separate themselves from the rest of their countrymen. I don’t see how this can be a good thing.

I find myself constantly reminded, when speaking on this subject, of the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “There is no room I this country for hyphenated Americanism”

He was right.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Soccer Dad (Part II)

Olivia scored her first goal this weekend. It was awesome! (and, I don’t use that word very often)

We played a team that we were fairly evenly matched against, in both size and skill level, and before the game, I had a nice talk with the opposing coach. We were both in agreement that the purpose of the game was for the girls to have fun, get some exercise, and to learn about soccer. With that we got down to business.

I was the on-field coach for our side, since Coach Debbie was out of town for the weekend (in our league and age division, both coaches are allowed on the field to direct and teach their players), so I was not only directing the girls, I was doing substitution as well.

Although we were down two players, making the girls play longer, they gave a good account of themselves.

Olivia’s goal came on a breakaway that started near our own goal, she kicked the ball out of the scrum and dribbled past two opposing players, drove all the way downfield and kicked the ball into the back of the net!

I was so excited. Olivia was even more excited. Being the coach, I had to restrain my urge to sweep her onto my shoulders and parade her down the field. As it was, my “Great job Olivia!!!” had to suffice.

Friends, I am as proud of my daughter as any dad could be, but I was proud of all of the girls… we didn’t win the game, but I felt like we did. Alison, and tiny Alexandra (also a first year player) also scored great goals. All of the girls played with spirit and courage, they didn’t quit, even when they were really winded.

What a great day!

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Moussaoui & The Death Penalty

Yesterday, the jury in the Zacharias Moussaoui death penalty trial delivered it’s verdict. Although they had deemed, earlier in the trial, that convicted terrorist Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty, they elected to imprison him for the rest of his life without possibility for parole.

Talk radio has been very busy, this morning, telling us why the jury did what it did. I am not an attorney, so the arcana of jury behavior is lost on me, but I’ll tell you this: I am pleased that the jury took the high road. The jurors appear to have done the right thing and weighed their decision on the evidence versus taking the much easier, more emotion-based route.

The jury system worked yesterday. I wish it worked more often.

The jurors made me proud of our too-frequently failing judicial system. They made me proud that we are still a nation of laws. They made me proud to be an American.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The Illegal Immigration Debate

Yesterday morning, I went to get my morning coffee in the usual place, a local carryout located in an industrial park, not far from my office. It is a clean and brightly lit shop that serves the usual omelettes, fried potatoes, bagels, grilled cheese sandwiches, ham & eggs, sort of fare that one would imagine finding in an industrial area. The people that get their breakfast here at 5 A.M. are construction workers, cops, plumbers, electricians, and delivery men (and women). Another thing that is served at the Bren-Mar Deli is coffee… hot, strong coffee. Coffee, not latte, not espresso, not the double half-caf mocha-frappacino drinks, frequently consumed by skinny, twenty-something women and metro-sexual men who carry man-bags and wear those stupid-looking little rectangular glasses.

When I entered the deli yesterday, I was cheerfully greeted by the proprietress in the usual manner: “Anyeong ha-seyo!” to which I replied cheerfully: “Anyeong ha-seyo! Buenas Dias!” I always give the greeting in Korean as well as Spanish because all of the people that work in the shop, which is open from 5 A. M until 6 P.M., are either Korean or Latino immigrants. The employees always get a kick out of my meager attempts to speak to them in their own languages, no matter how much I butcher the words and accent.
I chatted with the shop employees while I prepared my 20 oz. eye-opener (I’m tired, ok?). The shop owner told me today, that she wanted to tell me how important it was her for her to be here in America, and that while she still loved South Korea (she is from Seoul), she loved America even more, because of her ability to own her own business and achieve a level of economic status she never could have attained in her homeland, despite having a university education attained at Mainz University in Germany, where she studied biology.

The shop owner went on to tell me that she thought that it was important to tell this to me, specifically on this morning, while so many immigrant groups were encouraging immigrants not to shop or to go to work. She told me that she was sad about what was happening with the boycott, which shut down or slowed down at least one fairly large industry in the United States yesterday. She looked at me earnestly and told me that she was “a good immigrant”. I didn’t know what to make of that, so I put my arm around her shoulder and told her that I am glad that she was in the country, told her that I would see her tomorrow, and went on my merry way (yes, I DID pay for my coffee. I don’t take gratuities).

With this conversation in mind, I decided to write about my thoughts on the current illegal immigration debate and what I see as some of the solutions.

I’ll start by saying that I don’t think that it will be any more possible to completely stop illegal immigration than it will be to completely end terrorism. These are things that have been with us for generations and will probably continue until long after I shuffle off my mortal coil.

I think that the overwhelming majority of immigrants that come to the United States (or any of the more prosperous nations), come here because of increased opportunity. Many come for political freedoms that they cannot enjoy in the places that they are from. For some, they come to escape genocide, war, or oppression at home. People have been coming to the United States for those reasons since long before any of the great-great grandparents of anyone reading this in 2006 were born.

Currently, illegal immigration is discussed in the American media, and by so many of our citizens as being one of the most important issues in the nation today. I don’t agree that it is, but I will tell you what I think needs to be done:

Control the borders. Please note that I said borders, not border. I believe that having porous borders is a huge problem. It just doesn’t make sense to speak of an illegal immigrant problem while leaving the borders wide open. Our southern border with Mexico is large and is the major source of visible illegal immigration, so I will discuss it first.

The first thing to do in controlling the border is to greatly increase funding and manpower to the U.S. Border Patrol, for reasons that should be obvious.

As harsh as it may sound to many, I believe that the next, and probably most important thing to do in order to control that border is to build the much talked about wall, or fence.

A fence is needed to at least slow the flood of people entering the country illegally. I think that the fence should be built 500 yards inside the U.S. border, and that a moat or ditch should be built in front of said fence. The Border Patrol would patrol the outside of the fence, turning around any people that they apprehend attempting to enter the country, which would save money on deportation before it became an issue.

I know that this is a difficult fix. I also know that building a fence would be a difficult, lengthy, expensive, and unpopular prospect, but I am certain that the costs of construction will be offset by the savings in deportation costs in a fairly short amount of time.

I realize that there are many that believe that a fence or wall is inhumane. I must respectfully disagree. I don’t think it is inhumane to erect a barrier to secure your own borders.

Regarding the northern border… that, too, clearly needs to be controlled, but the truth of the matter is that most of the illegal immigration that happens through that border takes place in the form of people that legally visit the United States overstay the limits of their visit, or who use forged documents to enter. In these cases, the fixes are a bit different.

First, we have to beef up our staffing at the borders and do a better job of access control. We must do this, but we must do it in a manner that will not bring the enormous amount of international commerce between the United States and Canada to a standstill. I don’t have the answers, but real effort must be made to accomplish this. We must increase the staffing of the Border Patrol on the northern border as well.
One of the biggest problems with our northern border is that most Americans don't seem to care about the fact that our shared border with our Canadian brothers and sisters is even longer than the border we share with Mexico. You know they don't care? Because most of the people crossing that border aren't Mexicans, or El Salvadorans, or Guatemalans etc... Yes, the immigration debate has ugly racist overtones, and it isn't all that subtle.

The next thing to do is to decide what to do about the estimated eleven million (counted by whom and how?) illegal aliens already in the country. It is simple to just say: “Round ‘em up, and deport ‘em all!” Indeed it is simple to say, but not so simple to put into practice. We don’t have the resources to make this happen, and without doing some other things, it wouldn’t do much good. To deal with this, I support the notion of a Guest Worker Program, and eventual citizenship for them.
I believe that those that have been here for an extended period, without a criminal record should be allowed to stay and pay taxes (and back taxes!) just like the rest of us. Can you imagine the revenue gleaned from eleven million new taxpayers? I believe that becoming taxpayers working toward citizenship will build permanent ties to this country that many illegal immigrants don’t really have now.

I also believe that those who have children born here should be allowed to stay. American citizenship is granted by birth, and that is as it should be. It has always been that way… it was for the Irish, the Germans, the Poles, the Italians etc..., or have some of you forgotten how your great grandparents got here? I don’t believe that breaking up a family is right, nor do I believe that we should be deporting people that were born here.
Having said these things, I believe that we must speed up the adjudication process, so that when an illegal alien is caught, his or her status can be determined and a decision made about deportation is reached immediately. This will negate the current, untenable "catch and release" program that we have now.

I think that those in the House of Representatives that make so much noise about making illegal immigration a felony crime are downright stupid. If we make illegal immigration a felony, than we are going need a great big whopping pile of money to build new prisons.

I don’t think any of the answers are easy, but I think that deliberate, rational thought has to be applied throughout in order to get anything done.

I’ll close by saying that I think that those folks who spent so much time boycotting and demonstrating yesterday, might have done themselves more harm than good, as I think that their activity may go some way towards calcifying the attitudes of many American people.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Thanks Canada!

Presented for your consideration, is this article, by Davis Meadows, a retired American Naval officer. The article was recently published at, which is a commercial website that focuses on American military issues.
Despite the fact that I think that the so-called global war on terror will not and cannot be won with the use of primarily military forces (if at all), and that I think that the author draws some poor conclusions, I think this article goes some way to expressing SOME of my feelings about our Canadian friends.

David Meadows April 27, 2006

On April 22, 2006 four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. Respects and heartfelt sadness go to the families of those heroes who stand alongside the U.S. in the Long War half a world away. While we focus on the war in Iraq, the fighting continues in Afghanistan where side-by-side the U.S. and one of its most loyal allies, Canada, engage the re-emergence of the Taliban.

Canada is like a close uncle who constantly argues, badgers, and complains about what you are doing, but when help is truly needed, you can't keep him away: he's right there alongside you. We have a unique relationship with Canada. We have different political positions on many issues, but our unique friendship has weathered world wars, global crises, and the ever-so-often neighborhood disagreement.

Canada has been with us since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism. In February 2006, without fanfare Canada, leading a multinational force combating growing Taliban insurgency, increased troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,300. With the American military stretched thin against rising instability in both Iraq and Afghanistan, an ally that increases its troop strength is inspiring and deserves our respect.

Katrina was another example of our close family-like relationship. Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. Two days later, the Vancouver Urban Search and Rescue Team rushed from British Columbia, Canada to Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana. In this Parish of 68,000 Americans, the first responders were Canadians. Overall, within the devastated Gulf Coast area, it appears Canada was the first responder outside of local efforts. They worked 18-hour days, going door-to-door alongside Louisiana State Troopers, rescuing 119-Americans.
While FEMA ramped up to surge into the catastrophe; while the administration and Louisiana fought for the politically correct way to respond; Canadian aid was already at work.
The Canadian Forces Joint Task Group 306 consisting of the warships HMCS Athabaskan, HMCS Toronto, NSMC Ville de Quebec, and CCGC William Alexander sailed to the Gulf Coast to deliver humanitarian supplies. They stayed, working alongside U.S. Navy and Mexican warships, to provide aid to Katrina victims.

Katrina was not an anomaly of our close relationship. When Hurricane Ivan devastated Pensacola, Florida in October 2004 Canadian humanitarian help was there also. Canadian power trucks roamed the streets and countryside helping restore electricity where Americans had a unique experience of running into workmen who only spoke French.

Canada took a lot of undeserved flak for failing to leap into Operation Iraqi Freedom when our administration sent us galloping across the desert. But Canada remains one of our staunchest allies in the war. When United States military forces were fighting up the highways in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Canada quietly increased troop numbers in Afghanistan and continued Naval operations with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

I was at the Pentagon on 9/11, stationed on the Joint Staff. During the early hours after the attack, the United States closed its air space and ordered every aircraft within our borders to land immediately at the nearest airfield. Canada immediately stood up an Operations Support Post.

With civil aviation grounded, aircraft destined for the United States were forced elsewhere. Most landed in Canada. Re-routed travelers and flight crews were hosted at Canadian Forces facilities in Goose Bay, Gander, and Stephenville, Newfoundland; Halifax, Shearwater, and Aldershot, Novia Scotia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Canada rapidly mobilized its forces. Within hours, the Canadian Navy was on alert with ships preparing to cast off immediately for any U.S. port to help victims of the 9/11 attacks. Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team prepared to deploy from Trenton, Ontario. Canada dispersed CF-18 fighter aircraft to strategic locations throughout Canada. No politics. No negotiating. No questions. They were just there. Canada would have fought any adversary that approached the United States that day.

Canada has been such an integral partner with the United States in the Global War on Terrorism that on December 7, 2004 when President Bush awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to Commander Joint Force South for combat success in Afghanistan, he was also recognizing the secretive Canadian Joint Task Force 2 commando counter-terrorism unit.

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded 30 Bronze Star medals for heroism in combat to Canadian Forces personnel. Some of those 30 died in action. Many of the others were wounded. These Canadians earned this American medal for heroism fighting alongside Americans. When we recall our own dead heroes, we must remember that these warriors gave their lives not only for Canada, but also for the United States.

Canada is more than a neighbor. It is a close family member with the gumption to disagree with its brother to the south but always there when disaster strikes and America needs help. For that, I salute you, Canada, and extend my respect for the sacrifices given by members of the Canadian Forces.

I thank you as well, Canada. I thank you for your past and future support in time of need, I thank you for being the place where so many of my friends are from, and I also thank you for being a good neighbor... let's just forget that Avro Arrow business, shall we?