CHICAGO — The lore about the United States is that we’re a nation of immigrants. But what the textbooks gloss over is that for as long as there have been immigrants in the U.S., there have also been immigrant haters.
And though it is often portrayed as the lower classes — those who compete for unskilled labor jobs — who have the most enmity toward the “invading hordes,” it’s never just the poor who complain about “the other.”
Throughout history, some of the most well-off, well-educated and well-insulated from the unwashed masses have been the shrillest anti-immigrant voices.
Listen to this guy, who was beyond offended that German immigrants were moving into his town and speaking, educating their children and printing newspapers in their native tongue, instead of English:
“Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements and, by herding together, establish their Language and Manners, to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”
This was written by my favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, a genius who invented or popularized such myriad modern-day necessities as the modern wood stove and fire departments, and who founded universities and libraries (to name but a very few of Franklin’s contributions to our country).
I call Franklin out because I love him so dearly, and because it shows that even brilliant people can prefer their own (“perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind,” he wrote).
Also, because he was so laughably wrong about the Germans.
Germans make up an ethnic group in the United States that maintains relatively strong ties to its heritage. My son’s high school offers German courses as part of the world languages department, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that a little over 1 million people in America speak German fluently. But no one is going around terrified that German speakers haven’t properly assimilated to the language, customs and mores of this country.
The United States would be unrecognizable without German imports like beer, hamburgers, kindergarten, bicycles, world-class architecture and the very music that provided the marching rhythms of the Civil War.
The so-called swarthy Germans that Franklin was so frightened would not upend …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Politics