Strangely enough, I don’t remember my birth. I have been told I was born in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America. I have a piece of paper that says so. I had nothing do with the choice of where I was born, but I sure picked a good country. Lucky me.
The people responsible for my place of birth, my father’s and my mother’s families, didn’t come from around here.
I don’t know much about the origins of my father’s family save for the fact they came from the most reviled country of the late 19th century, Ireland. When you named the “s**thole” countries of that time, Ireland topped the list. A bunch of unskilled potato farmers came over here by the millions, with their weird accents and their strange religion. They all decided to live together in the Irish sections of cities, refusing to integrate with “true” Americans. Some formed gangs took over NYC. (At least that’s what I saw in a movie.)
I know more about my maternal grandparents. They came from the other great “s**thole” country of the era, Italy. Didn’t speak a word of English; they were failed farmers and chain migrants, coming over here to live in the worst sections of our cities, the “Italian” neighborhoods. A few of them formed mafia families (the MS-13s of their era). Again weird languages and the low skill levels. So many “true” Americans were forced to endure them.
Why did we let them in? Weren't there "good" immigrants who wanted to come here from neat, tidy countries instead? Why didn't these folks just pick themselves up by their bootstraps and do better in their own lousy countries instead of coming over here and snapping up all the great sweatshop and fruit-picking jobs?
Many years later the US took in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a war in the Asian version of a s**thole country, Vietnam. My father and stepmother sponsored some of these people to come live with them for 6 months at a time. I remember when the first ones arrived…no English, weird accents, and another strange religion… They came here, took up all our crappy jobs and lived in the same neighborhoods once inhabited by the Italians and the Irish. The Vietnamese kids I knew were just like me; they played soccer, went to school, watched “Charlies Angels"…but they weren't savvy enough to be born here, so they weren't "real" Americans.
My daughter’s first babysitter came from a s**thole country, Bosnia. We’ve got a lot of Bosnian immigrants in St. Louis. They seem like they were really proud of their old, crappy country that lay in ruin, and they also were really happy to be here, too. I wonder how many of them fled high-paying skilled jobs to come over here to clean our toilets and babysit our children?
Why do these people keep coming here? They take our coveted lettuce-picking, landscaping and roofing jobs; they make our food, clean our bathrooms, park our cars. Don’t they know we are full of immigrants already?
Like I said, I don’t recall choosing to be born here. I’ll bet you don’t, either. So, what did you do to deserve your citizenship when you were born? Maybe your answer is that your grandparents earned it for you. Well, guess what? So did mine. Immigrants from the s**thole countries of the world paid the cost of our birthright that we act like we so richly deserve.
Right now, some Syrian, Guatemalan, Liberian or Sudanese family is looking for a safe place to raise a family. Who am I to decide that somebody else shouldn’t have the luck to be born an American? They're exactly like me, two generations removed. Otherwise known as "Americans."
I Come From A S**thole Country
February 16, 2018