Alaska Notebook: Never mind the bigots; the lady still holds the lamp

September 21, 2013 

And the nation gets a little stronger

One day last week my son Nick told me the students would attend a ceremony at Romig Middle School.

"What do you call that again?" he asked, explaining that one of the teachers and some others were going to become citizens of the United States.

"Naturalization," I said.

I helped him tie his tie. This was a ceremony to dress up for, even if his red, white and blue included blue jeans.

The Daily News story captured the heart in the ceremony. I didn't attend, but it felt right to make sure Nick's knot was as presentable as I can tie one. With the exception of those who were here for millennia, we're a nation of immigrants. My grandparents came here in the early 1900s from Slovenia, and I am forever grateful that they did. I believe in the melting pot; the metaphor has sometimes fallen into disfavor, which is too bad. Nobody has to give up their heritage, but here is where you get a share of another heritage, and get to make a new life on its foundation. My forebears probably didn't know Lincoln from Ljubljana, yet I got to stand at the Emancipator's memorial and read words worthy of carving in stone, and take them for part of my birthright.

So do our newest citizens, no matter where they were born.

In a column on the opposite page, Leonard Pitts laments the abysmal ignorance of people angry that Miss America is of Indian heritage, that a some Americans today lump all the "others" as some manner of Muslim and therefore dangerous.

He writes that the handwriting is on the wall, whether the bigots can read it or not: America is changing. So it is, and it's an unsettling change when you're used to a certain version of America.

But here's the thing -- ceremonies like the one Nick buttoned his collar for remind us that this nation was made by people from every nation man has made and every shade God has made, including the people who were already here when Europeans stumbled ashore.

As long as we remember that, and those words carved in stone, we'll be able to handle the handwriting on the wall.

-- Frank Gerjevic

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