The happy editorial “Celebrate aspiration, common purpose” (July 4, reprinted from June 30, 1921) was neatly juxtaposed against an article about not knowing much history. Some historical context is in order.
Six weeks before this editorial was originally printed, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921 was passed by Congress. Over the years, it effectively served to prevent Eastern European Jews who were fleeing from persecution from entering the United States. As a result, my grandparents’ families had to emigrate from Poland to Cuba, Argentina and Israel instead of the United States, where they preferred to be. This restrictive law was implemented out of xenophobia, attempting to preserve the existing predominantly Northern European heritage then present in the United States. Eventually it led to the inability of Jews fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany to enter the United States.
So the themes of reaching out to and celebrating the aspirations of immigrants espoused in the editorial were apparently only meant for those with cultures similar to what was already in the United States.
ERIC L. BRESSLER, Minnetonka
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I read with interest Timothy Taylor’s June 30 commentary on the decreasing usefulness of the “melting pot” as a metaphor for the great American experiment.
A few years ago, I used the following metaphor in a book I wrote about Minnesota’s most recent immigrants and refugees: “a strainer,” one that “filters the prejudices, beliefs, and customs of each new group.”
Many traditions and ways of life that immigrants bring to the country strengthen and enrich the cultural fabric. Others — in particular those that don’t mesh with modern and democratic life — fade away.
GREGG AAMOT, Victoria
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