Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

IMMIGRATION AND CULTURE

Twenty years ago, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order posited that the post-Soviet world consisted of nine distinct civilizations. Their cultures and values were different and often in opposition. Huntington was hailed and later assailed. Regarding today’s immigration issues, attention to Huntington must be paid.

Huntington’s new world order consisted of the West, Latin America, Africa, the Islamic world, China, Hindu India, Orthodox Christian Eurasia (Russia and environs), the Buddhist world and Japan. Three assertions—among many—bear study.

— “International organizations based on states with cultural commonality, such as the European Union, are far more successful than those that attempt to transcend cultures.”

— “The philosophical assumptions, underlying values, social relations, customs and overall outlooks on life differ significantly among civilizations.”

— “Global politics has become multipolar and multicivilizational.”

Nations and peoples are not all just the same, and American values don’t dominate the world. This sheds some light on Donald Trump’s position on Muslims—which I do not share—and the European right, which seeks to limit or halt Muslim immigration. Let’s first look at Europe.

Ten days ago, Germany’s conservative political parties reached an agreement limiting the number of immigrants allowed to enter each year. This from a nation that in 2015 welcomed one million immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Last Sunday, Austria’s election produced Europe’s youngest prime minister, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz. His People’s Party wants to strongly curtail immigration of Muslims.

Europe has never exhibited the United States’ ability to integrate immigrants from different cultures. Decades ago, Europeans loved accusing America of racism when Europe’s non-white, non-Christian populations were small enough to seem colorful rather than threatening. What makes Europe and the U.S. so different? I asked my friend Manfred Wolf, author of a provocative book of essays, Muslims in Europe: Notes, Comments, Questions.

Europe puts up cultural obstacles to assimilation, says Manfred. The French, for example, created a highly secular society. (Europe is heavily secular.) Anyone can be French, but religious identity must be kept private. At the same time, he notes, a significant minority of Muslins in Europe are not sure they wish to assimilate. They live in Europe but may not be of it.

America has never had a major influx of immigrants who refused to submit to the nation’s reigning culture and values, according to Manfred. The Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jews have ways that are entirely different, but their numbers are comparatively small. “In America, if Ahmed and Yasmina live next door and don’t make trouble, they’re Americans. We don’t care.”

Manfred’s take on immigration and refugees is personal. As a child, he fled Holland with his family to escape the Nazis. Eventually, they settled in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He came to the U.S. at 17 to attend college.

He succeeded. “I’d learned English,” Manfred says. “I knew about America. I wanted to accept American culture, which made me a perfect immigrant.” If culture and personality match, he notes, assimilation becomes easy.

It may seem disheartening that immigrants often bring with them values that clash with those of their new country. And yes, much bigotry exists in nations taking in—or rejecting—migrants from other cultures. But solutions to this complex problem require understanding that the problem is, indeed, complex.

My novels, including The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht, currently are unavailable in Amazon’s Kindle store (a publisher matter soon to be rectified). You can still purchase the softcover versions from Amazon—or directly from me.

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“Hamilton”

Finally, we got to see that hit about our history,

And all the men who, bold, told old King George

We’re out to set our nation free.

We’d seen the news, the interviews, and heard the tunes.

Now our views are: this show’s great and one to celebrate.

We had great fun at “Hamilton.”

 

We didn’t waste our shot. No, we didn’t waste our shot.

‘Cause what we got

Was song and dance within a riveting plot.

 

And, we took a backstage tour.

Repeat, we took a backstage tour.

At “Hamilton,” we know someone

Who made it even more fun.

What’s more, we stood there on the stage

The very place where George-Three raged

While Hamilton talked revolution

And the solution to building a nation

For all. Big and small.

That’s one tall order,

Keeping it real from border to border.

Oh yes, we had a backstage tour.

Ooooh. Ooooh.

 

And ooooh, we met some of the cast,

Young people from all those backgrounds,

Producing all those sweet sounds,

Representing every branch of our family tree:

You and you and you and me.

Reminding us we are family because our colors

Blend into one red, white and blue humanity.

 

We didn’t waste our shot.

No, we didn’t waste our shot.

I thought about my family tree,

A shout out to my grandparents

Sailing into New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty

Welcoming them to the land of the free.

Nothing guaranteed but the will to succeed.

 

After more than a century,

I hold on to the memory and like to think how

Lady Liberty, her torch raised high,

Her eye on all those immigrants,

Welcomes my father Morris—Moishe still—and shy of three.

She sings, her silent voice so resonant

(Born in Poland he can’t be president

But what counts is what he can be):

“Know what you’ve got here, boy. A shot here, boy.

And listen now to what I say:

Let no one take your shot away.

Big shots with small minds seeking any lame excuse

To cut our Constitution loose

And trample on the glory of those who made us great.

Don’t let them be the ones to tell your story.”

 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s right.

We all have rights. It’s worth the fight

For freedom.

Staying silent would be dumb. We’re all Americans,

Building our nation, reinforcing its foundation,

Seeking to rise up, rise up beyond our station.

Immigrants like Sam and Kayleh, Lyon and Minnie

Came for opportunity.

Not just for them but everyone,

Away from fear and squalor, hollering for just one thing:

Their shot.

Which they got.

 

So, let’s remember sun to sun,

There something more in store than fun

When the lights go on and voices rise.

You better bet we owe a debt to

Alexander Hamilton.

 

The post will take two weeks off and resume on Friday, May 19. Meanwhile, check out the first two chapters of The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website.

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ANCHOR BABIES AND OPEN EARS

Tuesday night, I attended a workshop, “Speaking Across Conflict,” at Congregation Sherith Israel. It related to heated discussions—and lack of discussions—about Israel among Jews. Rabbi Melissa Weintraub led the workshop. She is co-director of Resetting the Table, a program of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ Civility Campaign. The basics are simple. Implementing them is challenging.

Rabbi Weintraub emphasizes listening to people with whom you disagree. You focus on what’s important to others—the hard part—rather than on how to counter their positions. After listening, you can offer your own views. Regrettably, shouting is a hallmark of Israeli politics and Jewish responses. It also corrodes American politics. Republicans and Democrats shun dialogue and define accusations as valid arguments. Acrimony abounds. Little gets accomplished.

Immigration is an issue generating more heat than light. The nation faces three basic choices: One: Open our borders to everyone. Two: Close our borders to everyone. Three: Establish quotas regarding how many immigrants we take in and their qualifications. The last option represents our current law, but it badly needs updating. Times have changed since my parents and father became citizens 101 years ago.

The hue and cry is deafening. Some Americans can’t understand why people who enter America in violation of the law can stay here. They’re accused of being anti-immigrant. They’re not. They support immigration within the law. Others cannot imagine how the nation can purge itself of eleven million people who arrived illegally. (Yes, it’s illegal to violate the law). Many “illegals” have lived here peacefully and productively for years. Solving the problem requires a new mindset. We have to listen to each other’s concerns, acknowledge them and find ways to compromise, understanding that this issue cannot be framed in simplistic black and white.

Take “anchor babies” or birthright citizenship. Donald Trump wants to do away with automatically granting citizenship to babies born in the U.S. of non-citizens. The right screams, “Hell, yes!” The left screams, “Hell, no!”

Let me say that I think Donald Trump is a joke. A bad one. He’s a lightning rod for know-nothings, addressing legitimate issues in infantile ways. That being said, I have doubts about birthright citizenship. I recognize the existence of the 14th Amendment and the practical concerns regarding authenticating parental citizenship, as well as adopting a new Constitutional amendment. But birthright citizenship is hardly a universal concept.

Of the developed nations, only the U.S. and Canada provide birthright citizenship. Great Britain, France, Germany and Australia—among many others—restrict citizenship for babies born within their borders. I don’t suggest that other nations’ laws are inherently better than ours. I’ll skip Sharia law practiced in Saudi Arabia and Iran, thank you. But reasoned arguments relating to birthright citizenship can be made pro and con.

It’s time we recognize that it’s not treasonous to listen to different views. It’s also time we replace presidential debates with actual discussions. Candidates would be required to listen and acknowledge when other candidates present their views at lengths greater than those of sound bites. They would wait their turn then offer their own positions—uninterrupted.

Running our mouths does nothing but run down the nation. We might discover a lot more substance between our ears if we take our fingers out of them.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KING

Last Sunday, Carolyn and I reached a milestone. Aaron became the first Perlstein son to clear his last possessions from our garage. Another important milestone now approaches. This Sunday marks my father Morris’s 112th birthday.

The King—I’ll explain the nickname—died in 1983. But he’s never been gone. It’s not that he had an outsize personality. Rather, his ordinary life offered extraordinary examples of what it means to be loving, honest and kind—to be a mensch.

A little history: My father was born in Warsaw, Poland. He came to America in 1906 with his parents and two sisters. I like to imagine my grandfather holding my father up on the deck of their ship to see the Statue of Liberty. I like to think of my grandmother saying, “In America, you can be anything you want.”

What my father wanted to be was an American. His parents were thirty-four when they arrived at Ellis Island. While they all became Americans—the family was granted citizenship in August 1911 while living on 17th Street in Manhattan—my grandparents had to feel their way into the new culture. Some of America remained alien as it often does to adult immigrants, particularly Jews in a “Christian nation.” My father came here at two-and-a-half. Moishe became Morris. He had no memories of Warsaw. I once asked him what he thought of his parents. His answer: “I thought they were greenhorns.”

As a kid, the King played sports. He also wanted an education and believed that he could get further ahead as a college man at a time when relatively few people went to college. After graduating from the old DeWitt Clinton High School, he worked to help support the family. He also attended night classes at New York University—for eleven years. In 1932, he received his B.S. from NYU’s School of Commerce.

Four years later, following a whirlwind courtship, he married my mother Blanche. He made a good living. After the War, he became a salesman, selling springs to bedding and furniture manufacturers. My mother though he’d never succeed. The King was an introvert. She soon had both a mink stole and a mink coat. Did I mention the lamb’s-wool jacket? My father’s pleasures were modest: family, food, cigars, Broadway musicals, Friday-night gin games and summers at a Catskills bungalow colony—Kappy’s Kottages. He took me to baseball and basketball games. Later he and my mother enjoyed Las Vegas—craps for him, slots for her.

As to the nickname: I started calling my father King after an episode on TV’s The Honeymooners. Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) ranted to his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) that he was “the king of the castle.” I ran with it and soon referred to my mother as the Queen. For decades, I sent birthday and anniversary cards portraying kings and queens. On the King’s cards, I always drew a cigar.

The only memorials to Morris Perlstein are his descendents. He lived what New York Times columnist David Brooks refers to as “the small, happy life.” There’s a big idea there. The world just might be better off if more people lived lives not of celebrity or wealth accumulation but of peaceful integrity. Happy birthday, King. Your memory is a blessing.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—$20 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com. 

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MAKEOVER 101

Republicans are upset. Speaker of the House John Boehner proclaimed that President Obama is out to destroy the GOP. But the GOP’s wounds seem self-inflicted. As Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, recently declared, “We need to understand that we can’t come off as a bunch of angry white men.” All it takes is a little makeover.

As a former advertising guy, I believe that Republicans can deliver their core messages without making Americans wonder if the party is a few pinto beans short of a full burrito. Because it’s not just what you say. It’s how you say it.

Abortion: Forget baby killers. This is an economic issue. The more children born in America, the more legal workers we’ll have to pay for entitlements.

Entitlements: American workers have a great opportunity to boost the economy rather than hobble it. All they need do is switch to privatized health care and retirement benefits. This will enable corporate CEOs and wizards of Wall Street—our job creators—to employ more nannies, cooks, chauffeurs and personal trainers, thus lowering unemployment.

Unemployment: Americans aren’t lazy. They’ve regrettably been disconnected from nature. The solution? Move people out of dangerous ghettos and barrios into the countryside for fresh air and healthful exercise picking America’s bounty of fruits and vegetables. This will force illegal aliens to flee and terminate our immigration problem.

Immigration: Folks who cross our borders without documentation are good people. Each is a potential ambassador who, upon being sent home—unless a proposed path to citizenship passes Congress—will spread the good word about American free enterprise. So much the better if they take their guns with them to display as tokens of our democracy and the rich culture it supports.

Gun control: Firearms (“guns” is a negative term) constitute more than a right. Firearms enable a citizen defense force (“militia” is a negative term) instantly ready to repel Al Qaeda or the Taliban—not to mention the Chinese and the United Nations. Let hostile forces attempt marine landings in Maine, Miami, Mobile or Malibu (San Francisco’s out—water’s way too cold). Or airborne assaults on Altoona, Atlanta, Abilene or Albuquerque. Americans will handle it. We have to. It takes minutes to scramble American fighter jets over Milwaukee and hours to move rapid-reaction ground forces to Austin. By then aggressors could be eating our double-bacon-double-cheeseburgers and chili fries for lunch.

Gay marriage: Every American is precious. But let’s not forget that the American family—Dad, Mom, Junior and Janie Sue—built this country. They also need our love and protection—which they didn’t get in Newtown, Connecticut because the local school board was too pansy-pink-liberal to put not just one but two armed cops in each school with a SWAT team on alert from dawn to dusk each school day. No, the people of Newtown cared more about visiting Planned Parenthood, maxing out their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, collecting welfare checks and coddling illegal aliens.

Whoa! Putting a happy face on the GOP might be a struggle after all. But still, it’s possible. Like calling cyanide coated in chocolate a gourmet candy—as long as we keep the Food and Drug Administration out of Americans’ business and let the marketplace decide.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.