But that is who we are

The first thing I will say is that I am no Trump supporter. The second thing I will say is that people who say, “That’s not who we are” in response to Trump’s suggestions don’t know much American history.

I could go back to the mixed reception early European colonists experienced from various indigenous tribes, but as I am in no mood quarrel I won’t go there.

However, beginning with the Alien and Sedition Act in the early nineteenth century, the U.S. had something to say about who enters the U.S.

Perhaps you recall the Social Darwinist argument or the beat of the Nativist drums at the end on the nineteenth century?  Or maybe you have read the blurb from Teddy Roosevelt?


In the 1920s the U.S. Immigration Law was designed to exclude certain kinds of Europeans, paticularly those from Eastern Europe.  David’s mother, a Russian immigrant, entered as a bride along with her sister before this law went into effect.  The German schools were closed and Germans told not to speak German in public.

Later after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, FDR signed detention orders for Japanese, German and Italian aliens.  You hear a lot about the Jews who were denied entry (U.S. officials thought NAZIs were in their number?) and the Japanese on the West Coast who were forcibly moved to camps, but how many knew about the Germans and Italians? My great grandparents did.

FOIA records from WWII are coming to light concerning detention camps all over the U.S. In other words, recent history is being rewritten.

And can who forget the 1950s and Joe McCarhty who suggested Communists were everywhere? Eastern Europeans were especially suspect.

That’s what countries do when they go to war.

The probem of course is that no matter what, these efforts mostly fail and saboteurs and spies enter the country. (In fact the word sabot comes from the wooden shoes foreign workers threw into machinery in the early twentieth century to make it break down).

As for the French and the Statue of Liberty, I think they sent it over to commemorate their own effort in our War of Independence. After all, at the end of the nineteenth century when the stature arrived, the sentimental French had recently suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of Germany in the Franco Prussian War and turned to their glory days in retrospect. Ah history, its complicated.

**Read FDR and The Jews by Richard Breitman and Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson, for a broader perspective of the turbulent times during FDR’s presidency.

Also Whiteness of a Different Color by Matthew Jacobson relays the legal battles of the nineteenth century fought over skin color.


15 thoughts on “But that is who we are

    • I didn’t watch the debate. I find them boring at this point. Nothing of substance comes from them anyway. My son with the Navy likes Rubio, and I like him best. However, I’ve sent money to Hillary…like she needs it. Meanwhile I am concerned with the “top secret” emails the FBI found on her server. If she lied about it, she may do jail time. I wish the Democrats had a plan B.


  1. It’s true, it’s not correct to say, That’s not who we are. More precisely: It’s not who we want to be. Remember Emma Lazarus’s famous words at the Statue of Liberty are not part of the Constitution or Declaration of Independence; they are aspirational thoughts from a New York liberal progressive of the 19th century.


    • I’m not quite sure what you mean Tom. I do think some people would like to believe those words from Lazaus describe who we are. I, however, know a good proportion of the U.S. population has always been fearful of losing something through the admittance of strangers into the land and placed security above magnanimity.

      I refuse to live in fear, but I am older and have much less to lose if another plane crashes here in Arlington and I get caught in the explosion.


  2. Excellent post, Dianne. We know this is not a new problem with the US. I have a post scheduled about an article I saw that said more people were killed by white supremacists and antigovernment activists since 9/11 than Muslim terrorists. Trump terrifies me. What terrifies me more is how many people agree with him.


  3. David and I debated about the next presidential election. Should we vote for Trump or not? To hell with the Constitution and American values. We want our safety and security guaranteed.
    Of course, there is no guarantee.


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