What I Think About on The 2016 Fourth of July

4 Jul

I am a fortunate person. My paternal great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1880s, and my maternal grandparents arrived in the early 1920s, before the Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited immigration and imposed a strict quota system. It was a bigoted act designed to limit immigration of Africans as well as Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans.   It actually banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians.   It was due to this horrible act that so many Jewish people trying to escape Nazi Germany were banned from entering the United States and were murdered.

Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed and enacted on June 30, 1968, just in time for a Fourth of July celebration. It ended the strict limits of the quota systems and allowed preference visa categories that took into account an immigrant who had family members who were citizens, as well as an immigrant’s special skills.

Think of what this act might have meant for tens of thousands of Jews stuck in Europe. In my own family, the 1924 act caused the death of my grandfather’s family. He was able to get Visa’s for his parents, but not for his siblings. His parents refused to leave. And so everyone perished in the Holocaust.   My grandmother was able to get a visa for her father and younger sister, but not her brothers. Fortunately they survived.

The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the total immigration allowed and the number of visas from the 1965 law. But also in the 1990s other laws were passed to make it more difficult for legal and illegal immigrants adding reasons for deportations, according to a Wikipedia article on “The Laws Concerning Immigration.”

But the world changed on September 11, 2001, and along with it views on immigration. People got scared. We began to allow fear to rule the country. And if we do that, we let the terrorist win through fear. That is what they want.

We seemed to have gone back to the ways of the 1920s, when the white men in power seemed so afraid of those that were different. Many restrictive laws were enacted before women had the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was only ratified on August 18, 1920. At first many women did not vote. It took time for women to stand up and have their voices heard.

I cannot prove that having women’s votes changed the direction of the United States, but I believe that women voters have influenced many aspects of life in the USA.

The fact that we now have three women on the Supreme Court has made a difference. The fact that we have women in office on all levels of government: local, state, national, has made a difference. The fact that we have had women running for the two highest offices in the USA: vice president and president, has made a difference.

I am so proud and glad to be a citizen of the United States of America. I am so glad that my ancestors made the journey to the USA in times that were so difficult and were allowed to settle here and become citizens.

I hope that we all remember what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

We must not let fear of the other make us forget that the United States was founded by the ‘other.’ Everyone who signed the original Declaration of Independence was the descendant of an immigrant. We were not perfect. The treatment of the Native Americans and slave ownership was not right. But the founders did their best with the information they had. The Constitution helped them make changes to reflect the society. Slavery ended, women got the right to vote.

With the death of Elie Wiesel, we must remember his words as he reminded us of the Shoah and our responsibility to keep another one from happening: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

And we must side with the victim. We are a country founded by people searching for religious freedom, searching for a place to live with freedoms and the rights to be as equal as anyone else.

This Fourth of July, we must not give in to fear and hatred. We must protect those fleeing from war. We must not become a bigoted, hateful country. We must remain the defender of the victim. That is the heritage I want to rejoice on this July Fourth.

 

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3 Responses to “What I Think About on The 2016 Fourth of July”

  1. Amy July 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    Great post. I agree with everything you said 100%, and I could not say it better. Thank you for writing this.

    • zicharon July 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

      Thank you. With all that is going on this election cycle I had to say something.

  2. Toni July 6, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    How do I contact you? I am interested in the Bialystoker Stimme books that you blogged about last year. My grandparents (both sides) were from Bialystok and we have relatives named Goldman. My email is tdosik@earthlink.net

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