To the editor:
I recently had an appointment at DeKalb Hospital. While returning to my car, I noticed a bumper sticker. It had four words written in the form of the borders of the United States: “F**k off, we’re full” — a message aimed at would be immigrants.
My initial reaction was to the callousness of its message. However, what struck me further about this message was how un-American it is.
I thought about a boatload of immigrants who landed on the New England shore in 1620, the Pilgrims. A group of foreigners coming to the shores of America in search of a better life. They had no right to the land. They were as different from the Americans already living in America as they could possibly be. They didn’t speak the language. They didn’t know the customs of the Americans nor did they have any special skills to offer to their new home. They had taken a journey of over 3,000 miles with the belief that a better life for them and their children awaited them. I wondered what would have happened if the Americans already living in America had posted signs along the shoreline which said “ F**k off, we’re full.”
How would the American story be different if the Indians had greeted the Pilgrims with weapons and hatred instead of teaching them how to farm, fish and survive in their new home. The Indians chose to help these immigrants. They may even have helped an ancestor of the individual who had placed that sticker on his or her car.
I believe that it is Un-American and unpatriotic to reject people only because they are different from me. This does not reflect American values nor does it make America a stronger, more secure place. Democracy does not grow stronger within the shadow of a wall. Democracy grows when it is shared and all people are able to bask and flourish within the sunshine of its freedom and opportunities. Living in freedom and security creates loyalty and commitment. It creates good Americans.
I have been lucky enough to visit other countries. These visits have taught me about other cultures and also a great deal about my home, The United States of America. I have been able to view America through the eyes of other people. I have learned that America is more than just a country. America is also an ideal and a belief that somewhere in this world there is a place where if people work hard, play by the rules and respect their neighbors, they will be free and they can have as much economic success as the sweat on their brow will bring them. It is a belief that there is a place where people can worship as their beliefs dictate. A place where human rights are a fundamental thread of the national fabric and law abiding people can live in peace. It is a manifestation of the ideal that one’s skin color doesn’t matter, one’s ethnicity doesn’t matter, one’s religion doesn’t matter. The only thing which truly matters is character and a commitment to working hard.
Immigrants coming to America are not just chasing its economic opportunities. They also come because of the ideal and belief that is America. Immigrants do not become American citizens because of economics. They become citizens because they want to be a part of the ideal that is America.
We live in a democratic republic. The best way to protect democracy is not to erect a wall and close it off to others who wish to share in its freedom and economic opportunities. Democracy is only made stronger by sharing it and welcoming anyone who is willing to abide by its laws and work hard.
Our country faces many challenges. I do not believe that any of them will be solved with hatred, racism and xenophobia.
They will be solved with the American tradition of lending my neighbor a helping hand when he or she needs it and then watching him or her take advantage of the opportunities available in our great country.