This link is to a recording of Arlo Guthrie singing one of his father’s songs. It is a hard song for me to listen to, but it is a very beautiful one as well. The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson)did a cover of it for their album.
The immigration issue has been a contentious one since our country’s founding. If that wasn’t a mass immigrant movement, I don’t know what was.
I know that my followers are a mix of conservatives and liberals, and people who use labels for themselves to imply they are further left or further right. Thing is though, that this song will apply in one way or another to most of us. Very few American’s can truly honestly trace their roots back to the landing at Plymouth, unless it is as a servant. The vast majority of us had ancestors that came later.
This song talks about Mexicans, but it applies just as much to the Irish and the Germans. If you ever heard your grandmother tell you stories about her family being potato farmers, this song is for you. If you ever tried to trace your family name back, and it just kind of disappeared in New York harbor, this song is for you. If you can trace the name past the harbor, but it was spelled and pronounced in a totally different way, this song is for you.
Most American’s are descendent of immigrants. Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, got here looking for work and a better way of life for our families. Our ancestors came following the “coyotes” of the day, and in most cases got just as screwed as the Mexicans often do today, getting pushed into slave labor or worse, and putting up with it because “it was the only way.” They had to keep working to save up money to send home to Ireland, or Germany, or Russia, or Italy, so that their families could be fed. Eventually, they were able to get enough together to make the choice. “Do I go home, or do I bring my wife and children here?” Enough of them made the second decision that we now, even as screwed up as things are today, have the strongest nation in the world.
We are a nation of diversity and hope, even in these trying times. The idea of the American Dream still exists, even in these times. To be blunt, it is BECAUSE we are a nation of immigrants. That fact does not change just because enough of the immigrants happened to be white that they could pretend they were not any more.
Depending on which side of the family I look at, I am only third generation off the boat. And the other side? Well, my grandfather has to guess at his grandmother’s family name. Something to do with an island in New York harbor.