IMMIGRANT SONG July 1, 2020
Local boy made good, fellow Hope grad, and top notch educator Paul Kurdziel posted this on his Facebook page a couple of days ago. As a child of immigrants myself, some of whom came just before the Civil War and rushed to join the Union cause, while others came over not so long before his grandfathers, this captured my attention. And so I asked Paul if I could reprint this here. He was glad to say yes.
Grace and peace to you all…
When I was a little boy—and even to this day—my mom taught us that when we wrong another, we must repent, reconcile, and restore with the person I (we) wronged. Anything less would not be adequate or just or equitable.
I just looked at some comments on a social media news site about the “All Lives Matter” shirts at Wal-Mart. The comments? Wow.
Both of my grandfathers were immigrants. One came from Poland, and the other came from Norway. Both came to these United States believing their hard work would make their and their future families’ lives better. They were not wrong. One worked machining camshafts, and the other worked as a welder at Brunswick. I benefited.
On the social media news site, many wanted to discount history: that was then, and this is now. People posting appeared (appear) to believe that somehow the American Dream of opportunity for all became true for all people at some point in time in history. This is simply not true.
The genocide of Native Americans, and the theft of land and resources cannot be undone. The labor stolen from African Americans as well as the murder, maiming, and theft of property from African Americans cannot be undone. The continued efforts to turn human beings into commodities cannot be undone.
Yeah, my grandfathers were not around these United States until the 1920s. That’s true. However, the “Exceptionalism” of these United States was built upon stolen land, stolen labor, and stolen lives.
To make our nation whole—as whole as it can possibly be—we must repent, reconcile, and restore the people on whose lives—generation after generation—this country was built. I don’t believe this is a political issue: it is a moral issue. These United States cannot move forward without a process of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration.
We are rotting from the inside out, and we blame the ill of the day—the ill of the day is a touch of eczema compared to the infection we have. Hyperbole? I don’t think so. Peruse the Prophets of the Old Testament. Read about Rome. Research historical empires.
We have an opportunity to be exceptional different from empires in history: repent, reconcile, and restore. It’s kind of Christian, too—much more than the verbiage on our money or the Pledge of Allegiance.