Friday, July 29, 2016
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
After getting off the boat from Norway, my grandmother's dad walked from New York to Minnesota. I can't image walking that distance. I have a hard time walking from Danville to Alamo and back (about 5 miles). He, like my dad's father and brother, came to the U.S. in hopes of a better future for themselves. They left relatives behind in Norway, found a place in the Northern Midwest similar to the country they left, with people who sounded and looked like themselves, just like many immigrants do.
My other side of the family fled France during the French Revolution, again leaving a life (and possibly a castle according to my grandfather) behind them, to pursue a new and different life in upper New York State. My grandmother's family arrived in the New World from England before the United States was formed, with one relative who furthered the American Revolution by signing the Declaration of Independence. They too sought a better life in a new place.
My mother's parents, one Baptist, one Catholic, married over the objections of their families. They moved west from New York to California, living along the way in places such as Cincinnati and Ogden, Utah. They too were looking for a better life, and found it in the developing western part of the United States.
None of these people were Irish or Italian, African American or Latino. They never saw the signs, "No Irish Need Apply," that appeared on storefront windows back East during the great migration from Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, or the more recent manifestations of the same sentiment. They were not persecuted because of their race, religion, or ethnicity. By accident of birth, they fit in with the general population of the United States at the time.
All of these people were honorable, humble, not boastful of their accomplishments. They helped to form communities. They valued hard work, and the freedoms that our country offered them. By luck and place of birth, they were acceptable as citizens. Yet they too were immigrants and migrants. They brought with them reminders of their former cultures. They introduced new foods and new celebrations. They are part of what makes the United States still a great country.
Where do you come from?