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A Salute to Immigrants

The United States is a nation of immigrants.

The vast majority of you reading this are descended from immigrants (aside from those few who are Native American). I know I am. My paternal grandfather came over from Italy as a child. My maternal grandfather was Irish-American, a Brady whose own ancestors hailed from Oldcastle in County Meath. My paternal grandmother was half German and half Welsh. My maternal grandmother had French and English ancestry. I am a mongrel to the bone. In short, American.

Wherever they came from, and whenever they made the crossing, all of my immigrant ancestors faced hardships, poverty, and discrimination when they came here. They came looking for freedom, they came looking for a better life. And they found it, or made it... and in the process they stopped being Irish or Italian or German and became Americans.

The process is still going on today. Men and women dreaming of a better life still look to America, and cross oceans and deserts by whatever means they can to find that better life. They face hardships and discrimination as well. Not everyone welcomes them. Some talk of walls, of keeping people out, of sending them back. My ancestors faced the same sort of talk. So did yours. It's an old old story, as old as our republic. Millard Fillmore is dead and forgotten, but the Know Nothing Party is alive and well today, under other names. They still know nothing.

But some of us remember where we came from. Some of us remember that it was the immigrants, those tired poor huddled masses, who made America great to begin with.

From September 23 to September 30, the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe will proudly be screening five great films about immigration and the immigrant experience. A mix of old films and new films, featuring a wide range of actors of all races, colors, and ethnicities, by some of cinema's finest writers and directors. Comedy, drama, terror; immigrants have known it all, and these movies will reflect that. Some are among my own favorite movies. Others I have yet to see.

Here are the trailers for the films we'll be screening:

MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON


THE LOST CITY


AVALON


DESIERTO


SIN NOMBRE


Check the Jean Cocteau website for dates and showtimes.

In addition to the films themselves, we plan to feature some appearances by the actors, directors, and some of our local political figures, talking about the movies, their own families, the issues surrounding immigration, and the like. We'll have more details on that as the dates firm up. But I know I will be kicking things off myself on Friday, September 23.

And as a way of welcoming our newest Americans, during the entire week, admission to all shows will be FREE for anyone who can show us a green card.

(And while I cannot promise a taco truck on every corner, we do hope to have a wide variety of food trucks turning up in front of the JCC at peak times, offering all sorts of tasty treats).

Comments

grrm
Sep. 12th, 2016 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think you need to make a distinction between conquerers, colonists, and immigrants. There are three different words for a reason. All of them travel to distant lands, but under very different circumstances and for very different reasons.

The idea that the present wave of immigrants is somehow different from all previous waves of immigrants, and THESE people are "not like us" and will not assimilate... this is the myth that will not die. It has been applied to pretty much every group of immigrants ever to come to our shores. Assimilation does not take place overnight, no. It is sometimes the work of generations. But it does happen. I believe in the power of the melting pot.
cyniclclasicist
Sep. 13th, 2016 10:21 am (UTC)
Agreement
Agreed. This keep out policy is overlooking much of the past. If you emphasize the differences between peoples then you foster division. More Dorne then Iron Islands.
redguardricky
Sep. 13th, 2016 08:43 pm (UTC)
I agree, there are distinctions between those three, and it is upon those distinctions that you find the break between the kind of immigrant you want and the kind of immigrant you don't.

The initial European settlers came as equal parts conquerors, colonists, and immigrants, going by the dictionary definitions of those three words. Their undesirability as new 'neighbors' for the existing inhabitants stemmed from a number of things:

1) They had zero interest in embracing the native culture.
2) They in fact viewed the native culture with contempt and in the long run always sought to replace the existing culture with their own, and until they could lived separated from the original inhabitants.
3) They came in such vast numbers that even if they had been interested in adjusting to the local way of life they would have almost invariably destroyed it, turning the natives into a powerless minority in their own lands.
4) Their loyalty still lay overwhelmingly with the countries they came from, and even when that changed drifted to loyalty to new national identities which had nothing to do with the natives who had by then been dispossessed and marginalized.

And those are the keys. Immigrants are a boon to a country if they are interested in becoming part of the existing society and encouraged to adjust to it. They are a boon if they admire the local culture and want to be a part of it, even as they keep and celebrate the parts of their own culture which can be adjusted to the new place they're living. They are a boon if their numbers aren't so vast that the locals find themselves marginalized in their own homes. And they're a boon if they come to place their loyalty with their new home and identity over their old one.

With all that said, I actually believe the above mostly fits new immigrants to the United States, and in retrospect this probably wasn't the place to get into it and I regret my initial post. Most of the criticism of immigration in the United States is hyperbolic nonsense, especially in the era of Trump, and celebrating our newest Americans is laudable. The more interesting discussion is Europe and its refugee crisis, and the extremes found on both sides in discussing it, but nothing was said either way here about Europe.

We're in campaign season and I'm becoming very exhausted with politics founded on appeals to emotion, on either side of the political spectrum. I don't think immigrants are de facto good or bad. Like anything, they can be largely one, largely the other, or a mix of both, depending on a number of factors. But I apologize for getting into it here. I feel a bit like I started yelling about how many thousands of people are killed in American drone strikes at a memorial for the September 11th attacks. The point may be true and worth discussing, but there's a time and a place and that probably isn't it.

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