Melt Right In

25 09 2010

When I was growing up, I watched a ton of Saturday morning cartoons.  Like most people my age, I loved School House Rock.  I would watch the cartoons on ABC more than the other three channels we got because it carried the 5-min. lessons told in song between episodes.

Now that I have kids, SHR doesn’t play anymore.  So I had to buy them on DVD.  And, naturally, my kids love them.  They have their favorites and they like to sing along.  In fact, I caught them this evening watching and singing along to the America Rock episodes.

If you ask anyone to name their favorite, they’ll usually name off I’m Just A Bill or Conjunction Junction.  Those tunes were awful catchy, but my favorite was American Melting Pot.  This was reinforced a few years back when I caught a stage production of SHR for elementary students.  The performers on stage were incredibly talented and truly deserved to go on to bigger and better things.  Of the songs chosen for the hour-long show, I was really happy to see they included American Melting Pot.  The woman who sang it had a gorgeous voice and really brought out the depth and beauty of the song — both musically and lyrically.  Here’s the original version in youtube form:

If you click on the video and actually go to youtube, you can find the full lyrics. There’s a wonderful line right in the first verse that goes:

They’d heard about a country
Where life might let them win,
They paid the fare to America
And there they melted in.

Yesterday, Stephen Colbert testified before the House Immigration Committee in support of the legalization of undocumented agriculture workers.  As you can imagine, his presence caused quite a ruckus within the members of the committee, and Rep. John Conyers even asked him to leave!  (The chair, Zoe Lofgren, asked him to stay, so he got to speak.)  But what many of the democrats who support the bill didn’t seem to understand, Colbert’s presence was tweeted and publicized all over the internet and drew much attention to what is (or is not) being done about this problem right now.  Here’s his say:

As you can tell, he stayed in character for most of the time and tried to add levity to the hearing.  His words *should* have given the lawmakers pause to consider the human factor in all this, but I’m not sure what would help there.

This is a tough topic with no easy answers, at least I don’t have an answer.  I do, however, always take a stance on treating people with respect.  And Colbert ended his time by saying exactly what I feel:  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers … these seem like the least of our brothers.”  For this important moment, he completely breaks out of character and ensures the committee that he means what he says.  He ends by saying, “Migrant workers suffer …and have no rights.”  Here’s his last words captured on video, so you can see what Stephen Colbert looks like in those rare moments when he’s being serious.

Again, I don’t know what the answer here is.  But somehow this just feels connected to the Health Care issue, the fear of persons of non-Christian faiths, and the revocation of welfare assistance during these tough economic times.  At some point, we should treat people equally and with respect.  As in my last post, we have to be courageous when we see people not being given the freedoms that we all want to enjoy.

What happens to the least of us, reflects upon us all.  It’s a melting pot.

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11 responses

25 09 2010
Hayden

I think it’s disturbing, personally, how people objectify illegal immigrants, Muslims, Arabs and south Asians, and talk about them as a group (often negatively) without understanding anything about the individuals. In the case of illegal immigrants and migrant farm workers, I think it’s even more serious, because they’re really a driving force of our agricultural economy, they get paid next to nothing for wages, have no insurance, and ultimately are here because they wanted a better shot at life than they could get anywhere else….and somehow, people (on any given corner of the political spectrum) seem to think they’re just lazy jackasses mooching off of the system and stealing American jobs. Way I see it, they’re willing to do the jobs that us Americans won’t normally do, for less pay, and for good reasons. Maybe, even if we don’t give current illegals amnesty, we could make it easier for them to become legal resident aliens or citizens, rather than the current system, in which an adult stands a good chance of dying before becoming a citizen?

28 09 2010
Infinitewell

Hayden, it’s generally believed by many that diversity begets strength. You can see it in various biomes, and you can see it within the corporate world. The larger the pool you draw from, the easier you can find exactly what you need to fill a particular niche. What you said about our economy is profoundly true. A friend recently said, “Don’t curse the farmer with food in your mouth.” (she was talking about bad-mouthing a free meal, but I think the saying applies here as well) If the work they do helps any sector of our economy, then it can only help all of it. I don’t agree that it’s a job no American would do, but I do believe that we should ensure they’re being paid as much as a ‘legal’ American would be paid and then let the farmer decide who to hire!

27 09 2010
Tristan

Unfortunately it’s not only the illegal immigrants. Growing up I got to watch people profile for my mother due to her accent and treat her as an idiot and incompetent. The hoops she had to jump to obtain citizenship were tedious and drawn out to the point that she almost just quit. That’s without considering the people within the citizenship program who were just the same group of xenophobes as she’s always encountered. For someone with a green-card and twenty years of residence it was only terrible, for those whose citizenship is life defining I can only imagine. There’s obvious things to be said about the hypocrisy of America’s sentiment towards immigration. I only hope it can change.

28 09 2010
Infinitewell

Tristan, I’ve thought about your background and the way you interact with others many times since I met you. As a white, male, American I cannot see the things you see. I know that prejudices and feelings of ethnic superiority abound everywhere (not just here!), but when I hear a joke about the French, I don’t ever think of the anyone –even the joke-teller — actually disliking them. But getting to know you has made me more aware of it. I now pay attention to little biting comments and wonder how serious those people are.

Here’s a side-story… So I was in a professional meeting a couple of years ago, the day after the US swim team won the Olympic relay event. Someone in the meeting said, “As educators, we understand that not everyone should be treated equal. There are some people just slower than others.” With that I yelled out, “Like the French!” Since I had *just* been talking about the US beating out the French by a split-second in that race, everyone there knew exactly what I was talking about. And it was hilarious! Except for the lady sitting right beside me who turned to me and said, “I don’t really ‘get’ French jokes and I think you might be saying something offensive.” So I explained it to her, which meant it was no longer funny. But I thought it odd that someone would turn things around on me and see a prejudiced comment where none existed.

But back to what you were saying. America started blocking immigration from certain peoples almost as soon as we formed a government. And most all countries have had their turn at being shunned. Will it ever change? I’d bet real money on ‘no’. But at least you know that there are some who support those who want to join us, add to our diversity, and make us stronger.

28 09 2010
bloggymcbloggerton

So this is off topic but I thought you might want to check out the It Gets Better Project (http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject). It could be a great thing for any LGBT kids you might have.

28 09 2010
Infinitewell

Hey, Bloggy! I don’t think it’s off-topic at all. I’m pretty steamed up at the moment at any sort of discrimination and elitism, so I will say “Thank You” for the link and keep it handy. It’s now been two years since anyone I work with was outed, so enough time has passed for the harder, deep-seeded feelings to become acceptable again. Who knows when anyone will feel comfortable enough to make a statement, even secretly?

28 09 2010
bloggymcbloggerton

There were just two big news stories about gay teenage kids getting bullied into suicide over the past couple of weeks. I’m an intern now with One Iowa (the group fighting to protect the right of marriage for gays here in Iowa) so I’m pretty in tune with this stuff lately.

This, by the way, is Kristin. You can call me Bloggy if you like.

29 09 2010
Infinitewell

I like Bloggy. :o)

29 09 2010
Hayden

Bloggy is a great name. More people should name their kids “Bloggy”.

9 10 2010
Anonymous

As a young illegal immigrant who came here as a child, I can tell you it’s definitely not as bad as in the country I came from, but it is not easy. It is awful leading a double life and not being able to do the things all of your friends are able to do, like getting a job (which implies getting fake documents) for fear it might come back to bite you in the ass whenever it is time to apply for citizenship (when they finally feel like approving the much-hoped-for Dream Act), not daring to drive even while trying very hard to be as cautious as possible, not being to travel anywhere, or having insurance, and all the other rights we are denied because we were just looking for a greater opportunity, etc. I am so afraid of not being able to get a job after I graduate from college (which I was unexpectedly accepted to; contrary to statistics and by common standards I am a very good student), I put it as far back in my mind as possible. Worse comes to worse, I think I’ll be moving to Canada, where their prejudices are much fewer since going to back to my country of origin is completely out of the question.
It makes me very glad, however, to find someone like Stephen Colbert speak in favor of this issue and demand change, I am hopeful.

Thought you needed this perspective, excuse the lack of good grammar in this message. I was much too overwhelmed to use it properly. Absolutely love your blog.

9 10 2010
Infinitewell

Thank you much for your comments and your kind words. My family has lived in this country since the 1600s — so well before our modern government existed. I’ve grown up hearing about how we need to ‘protect what’s ours’ and keep foreigners out, while at the same time being told that a free market and competition makes our economy stronger. Well, which is it? I do believe in buying American whenever I can, because that just makes sense. But pointing at two people and declaring one welcome to this country and the other barred simply from their ethnic origin is pure bigotry.

I can only imagine how hard it would be to pick up my family and move to a faraway land where perhaps they didn’t speak my language and the people were suspicious of my motives. But you’re right, there are places in the world where the living conditions are far worse. Think about the lawlessness in Somalia or Papau where there is no recognized court system. I am certain I would be willing to put up with a little (or a lot of) bigotry to get out of there!

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