American-ness or Tolerance

This morning on NPR, I listen while coding, there was an author on who had written a book about 9-11.  She discussed the criticism surrounding the memorial’s architect.  The design was selected blindly by a committee including one spouse of a victim.  The criticism occurred because after selecting the design, it was revealed that the architect was an American Muslim.  One survivor’s family member at a rally stated that they had to carry the burden of loosing their loved ones in the largest attack on American soil and now they were being asked to be burdened with showing America’s tolerance. The architect was offended that he had to prove his American”-ness.”

I’ve been thinking about that.  There are people who claim that tolerance was a founding basis for our country, but that isn’t true.  Our founding fathers were very prejudiced – they wanted everyone to follow religions they found to be acceptable.  If they had been tolerant, we wouldn’t have had the Pilgrim Witch Trials or segregated the native Indians to reservations. During the war we created internment camps and locked up all the Japanese – not because of what they did, but because we were afraid of what they might do.  Immigrants have always had to prove their American-ness.

My great-grandmother came to the US when she was 19.  She moved into a neighborhood with other Belgians which helped her pick up bits and pieces of English.  Her children went to school and learned English which is how she learned English.  Immigrants didn’t speak their native tongue in public, they didn’t want people to know they weren’t “real” Americans.  My great-grandmother would never have flown Belgium’s flag.  She was an American and flew the flag every day.  She once told me when we passed a home with a foreign flag flying that the family must be confused.  She also suggested that if that’s the flag they wanted to fly that they should go back to that country.

Maybe we have become a little too tolerant.  It wouldn’t really be a bad thing if people had to prove their loyalty to this country.  I would appreciate it if our country was made up of individuals who had more pride in the US flag than any other country and who recognized that being bi-lingual might be beneficial in work, but was rude in public.


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