Nation of Neighbors
Natalia J. Garland
America is often referred to as a Nation of Immigrants. This
motto seems to be in recognition of the immigrant workforce,
immigrant academic and artistic contributions to American society,
and in recognition that most American families have foreign
origins. There are other groups of Americans, however, who do not
fit into the category of immigrant. What about the Native
Americans who were here before the Europeans, the African
Americans who were brought to America involuntarily, Americans who
are descendants of immigrants but who have lived in America for
several generations now, and Americans who have a multiracial or
multicultural background? Nation of Immigrants is not really
This essay is
divided into two parts. The first part covers my efforts to
get responses from the Democratic presidential candidates. The
second part contains my own ideas on an alternative motto to
Nation of Immigrants.
To get some ideas
about my Nation of Immigrants question, I decided to e-mail the
major Democratic presidential candidates. I sent the following
e-mail to the these candidates: Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, John
Edwards, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman,
Carol Mosely-Braun, Al Sharpton, and I also included Ralph Nader.
I am inquiring about [Candidate's Name]
views on the concept that America is a "Nation of
Immigrants." Although I appreciate this as a concept,
and I realize the contributions of immigrants, I wonder how
Native Americans and African Americans fit into this concept.
Native Americans were already here, and African Americans were
brought over by force. I also wonder how Americans fit into
this concept after they have lived in America for several
generations. I am not anti-immigrant; I am simply searching
for a concept that would more clearly include all
Natalia J. Garland
I sent the e-mails
on 01/10/04 and 01/11/04, with the exception of Al Sharpton's
which I sent on 01/15/04. I received automated responses from the
Howard Dean campaign and the John Kerry campaign on 01/10/04. I
received a personal response from the John Kerry campaign on
01/12/04, a response from the Wesley Clark campaign on 01/13/04,
and from the Joe Lieberman campaign on 01/13/04. The other
candidates did not respond. In the following paragraphs I will
discuss the responses, ranking them by usefulness.
The response from
the John Kerry campaign was by far the most useful. The Kerry
campaign sent an e-mail, addressed to my first name, with links to
Kerry's views on immigration such as the page on "Fairness
And Security In Immigration Policy", which included a list
of issue "Priorities." Since they did not include any
information on Native Americans or African Americans, I followed
up with another e-mail as follows.
Dear John Kerry for
Thank you for your reply. However, my concern was
not about immigrants or immigration policy. My concern was about
Native Americans and African Americans---people who do not fit
under the motto, "Nation of Immigrants." I clicked on
the links you provided and I did not find any related
Natalia J. Garland
The Kerry campaign
responded on 01/13/04, apologizing for their oversight, and
sending me more direct links to Kerry's views on his website:
a section on "Native Americans for Kerry," including
Kerry's speech to the National Congress of the American Indians
on 11/17/03; and a list of issues under "Ensuring Tribal
Sovereignty and Working to Improve the Lives of Native
Americans." There was a direct link to a section on
"African Americans for Kerry," including a statement
from Kerry on "Eliminating Racial Health Disparities;"
a list of issues under "John Kerry's Commitment to African
Americans;" and several Press Releases, News Clips and
The Joe Lieberman
campaign sent an e-mail addressed to Dear Friend, with a
link to his e-book, Leading With Integrity. The book is 80
pages in PDF form. Unfortunately, the Lieberman website seemed to
have technical difficulties. The e-book would not download beyond
the Table of Contents. I also had difficulty e-mailing the
Lieberman campaign. Two e-mails were returned undeliverable. I
went back to the website, and typed Native Americans and
then African Americans in the website search engine. I was
linked to the article, "Joe Lieberman: First Peoples Must
Never be a Second Priortiy," and to "40th Anniversary
of March on Washington." I also clicked on "Issues and
Ideas" and found several articles about African Americans.
I was finally able
to access Leading With Integrity on 01/18/03, but it
stopped downloading after page 53. Nevertheless, there were
sections on "Immigration Reform," starting on page 35;
and on "Guided by Our Values," starting on page 42;
which somewhat addressed my inquiry. There was also ample
information on how to protect our post-9/11 world. Lieberman's
book was detailed as well as personal.
The Clark campaign
responded by sending a page from Clark's website containing
information on his campaign activities in the state of Arizona. I
went back to the website and found a link right on the homepage to
the article, "American Indians & Alaskan Natives."
I typed Native Americans and then African Americans
in the website search engine. I was linked to a page containing
a section on "American Communities." There were
sub-sections on "American Indians & and Alaskan
Natives," and "African Americans." These
sub-sections contained Clark's basic policy positions.
The Dean campaign
sent an automated response with links to the website, none of
which were related to my inquiry. I went back to the website,
typed Native Americans and then African Americans in
the website search engine. Each time I was linked to a pamphlet
entitled Common Sense for a New Century. It is 5 pages
long. There is one paragraph on page 4, "Moral Leadership
in the World," which somewhat addressed my concerns. The
chapter on page 3, "Where We Have Come From," gives a
brief history on slavery and the labor movement. I then found
sub-sections on Native Americans and African Americans under the
"Coalition Groups" section from the website's homepage.
These sections contained statements and endorsements. (I ranked
Dean's information below Clark's, because Clark's position
statements seemed more precise.)
websites are probably largely staffed by volunteers. Lack of
manpower may account for why some did not respond, although it is
not difficult to create an automated response system. I dislike
automated responses, but lack of any response could be interpreted
as uncaring. I found it puzzling that the team members from
the Lieberman, Clark, and Dean campaigns could not provide direct
links related to my inquiry. It would seem that the team members
did not know their candidate's views very well, did not know how
to navigate their own candidate's website, or were not trained
properly. This was an injustice to the candidates because they
all had related information on their websites.
interested in addressing the Nation of Immigrants question. I
realize that I am only one person in a population of 291,500,000,
but I am a registered voter nonetheless, and I am among the 7% of
those 291,500,000 people who actually pay attention to the
caucuses. I realize also that my inquiry could be viewed as
controversial, but presidential candidates and their teams have
to be able to manage controversial issues. I was left on my own
to find a solution, so here goes.
To say that America
is a Nation of Immigrants is like saying that America is a Nation
of Single People. Now, we were all single people at one time.
Some of us are still single, and some of us are now married.
When people get married, they begin a new identity and lifestyle.
They are no longer single, although they began life single.
Likewise, some Americans are immigrants, and some are now the
descendants of immigrants. There is a difference in self-concept,
adjustment, and expectations between the two categories.
My suggestion is
that we adopt the motto, Nation of Neighbors. This is an
all-inclusive term that lends itself to both national and
international relationships. The American Heritage
Dictionary, 1981 edition, defines immigrant as "One who
leaves a country to settle permanently in another." It
defines neighbor as "A human being like oneself; a fellow
man." As neighbors we come in all shapes, sizes, colors,
races, cultures, and origins. We are not defined by our ability
to work or by our contribution to society. We are defined by how
we relate to other people.
If people are
valued for their ability to participate in the workforce, such as
is the case with Nation of Immigrants, then that excludes the
disabled, the elderly, children, and stay-at-home mothers. If
people are valued for their ability to make intellectual or
artistic contributions to society, then that excludes those who
are less gifted. If people are valued for their willingness and
effort to be a good neighbor, such as is the case with Nation of
Neighbors, then that includes all segments of American society.
Anyone can be a good neighbor.
The motto, Nation of
Immigrants, presumes that America is not our real homeland, that
we still have an allegiance to a foreign country, and that we are
defined by where we came from rather than where we are now. It is
a stereotype of rather than an inspiration for American citizenry.
I am not suggesting that people obliterate their heritage. My
emphasis is simply on national identity and cohesion rather than
on origins over which we had no control.
We are neighbors to
one another in a linking chain across the nation. Theoretically,
the new immigrant from Poland could be a neighbor to the second
generation Mexican American, who could be a neighbor to the
descendant of the Mayflower, who could be a neighbor to the
African American, who could live next door to the family that is
half Cherokee and half Irish. A community of predominately Korean
Americans could live in harmony with a community of predominately
Italian Americans. Practically, if we focus on equality, fairness,
and caring relationships, we could make this happen to a greater
extent. This is something we have control over.
We are border
neighbors to Canada and Mexico. We are global neighbors in a
world that gets smaller and smaller. Emphasizing the concept of
neighborhood could promote peaceful international relationships.
If some countries behave as bad neighbors and do not respond to
attempts to live in unity, then the concept of neighborhood
gives us the option of protecting ourselves and our good
neighbors. It was a Nation of Neighbors that helped us survive
the September 11th attacks. It is a Nation of Neighbors that can
keep us secure nationally and internationally.
Until we meet