Thursday, August 5, 2010


With the flaps over the Arizona immigration law and the building of a mosque at Ground Zero, I’ve once again been considering “the other.” By that I mean the tendency of us human animals to cull out “those people” from the herd.

Once done, we imbue those “others” with unfavorable qualities, e.g : lazy, greedy, opportunistic, fanatic. “They” are the enemy, dangerous, the source of our problems—whatever they are at that moment in time. They are out to take our jobs, our resources, corrupt our youth or terrorize us.

Illegal aliens. Muslims. Gays. Whoever.

It’s a subject I have long considered. I recall sitting in high school history class marveling at my good fortune—being both female and Jewish--at being born in the mid 20th century America.

Yet, I was still never far from the definition of “outsider.”

I was a hs junior when Kennedy was assassinated. I returned home from school to a call from my mother. I’ll never forget the first thing she said: “Thank God he (Oswald) wasn’t Jewish.”

Regardless, she was not immune from turning on “others.”

Fast forward a decade. She and I are arguing about the then California uproar over illegal immigrant mothers “ abusing” our healthcare system. My mother, first generation born in this country, ranted on about these Mexican women crossing the border to give birth on our soil. So what, I retorted, they are risking their lives so their children can have a chance at the American Dream. (Sound familiar? I read now some law makers want to change this. )

Ok, so here’s the rub. I found out not long ago, that I, too, am descended from an illegal alien. It seems that when my paternal grandfather came over from eastern Europe he couldn’t enter legally. So like many other Jews at that time, he went to Canada and crossed the border in the Chicago area before making his way to New York.

So he wasn’t a wetback—he was a coldback.

We have met the “other” and he/she is US!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Willaim Weintraub, in his novel, The Underdogs, referred to people from Canada sneaking in to the US as "Snowbacks". Your post brought that back for me.