Don’t be afraid to be an American

ONE OF THE pleasures of working as a columnist for The Houston Post was the letters (and phone calls)I’d get from readers. This was before most people had access to email, so readers actually had to go through the trouble of finding some paper and pen (or a typewriter/word processor), writing out their thoughts, and then finding an envelope and a stamp to mail their correspondence.

From the very beginning, I made it a point to respond to all letters and phone calls, even most of the nasty ones. Some (like Gary Cartwright’s, which I posted on Facebook yesterday) didn’t merit a response. I tried to be friendly in my response and to be as rational as possible – and to invite future conversations.I found that many of the readers appreciated that and some even took me up on invitations to sit together over a cup of coffee, a beer or a meal to talk about things. Some of those people are still my friends today, I am happy to say.

BUT THERE WERE some letter writers who had no desire for dialogue. They just wanted to reach out and insult. Some of them no doubt would have preferred to reach out to strangle me, if that had been a legal option. Below is an example of one such letter, written in response to my writing about Latinos, Latino culture and Latino issues:

If our nation’s culture isn’t the best, why don’t you go find the one that is? And stay there. Why is it we can’t stop immigrants from swarming to the United States? If I lived in Mexico, I would crawl to the United States (unless I was one of the fortunate, wealthy upper class). What stuns me is that anyone would struggle to get here and then want to hang on to the culture they ran away from. The one that left them hungry, poor, and hopeless.

Of course, there is comfort in the familiar when someone is in a strange place, so the immigrants want to stay together. This is becoming the undoing of the greatest experiment in the world.

Increasing divisions are being exploited by powerbrokers and wedges are being driven into the fabric of the nation. Encouraging these people to continue their former culture and language keeps them separated from the main body of this nation and jobs and opportunity.

For every one of these LULAC, Irish-American, German-American, Italian-American, African-American etc. groups, there are politicians taking advantage of this fragmentation. Columns like yours don’t help.

Remember what this nation was and how it was built – the light that the rest of the world wanted to join. Many still risk death in attempts to get here. Your multicultural garbage is doing nothing to enhance that—only to divide. Is it divide and conquer?

My reply:

THANK YOU FOR your letter regarding my column on diversity. Judging from your comments, I doubt I’ll ever be able to convince you that anything I say has merit, but I feel compelled to try.

Why don’t I find a culture that’s the best? Well, how do you know I haven’t? What makes you think I have to go to another country to find a better culture?

Why can’t we stop immigrants from swarming to the United States? For the same reason we couldn’t stop your ancestors from swarming here from wherever they came from. When my parents came here from Mexico, they did not run away from their culture. My father’s family ran away from a bloody revolution and my mother’s from a messy family situation.

Likewise, I doubt your ancestors ran away from their culture. It wasn’t the culture of the country’s immigrants that left them hungry, poor and hopeless. In most cases it was the same oppressive, selfish capitalistic forces that have kept America’s poor hungry and hopeless.

The undoing of the greatest experience in the world is not multiculturalism. It is the rampant greed that makes a mockery of the Christianity this nation claims to embrace.

Immigrants do not need encouragement by power brokers to continue using their language and maintaining their culture. They do it out of necessity until they can adapt to their new country’s ways and language.

And believe me, they do. It’s a continuing process. People are assimilated all the time without losing their culture. Assimilation does not stop because people read columns like mine (besides, if they don’t read or write English, how can they read my column?)

This nation was created by a bunch of white men for themselves. They had no idea it would become “the light that the rest of the world wanted to join.” But they were smart enough to design it as a country which all its residents, regardless of where they came from or what language they spoke, or what god they worshipped, could have the same freedoms and opportunities (except for the slaves, of course!).

They were intelligent enough to leave any mention of an official language out of the Constitution. They had enough faith in the America they created to not worry about the possibility that other languages and other cultures might seek to make this continent their home. If only people like you shared that faith.

AGAIN, THANKS FOR your comments and I hope you continue to enjoy our freedom of the press by reading columns like mine that may drive you crazy. Don’t be afraid to be an American.

About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
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5 Responses to Don’t be afraid to be an American

  1. Erlick, June Carolyn says:

    Ah, oh, to see your Facebook posts!!!
    June Carolyn Erlick
    Editor-in-Chief
    ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America
    David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
    1730 Cambridge St.
    Room 206
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    617-495-5428
    http://revista.drclas.harvard.edu
    Visit us on Facebook: ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America

    From: juanzqui <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Reply-To: juanzqui <comment+rdvntf8-gbim_twkyg31x5@comment.wordpress.com>
    Date: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 5:15 PM
    To: June Erlick <jerlick@fas.harvard.edu>
    Subject: [New post] Don’t be afraid to be an American

    juanzqui7 posted: “ONE OF THE pleasures of working as a columnist for The Houston Post was the letters (and phone calls)I’d get from readers. This was before most people had access to email, so readers actually had to go through the trouble of finding some paper and pen (or”

  2. juanzqui7 says:

    June, I’ve tried to become your friend on FB. Many times. I will try again.

  3. Ann Chapman says:

    Happy to be one of those letter writers who became a friend.

  4. Juan– though I totally agree with you on all this, as your friend and a middle-aged white man, I will make an offer: If you miss those angry, middle-aged white man letters, I will write you a few so you do not get out of practice writing such great responses!

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