“By an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people.” — George Washington in a letter to John Adams
In order to silence speech, leftists often try to accuse someone who has a legitimate disagreement over immigration policy of racism and xenophobia. In criticism of a column I wrote on the cultural assimilation of immigrants, this tactic was amusingly used against me this week. My critic, Lance Dutson, claimed there is no “ national culture,” ignoring the assimilation philosophy of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
Not only will I not be silent, but I’m happy to share my story.
A century ago my mother’s grandfather of Franco-Canadian descent came to Waterville from Canada. Speaking little to no English, he founded A.J. Carey and Son’s and, along with my grandfather, went on to live a successful life in Waterville, building many of the homes in which my friends and neighbors live today.
My father’s grandparents immigrated to America in the early 20th century from poverty stricken Sicily. In elementary school, my grandfather was held back until he learned to speak English. Back then it wasn’t expected that communities would hire interpreters for dozens of different languages as we do in some Maine school districts today. Working as a janitor, my great-grandfather understood that he endured hardships not for himself, but his children. His son, my grandfather, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and he built the house I live in today with my family while he led a department at the Scott Paper Co. in Winslow. He spoke English because he was an American, but he and his children still ate cannoli and listened to Jerry Vale.
With my wife and five children, I continue to enjoy the rich cultural heritage that was passed down to me by my parents. At Christmas, all of my close friends know they will be receiving my highly anticipated tourtiere pies, and every Sunday, my family gathers around the table for spaghetti with meatballs, sausages and homemade Italian bread.
Along with our love for our cultural heritage, there’s something else my family all shares in common: the love of the magnificent history of this great nation and the values that are enshrined in its founding documents that enable us to live such a blessed life. This was passed on to me by my parents and to them by theirs.
When they were children, it didn’t matter if they and their friends were Christian or Jewish, black or white, they all were read stories of Gen. George Washington and Daniel Boone. A national culture created a “melting pot” (a term some now consider a microagression) in which intermingling and immersion allowed people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to become one unified nation regardless of what personal customs they practiced at home. This is what makes us one nation, under God, and indivisible.
Assimilation of immigrants into the United States has nothing to do with culinary practice or religious tests. It does have to do with learning our common language and embracing our historical understanding of our rights and political system. If an immigrant wishes to undermine our republic by enshrining something different, whether it be communism or Sharia law, our government is right to deny them entry to this country to protect our American way of life.
Nations have always held the right to ensure that those whom they embrace will not work to undermine the core values of their national culture. Speaking to this directly, as I wrote in my column, Alexander Hamilton wrote that “to admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens … would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty.”
Dutson rejects the American melting pot that for over two centuries has blended diverse peoples into a strengthened multiracial unity for a dangerous balkanized multiculturalism, as if the government has no role in protecting the people from outside subversives.
There is no “right” to citizenship, and the purpose of government is not to provide, but protect its citizens. On immigration policy, the government has a duty to protect Americans first, and that means excluding those who do not wish to accept our peaceful way of life.
Nick Isgro is the mayor of Waterville.