August 3, 2011

EITHER/OR:

Immigration and the 'Next America': Perspectives From Our History (ARCHBISHOP JOSÉ H. GOMEZ 08/01/2011, National Catholic Register)

G.K. Chesterton said famously that "America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed." And that "creed," as he recognized, is fundamentally Christian. It is the basic American belief that all men and women are created equal -- with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Every other nation in history has been established on the basis of common territory and ethnicity -- the ties of land and kinship. America, instead, is based on this Christian ideal, on this creed that reflects the amazing universalism of the Gospel. As a result, we have always been a nation of nationalities. E pluribus unum. One people made from peoples of many nations, races and creeds.

Throughout our history, problems have always arisen when we have taken this American creed for granted. Or when we have tried to limit it in some way. That's why it is essential that today we remember the missionary history of America -- and rededicate ourselves to the vision of America's founding "creed."

When we forget our country's roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the New World, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

When that has happened in the past, it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of -- the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; the misadventures of "manifest destiny."

There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But, at the root, I think we can see a common factor -- a wrongheaded notion that "real Americans" are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 3, 2011 7:11 AM
  
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