Americanization

I ran across an essay that my grandfather, Rev. Arpad Bakay, wrote on Americanization. I am not sure of the date it was published, but it was found as an appendix to “Magyars in America” copyright, 1922.
Not a disinterested observer, my grandfather not only knew the experience of immigration first hand, but he, with his faithful and hardworking companion, his wife Helen Bakay (my grandmother), helped many Hungarians to integrate into their new country: helping them to find jobs, working as translator at doctor appointments, teaching English classes and many other necessary duties in establishing newcomers to this country.

He knew whereof he spoke, and I think it might help shed some light on even today’s situation for many who are trying to integrate into American society.

Political Cartoon of 1921

AMERICANIZATION AS THE FOREIGNER THINKS OF IT

(By Rev. Arpad Bakay, Akron, Ohio)

The average foreigner is struck with alarming surprise by the nation-wide Americanization movement urged upon him. He does not understand its intent. He regards with distrust its pressure from all quarters hitherto unfelt and unheard of by him.

In the past very little if anything was said to him concerning Americanization or about acquiring the language of the nation, or of changing his foreign customs and life ideals. Consequently he has been satisfied to work here for wages he could never hope to earn in his own country, and has been content to continue living in his old European ways.

Now, that a new interest is brought to bear upon him, he is naturally disinclined and indifferent to it. In most instances it is only his desire to hold down his job and to retain the favor of his employers that he is obliged to “take in” some Americanization.

While such, in general, is the attitude of the foreigner toward the great Americanization campaign, there are wide differences in their feelings and opinions. In conversation with many of them you will find this expression: “I wish I had had such an opportunity to learn the English language eight or ten years ago; I would be in better position today; but now I am too old to learn it.” Others will say: “It is too late, I am going home.” You will find these the strongest excuses of the objectors for their lack of interest.
Hungarian symbols
Perhaps about 46 per cent of the foreign population are drawn back to Europe by family ties ; they have been severed from their loved ones during the fearful world war so that not even communication could be had with them. These conditions have created in them an intense longing to see their loved ones again. So deep is their anxiety to know the fate of those they left behind that their minds are fixed on one thing to go home and see for themselves. However, as to whether all these will return to their country or will try to have their families join them here is yet a question that will be determined by the opportunities offered them in
their own country to make a living and a fortune for themselves and their children. Thus the place of their settlement is largely influenced by the economic advantages rather than by national feelings.

With many of them the study required for Americanization is a case in which the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. After a day of hard physical labor it is indeed an expression of strong effort and ambition for a man to devote an hour or two to acquiring the English language, for when the body is worn out and the longing for food and rest is upper most the mind is least receptive. It is one of the most impressive scenes to watch a class of men and women anywhere from the age of twenty to fifty and over, some totally illiterate, others totally ignorant of the language, and yet patiently trying to learn to read, write and talk English. To be a
teacher of such a class is worthy one’s best efforts.

The appreciation and development shown by those who respond to the appeal of Americanization richly pay any effort and sacrifice we may put forth in their behalf. Now that the very air is charged with Americanism, Americanization is the task of the hour. Let us go at it in the spirit of kindness and Christian fellowship. When the foreigners are given to understand that while in America they must live as Americans, it will become evident who are friendly aliens and who are alien enemies and as such undesirables. Their favorable response to our friendly appeal or their resentment of it will be positive proof of their willingness to become one with us or one against us. By our sympathetic approach we can persuade them even at this late hour that Americanization is for their good as well as for the good of this nation.

O American Church, Where Art Thou?

Recently, Francis Chan (whose book “Crazy Love” we have been following recently), announced he was resigning as senior pastor of his church. As I viewed the video, there was something that stood out to me, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it except for the carefulness in which it was expressed.

“There is no immorality, no discipline… no issues with the elders”. It had to come up. When a leader steps away from a ministry we have been trained by experience in past events to look for some sort of moral miss step. We almost brace ourselves as Christians, “another one bites the dust”.

What an indictment of our American Church life.

Once upon a time, understanding that a person was further following his calling was the usual response, as Chan is today. What happened to this? Why have we become so inured to the idea of corruption and moral failure that we jump to that conclusion, first… and must be reassured should it not follow the (now) modern norm of a “fallen leader”?

Why have we become accustomed to that?

Health Care

While the Health care debate has been coalescing into something along the lines of a question of our patriotism, our compassion as humans, our survival as a nation even…. it bears some thought as to whether our ideals of morality ought always to be our guiding light as to our consensus on what is legal.

For a long time we have devolved into a morality and legality ruled by majority. We intervene in the law process by majority pressure as the rudder of the mainstream media has propelled it. It is not our system, but has become a competition to our system I think.

So this essay in the “Sense of Events” blog raised what I think are some questions worth pondering in our health care debate.

My question is this: Do the limits of the US Constitution actually mean anything here? Where in the text does it grant the Congress the power to take from you and me and give it, as charity, to others?

This is not a question about Congress’s power to tax. It is about its authority to use taxation for purposes not enumerated in the Constitution.

We already know Democrat Sen. Mark Warner’s answer: the Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the authority to pass the healthcare bill before it, but it doesn’t matter because Congress has trampled on the Constitution so long that there’s no reason to stop now.

I am confident that some persons would answer that the Constitution is a “living document.” As best as I can determine, what that means in practice is that its text and enumeration of powers can be ignored in order for the Congress to do what it wants. Occasionally the federal courts, including SCOTUS, hold this tendency in check, but not very well or often. And at least as often, the courts themselves have taken the “living document” approach rather liberally.

My answer is that the Congress has no such authority granted it. If indeed the state of health care is so dire that public monies must be used to pay directly for medical care of some people (and eventually everyone), then let Congress introduce a proposed amendment to the Constitution so the people and states may grant that authority. That Congress has already been paying for such care for decades doesn’t change the question or the principle at stake.

I might even support such an amendment provided there were appropriate checks and balances built into it. Neither the power granted to Congress nor its authority to tax for this or any other purpose can be unlimited.

Like it not, there is no authority in the Constitution giving Congress the power to spend public monies for charitable purpose

Does Morality Trump Legality?

It is ironic that the right now questions the left on this… albeit with different issues.

Tribal Drums

Beating out the same old tune, I guess.

The last post, ‘Going Tribal’, probably seemed disjointed. Maybe because I see the thread of a conflicting ethos as manifesting for some time now, and the effects of it as seen in the Katrina disaster as a further evidence, rather than something new.

As I thought things over, I wanted to say that we see the picture of the two responses to national disaster ( New York 911 and New Orleans Katrina) as manifesting different subcultural responses, but the more I thought on it the less convinced I was that this is the case. Mississippi is similar in culture to Louisiana, and they are handling matters more in the way one would expect.

No, Yankee and Southern cultures are not being compared in this. I think predominance of moral premises is being compared… in the constituents of the two cities and in the government players.

The balance of very different moral views of life is not a static matter, nor is it geographical. I wonder if we are not growing as a nation towards the warehousing of our poor and disenfranchised, giving them just enough to keep them docile, pacifying the clamor, but not doing anything substantial to remedy their problems. Not because nothing can be done, but because they are locked into a mindset that they will be taken care of. A mindset that is cultivated and fed by listening to leaders whose sole interest in them is to foment a self-pitying rhetoric; which then is used to further expand false, but money-magnetic causes.

Causes which never seem to address the real problems at hand.

Does our nation have the heart to hear truth? Does it have the gumption to stand up to vapid political complacency? Or will it stay mired in the stinking mud of vicious partisan camps?

If you blame the president for a hurricanes damage, or emergency services for a lack of local leadership… you are among the deluded, self serving, politically partisan demagogues.

If you play into the rhetoric of racial division and mistrust because a hurricane hit a specific area, you are deliberately feeding your own prejudice.
Continue reading Tribal Drums

Going Tribal

As in real life, I am beginning to look for people online, in the blogosphere, that I can really fit in with. Good luck, right? I think there are lots of people like me who have been going tribal for awhile. Some of us are wandering nomads… keep moving on to find the big picture that holds a place just for us.

I have found myself on the fringes of Christian society for awhile so this isn’t a new experience for me, and having lived there I know that there are many like me. In fact, we keep hooking up, and then get disbursed. I used to be sure what we were looking for, but now I’m not.

So you can see why Whittles ideas on “Tribes” resonated with me. Going tribal happens when the bigger establishments break down for large numbers of people. When the promises are found false and the facade can no longer hold the hopes and the trust of the constituents. Then we break down as a nation and form tribes. We want the cohesive identity of a nation, but there is no longer the glue of mutually held ideals.

So we search for the smaller groups … and band together to build community on the smaller scale.

This is a weaker and less consistent way to work as a group, so the move is always for finding consensus that we can live with, in alliances. That is a tentative and precarious set of outcomes. Enough that it makes you wonder how stable nations even come about. The tribe you know, you have common interests and approach to life. The Civitas is easy to understand, not needing verbalization.

And perhaps that is where the glue of the nation becomes compromised…when something interferes with the verbal reiteration within the group and to the new generations and to the newcomers.

We are afraid to say what our moral ideals are, what our views of good and bad and what constitutes duty. We are easily intimidated by those who wish to take over the forums and dictate the direction. We misunderstand that when we leave a void through accommodation of those dictates, the vacuum gets filled with the more aggressive and often less civilized. Naturally, because that is the constituency of those who do not abide by concern for others, a learned trait. The space must be filled with something. And that is what is being forgotten in the eagerness to appear tolerant and accommodating. There is a loss of real civility when appearances only are what count. The original hypocrisy.

We are a people of hesitancy and fear, of unsure beliefs and vacillating actions… and that is why we break down into tribes… to preserve what little we can from antagonistic forces, and from natural entropy.

And this is the nature of the same culture war which has been going on for quite sometime, under different semantical venues, and widely varying issues.

But catastrophe does not suddenly make us become what we are, or herd us into tribal groups… it only unmasks the veneers of civilized image and exposes the substantial character beneath. Do we value life, of others as well as ourselves? Do we have circumstances in which we sacrifice for the good of the group… or do we only value our own self-interest? Do we act in ways commensurate with the trust given us? Do we have sense of duty? Do we have charity and compassion, or are we only about the kleig lights and the prestige in the pride of place….? What makes our moral consensus and why are large parts of our populace outside the fence? Why are the tribal initiations so hard to accomplish… some on basis that no man can accommodate except by fate of birth?

I find that there is too much subjective rejection. If I find that fellow Christian women are rejecting me … how can I find something larger, when I ought to have a place in that group rather easily? Why are we making acceptance so hard?

Why will someone deny food and water to another on the basis of a car’s bumper sticker? Why will we deny dialog based on political view, escalating the hostilities to ever higher decibels until we drown, literally drown, out those not within our tribe? Or useful to our tribe?

We need to be both harsher and more accepting. We need to be more accepting in the real welcome within the group. We need to be harsher in making the outlines of the group quite clear and the entrance quite well marked and established.

And Christians need to start setting examples of exactly how that looks.