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Chicago Sun Times
November 28, 2005 Monday
SECTION: EDITORIALS; Pg. 53
LENGTH: 882 words
HEADLINE: From melting pot to American stew
BYLINE: Esther J. Cepeda, Special to The Chicago Sun-Times
My parents were Mexican immigrants to the
My parents came here, like so many immigrants before them, with the expectation that if they worked hard, struggled and paid their dues, they, too, could carve out a piece of the fabled American Dream for themselves and their family, and they did.
But the world is different now, and the pendulum has swung wide from a climate in which it was bad to be different to one where multiculturalism is so revered that it is difficult to have pride in what is commonly known as
Years ago, it was the concept of the collective American melting pot, where the tired, poor, huddled masses arrived to blend into society to become Americans. Americans whose freewheeling spirits were committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowadays, we've become a sort of American stew to whose broth there is a constant slew of zesty new meats and vegetables being tossed in whole and never cooked down to create a cohesive blend. This is what spurs people to commit themselves to movements such as the Illinois Minuteman Project, which recently reared its growing head at a gathering in
Is it that these Minutemen and women hate people from other countries, or can we look at their side of the story and see some legitimacy in their beef? Could it be that they are just scared? Scared at seeing people who are purportedly coming here for a better life so zealously defending that presumably worse homeland to the point of attempting to re-create it here? It's not so weird, after all, to scratch one's head and say, "Hey, if you love
Whatever happened to assimilation? What happened to expecting to have to change who you are in order to be part of something bigger or better? What drives a particular concentration of people to go somewhere and "take over"?
I always tell people that if I decided to go to
Anyone who has ever moved to and lived for any length of time in a country different from their native home can attest to what a difficult transition it is, but in all those cases, when they went to
I don't think anyone in the Illinois Minuteman Project would say that they dislike Hispanics. I'm sure they all enjoy the aspects of Latin culture that have become pervasive in America: hot sauce sitting next to ketchup at the lunch counter, taco stands next to burger joints, reggaeton played along with rap on the airwaves, and Cinco de Mayo as decent an excuse to party as St. Patrick's Day.
Even still, there are good points to ponder, such as federal dollars going to bilingual education programs while mainstream music, art, and PE programs are cut due to lack of funding. Veterans hospitals are being shut down and senior citizens are getting less and less Medicaid benefits because of lack of resources, while legislators struggle to find money to provide health care funds and college scholarships for the newly arrived. These are very complex issues that deserve to be addressed but, sadly, end up being tainted by and subsequently disregarded because of the stench of implied racism, and then everyone loses.
Yes, there is a place in American society to respect and celebrate diversity of all forms and nationalities. Let's focus on trying to resolve issues without pointing fingers about where those affected come from, and let's try to keep some perspective on the situation. We are in
Esther J. Cepeda is a suburban school teacher and free-lance writer.
Photo: John Miller, AP; A sign and mangled wire fence mark the border between
LOAD-DATE: November 28, 2005