17 March 2009

Tempest-tossed (two-boat) Irish Immigrants not welcomed in U.S.

While the history of the "No Irish Need Apply" signs may have grown in the telling, there was resistance to Irish immigration to the United States; the Ku Klux Klan greeted the newcomers (with their unpopular Christian religion and their strangely fair skin) with the intolerance, rumors about lifestyle, and prejudice previously reserved for non-white people. Perhaps the KKK was confused by the term "Black Irish." There is abundant evidence that such "NINA" signs were prevalent among a certain class in London in the early 1800s, (the British had famously broken away from the Catholic Church under Henry VIII) and scattered elsewhere throughout continental Europe, and no doubt they appeared in the USA as many Irish were fleeing violence and famine in their native land - arriving in America full of dreams and hope.

Regardless, today the President of the United States, Barack Obama, traces some of his ancestry to the Emerald Isle, and one of the better-known "ethnic" holidays in the USA is St. Patrick's Day, and people from all walks of life will take note of it today. Many will adopt caricatures of Irishness for the day, hats fit for a Leprechaun, green buttons and shirts saying "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" as they celebrate Irish culture, tradition, and people. Reporters and journalists across the country will cover people across the country enjoying parades and parties where people sing in faux accents, marvel about Irish jigs, drink beverages from Ireland, and put an O in front of their last name while overlooking the fact they'd never venture into a Catholic church and aren't quite sure how to pronounce shillelagh.

This is a success Americans could do well to reflect on as they consider their current struggle with immigration laws and issues. More than a president noted for an ethnically rich heritage, the United States is a country strengthened by the nature of being an alloy of many cultures and philosophies. The Irish endured invasions over the centuries, yet retained a unique (albeit somewhat misunderstood) cultural identity: both unity and diversity persist proudly on that one smallish island. Surely there is room in the United States for all who dream of freedom and hope to improve their lives.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
It's time for the great minds of American leadership to embrace the American dream, to bring immigrants who treasure the opportunities embodied into our constitution into full participation in our way of life. They must be required to abide by our laws, to value their citizenship and patriotism as highly as their neighbors, to participate in our democracy in every way, and if they don't want to participate wearing green on St. Patrick's Day they must at least recognize that it's about more than a Catholic saint - it's about valuing diversity by walking a mile in somebody else's shoes for one day each year.

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06 March 2009

A bi-partisan message in support of volunteer service.

Two congressmen, Michael Honda (D-CA), and Thomas Petri (R-WI), who served as Peace Corps volunteers in the late 1960s, have teamed up to write an opinion piece published by the Christian Science Monitor describing their experiences in support of Kennedy & Hatchthe bi-partisan initiative of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who are championing the Serve America Act to, "bolster volunteerism across the board – from a Clean Energy Service Corps to an Education Corps to a Healthy Futures Corps."

Citing links between unemployment and murder rates, among others, the Congressmen demonstrate that violent crime rates are tied to relative poverty - and the U.S.A. ranks highest among developed nations in its inequality levels and poverty rates. We've got a problem.
"Poverty is not political, nor is the need or call for service. Helping our neighbors through public service, whether on this continent or another, brings a broad spectrum of benefits, from boosted self-esteem to a bolstered sense of security. It serves the greater good of our community and theirs."
From something as fundamental as a food drive to the much longer commitment of living overseas in El Salvador or Somalia as the two Congressmen did as Peace Corps Volunteers, simply giving to others - to bring hope and build the capacity for self-improvement - is one of the most personally rewarding actions we ever undertake.

Peace Corps

Be inspired - however you define your community, be it your neighborhood or the planet - act.

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02 March 2009

If you're not part of the solution...

USA Can!It’s time for politicians to pay attention to what voters said in November 2008. Voters said, government is here to stay, so stop running against government and just start running the government well. We had a failure of leadership in Washington, and Obama won the Presidency because most voters felt it was time for a change. The task of restoring the jobs, the task of rebuilding the American dream, is urgent. Real people are losing their paychecks every day. Real people are losing their health insurance every day, while millionaire bankers send their lobbyists to D.C. to make sure executives of badly run companies don't lose their bonuses, let alone their pensions or their jobs.

Barack Obama and his team in the White House are clear that they work for the people who elected them, because special interests didn't fund his campaign. He's turned his attention to health care plans that regular people can afford, and won't lose when they lose their jobs - the President knows our wages aren’t keeping pace with the price of gas, food, and prescription drugs. He's rolled up his sleeves; Obama's working every day.

This is what happens when you elect a former community organizer. Voters saw that this is a man who leads by example, a man who's more interested in action than repeating memorized talking points in a press conference. Will you be part of the solution? If you're not talking with your neighbors about community needs and priorities, rest assured there are people who have every intention of controlling how the money is spent.

Obama won’t sit idly by and let our country become even more dependent on foreign oil and imported goods while big companies outsource our jobs. He's targeted education, for example, an investment in our children that will renew our economic power and secure their future.

President Obama gets that government is only as good as the people who run it; he and his staff were working even before the inaugural. Voters are hungry for more leaders with the common sense values Obama has shown, with the courage to do what it takes to lead a clean up of the mess in Washington - so that government "for the people" serves us all by keeping teachers and policemen employed despite special interests and partisan posturing that most of us find disingenuous if not downright unpatriotic in a time of crisis.

I'm not asking who you voted for, or if you're a member of a political party. My question is: What are you doing while Obama's team works to save the economy, jobs, and our environment?

I'm not asking if you can help, but as a citizen of the USA I'm hoping you will.
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