Monday, July 20, 2015


I recently saw this (above) picture on Facebook. I suppose the poster thinks it is funny. I don't.
This picture represents the lack of serious thought in a society driven by social media, which are basically pages of gossip, exhibitionism and hocking products which people don't need. In many ways, social media are like the community cable channels of an earlier time. Unfortunately, social media are taken seriously by too many people. Community cable was a joke.
This picture is an insult to a thinking descendant of legal immigrants to the U.S. of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is drawing a parallel between our ancestors who were legally imported as laborers in the Industrial Era to the current wave of migrants who are illegally crossing borders with no clear likelihood of employment.
The Ellis Island (and other ports) immigrants came to the U.S. to work in factories. They were often recruited by relatives who had preceded them. Many were housed in factory dormitories, as rural Chinese workers of today are housed in Chinese industrial centers. My Baltic immigrant grandparents lived next to textile mills in Maynard, Massachusetts. They could easily have looked like the people in the above picture as they sailed into New York harbor in the early 20th century.
Industrial Era immigrants were not covered by labor laws. They worked six or seven days per week. They worked twelve-hour days at the discretion of their masters. They worked in poorly heated and poorly ventilated factories in all weather. If they were injured, they were cast out to be supported by their struggling families or by some good Samaritan in their immigrant circle. Some just died on the streets or managed to get back to the poverty of their homelands.
After slaving and scraping together savings from their meager wages, some escaped to small subsistence farms. Some of the women chose domestic servitude to factory work. There, they were given even lower wages and worked around the clock on demand. Some, like my grandparents, escaped the mill town for the city. My blacksmith/machinist grandfather got a job in a small metal works and my grandmother worked in sweat shops as a seamstress. Their lot was no better, perhaps even worse.
These legal immigrants were not guaranteed anything. They had no social security when they arrived. They had to struggle to learn the English language to even approach citizenship. That process took many years for most. And, they did it, because they were grateful for the chance to participate in American democracy and wanted better for their children. They did not expect Americans to adopt their children by putting them on a jet or sneaking them across a border. They wanted to earn their place and then contribute.
If I were to utter the slogan in the picture above, I would be commenting on those migrants who come here illegally to collect, not contribute. I welcome those immigrants who come to this country through the system to contribute to the system. I welcome refugees who come here and immediately apply for refugee status with legitimate needs for asylum. I don't leave the doors to my house unlocked, but there is a doorbell at my front door.

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