Edward Aceves worked as a principal in Chula Vista Elementary School District. He is now retired.
A “HEART-TO-HEART” TALK WITH AMERICA
By EDWARD ACEVES, PhD.
Hear me out, America, I have some unanswered questions that have been bothering me of late. I worry about your present state of mind, when it comes to dealing with human, and humane, needs. You don’t seem to have the same compassionate and caring demeanor, as you had in your younger years. Don’t you remember being presented with a statue of a magnificent and beautiful lady, who had etched on the base of her massive presence a cry for “ the tired huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? That symbolic lady standing at the entrance of Manhattan was supposed to be a representation of you, America. Have you stopped looking for these people, I ask?
What happened to the America that my parents spoke to me about when I was a kid? They were so quick to mention about the wonderful country that they lived in--you were “paradise” in their eyes, America. They spoke of how you went to the aid of those people under attack in far off lands. They talked about Social Security like it was from heaven--but, really, it was a thoughtful well-intended deliverance, by a grateful nation, towards those inhabitants who had worked for many years, and in the autumnal part of their lives deserved monetary assistance to accompany them for the rest of their living days. America, you were great back then--you cared!
My dad was an undocumented immigrant who landed in your backyard, when his mother brought him across from Mexico--along with the other brothers and sisters. They sought the warmth and security of your bosom --in order to evade the dangers of a violent revolution in the early 1900’s. He was about a year and a half old at the time--but you didn’t worry about his undocumented crossing, nor of the document status of the rest of the family. My future progenitor, and the rest of the family, eventually, made it to the Imperial Valley--a part of you that was turned into a fertile flourishing desert-land. Once settled--they made their town and you, America, very proud of their being there. Hard- workers, they were-- and they loved the environment you provided--it was, truly, a mutual love affair.
And, so, you were good to all those that found themselves in the same straits as my antecedent family. You fought wars to end oppression in faraway lands, you provided assistance to those areas that were devastated by acts of God, and you welcomed immigrants coming to your land with your arms wide open--especially “the tired huddled masses”. So, what became of the America we all admired and loved? Have you soured on your benevolent and caring treatment of others? Now, I understand your tentative feelings about those coming to your land unannounced. Since the occurrence of 9/11 you have become quite wary. Understood! But your wariness has lead to your becoming disconnected and dispassionate with most who come to reap the fruits of your offerings--and for them to give of themselves in like fashion. It’s no longer “business as usual” with you, America. People who look different than those who are considered to be the dominant structure of your society, now become suspect. They are not only seen as unwelcome but, they might be also categorized, prematurely, as terrorists. America, have you lost your love for the varied cultures of this world? You have become withdrawn and insensitive to a multicultural existence. You are, now, not how my parents described you to me in your younger days.
There continue to be those south of your border who seek to accomplish their lives’ dreams in your arms--they have crossed over your border in the past, and they continue to cross over at the present. These people do not, initially , want to come--but conditions in their lands are not economically feasible for a proper existence--for both self and family. You are seen as the “rich aunt“--next door . You hold opportunities for them to come to--and they, in turn, have the skills that you can use. They are the “tired huddled masses” that you yearned for back in the old days. By the time these “opportunities seekers” arrive at your door step--should they not die in the process-- they find themselves plenty tired, believe me! O.K., maybe you don’t greet them with great joy, because many of them do not have the educational level that you would prefer--but back in the old days, that lady statue didn’t say “give me your educated masses yearning to complete their Ph.D.’s”. Back then you were accepting visitors with very few conditions--so why not now? You know, down deep inside, America, that the people that come to your land in the aforementioned manner, come to seek employment--willing to do arduous work that you need done. Most do not come to take valued possessions from the coffers of your resident inhabitants, but rather, through the efforts of much of their hard work, many of them provide food on the tables of homes throughout your land. Low level skills? Maybe. But they are much needed for you to succeed economically--and you know that! America, you have been using these people for years and years--knowing that they have been present in your land and knowing that they were needed. Life went on as usual for all those residing in your land-- year in and year out. Everyone knew, and knows today, that these people exist. The undocumented situation was like the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about. They were, and are, in the fields harvesting crops, in the homes caring for others’ children, cleaning others’ homes, working in restaurants, helping to construct homes or acquiring an education in your universities in order to better their own lives and those of their children--and making your life better, too, America. Now, you are turning your back on these very same people that helped you succeed all of these years. You know, in your heart, that beet pickers, almond harvesters, farmers, and others of that ilk, will not be strapping bombs on their bodies in order to further harm you. The danger of a terrorist plot is not the reason for you turning your back on them.
The 12 million-plus people that live in your shadows have, now, become targets of vilification and scorn. Why? Much of it is because of the economics and danger alert levels that we now live with. These unsavory conditions have caused the mistreatment of these people--aided and abetted by those selfish malcontents and other hate-mongering individuals that get your attention. In spite of their loudness, meanness, and selfishness, you turn to them for advise. America, you will become as heart-less and insensitive as they, if you continue in this manner. You can’t do that, America-- your historical past does not allow it. Sure it is a problem of great magnitude--but so was Slavery , the Civil War, presidential assassinations ,World War I and II, the Korean War, Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Vietnam, Great Migration Periods of the Past, and hijacked airplanes being flown into your buildings--just to mention a few. You survived those through your determination, perseverance and never forgetting what you stood for. You need to find your, soul America. You need to find, once again, your compassionate heart. You displayed this vision of assisting mankind in the past --you need to embody these qualities, once again. Let’s stop calling this a problem--and begin seeking a solution!
You cannot make 12 to 13 Million people disappear--nor can you incarcerate them all, as some of your more enlightened and astute legislators suggested doing. This aforementioned type of thinking, only verifies an obvious existence of stupid and vacuous people living in your midst, America--but, that is a problem we can deal with in another discussion, later. Many of your inhabitants have turned their anger against these undocumented residents of yours--they blame them for many of their own ills. Does all of this sound familiar to you, America? There has been a historical “pecking order” in your life’s past blemishes-- from your cavalries massacring your native people, through mistreatment of each new group of immigrants arriving to your land, incarcerated Japanese, persecuted Communists, and a disdain for Muslims. You have known the vehemence that can exist within your people--you can‘t deny that. Make it all better, America. Soften your persona, once again. You used to be that way--you can be that way again. Bring all of your people together to find a solution. Once solved, then we can, once again, all sing your praises with glee and pride--across your “amber waves of grain“ from “sea to shining sea”. Rather than this becoming another blemish for you, America, you will be able to accept it as a successful “extreme makeover“, instead. You could use one, you know. After all, you are getting on in age.