Bruce Kessler wrote an article Friday over at Democracy Project, which mentioned the possibility, however slight, of the need to flee the country because of a repressive pogrom. Bruce wrote this because of two causes. First, his family’s heritage as survivors of the Nazi purge; the Kesslers were able to flee Europe before the madness cost them their lives. The other cause is the news out of Iran that non-Muslims might be required to wear special identification, for easy identification and possibly for special “attention” by the Jihadist regime.
Bruce’s article is poignant, in that it reminds us of a failure by America to respond to a threat until literally millions of innocents had been tortured, robbed, enslaved and finally murdered. It also reminds me of my own heritage, and the price my ancestors paid for my family’s freedom.
Centuries ago, my ancestors ran amok in the highlands of Scotland. Some of them went on to nobility, but most of us just muddled through as best we could, usually by way of raising sheep and farming whatever the sullen, sodden rockscape would give up.
Then for some blasted reason, the English decided that our moss-covered rockland would be a nice addition to their Empire, and they sent a large number of armed men to press their claim. I’m not sure on the details, about why we could defend ourselves against Roman legions but not British adventurers, but in sum we lost our sovereignty and our lands. After some time the British began to make different use of the land, finding it less to their liking to graze sheep and farm vegetables, and so we were forced off the lands we had worked for generations. Forced in the ‘leave or we will kill you’ manner. A great many of my ancestors fought the British, first when they stole our country, then again when they stole our homes and fields. This is one reason why my family tree became so thin – the bloody British were only too happy to kill a Scot with the temerity to demand his rights. Kind of explains why so many people still celebrate ‘Guy Fawkes Day’ …
So we made our way to take residence in the towns and villages which would have us, but the British managed to screw up the food supply so bad that they started what has become known as the Potato Famine. That forced many Scots to find places on ships to America, the only haven available; the rest of Europe sure did not want us. And so my ancestors came here, destitute and starving, and in serious debt to the men who brought us over. Most of us spent years paying for the trip, but never you mind, we were glad indeed to find a country where we could hope to live without a threat against our lives and family.
I understand where President Bush started on that ‘jobs Americans will not do’ line. Time was, when the Scots and the Irish did those jobs. Janitors, yardsmen, firemen and policemen of course – back in the 1800s, there was no pleasure in wearing a badge. The citizens didn’t trust you, the city cheated you, the gangs hunted you, and your own family asked why you couldn’t do better. And the firemen just died young; they had no protection against the heat, smoke, or collapsing buildings, and there was no pension to speak of for a fireman or for a policemen. We were just ‘Micks’ after all, and no one could even tell the difference between a Scot and an Irishman, anyway. We were just people to ignore.
Then came the Civil War, and my rebuilt family took it upon themselves to answer the call. Some people argue that the War Between the States was never so much about Slavery, but you’d never know it from the Drummonds’ response. As good Anabaptists, they hated Slavery with every fiber of their being, and they regarded the United States as a nation brought up by the very will of God, and so to secede was to commit an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.
So all the young men of my family went and enlisted. Most of them died, and the ones which did not came back to a family destitute all over again; the war was not kind to a common man’s family. And that brings me almost current, enough to speak of my own perspective on a people, on the right to come to a nation and hope for security, and the community of honor which a person joins not by birth, but by the decision to hold ideals above convenience, truth above sound bites, and hope above politics. Be you what race, what sex, what culture you may know, if you come to join us and do your part you are welcome and we are glad to see you. If you come to steal, we will protect against you. If you come to kill us or ours, we will strike you down. We are a nation of laws, not men.
I am not a Jew, but I will defend them. I am not a Muslim, yet I shall defend them also. I am not a Catholic, but again I will defend them against anyone who thinks that freedom is a thing which only belongs to some, or that shouts and demands will cow us into becoming as petty and small as those nations which have yet to come into the light. Britain, that nation which once thought it good to destroy its inconvenient subjects, is now our closest friend, and other nations have done the same. The world changes, and so there is hope. But old evils are still to be fought, and for the sake of the Kesslers, the Drummonds, and a thousand thousand other families which have paid so dearly for their own rights already, I will remain vigilant, and commend my children do the same in their turn. For I am, by the grace of God, American, and that is no small thing.