Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Dream Devalued

My son recently gave me a book called "The Italian-Americans". It was written mostly in Italian, which I can struggle through a bit thanks to Rosetta Stone, but the real attraction for me was in the pictures. Featured were images of Italian-Americans through history who have made a life in the United States, some famous and some not. I was drawn to the beautiful black and white photos of immigrants to this country, many taken at Ellis Island where they landed, and also on the lower East side of New York City where they first settled. The faces of the men, women and children look a little bewildered, waving their tiny American flags and happy that their arduous journey had come to an end. What I see in so many of their faces is hope...the belief that leaving their homeland and coming to this new world full of promise was a decision that would not be regretted.

For many of these immigrants, not just Italians but people from all over Europe, America would deliver on its promise. It would not be easy, but they knew if they worked hard, saved their money, and sent their children to school, that they could build a life here for their families that could never have been possible where they came from. They were not always welcomed with open arms; prejudice and discrimination were faced by many, but they were tough people, willing to endure these hardships knowing that their sacrifices would pave the way for their children and grandchildren. The dream that was America drove them. They took jobs nobody else wanted and worked longer hours for less money. They did not demand free health care, welfare and bilingual schools, but through sheer grit and determination, earned the grudging respect of their neighbors.

Both sets of my grandparents were immigrant Italian-Americans. They started with nothing but their will to make things better for their children, and they succeeded. There was in them a drive to earn their share of what this country offered to those willing to work for it. That drive was passed to their children. My father never earned a lot of money in his lifetime, but he made enough to buy a house and give his three kids a comfortable life. The same goes for my wife's family. Each generation was better educated, won better jobs, made more money, and became more a part of the community fabric than the last. I'm proud to say that my children have that determination to succeed in them, and they have done well indeed, but the landscape of America is changing.

Our country is still the gold standard for providing its citizens with all the things promised in our Constitution,,,life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but the attitude of foreigners who come here is not the attitude of my immigrant grandparents. Some are still willing to follow the old formula of entering the country legally, working at whatever jobs are open to them, paying their taxes and trading instant gratification for the rewards that will be their children's in time to come. Others sneak in illegally, demand free education, medical benefits, and work off the books, paying no taxes for the services to which they feel entitled. Add to this the growing numbers in America's "welfare class", native-born citizens who never understood the value of education, hard work and family values, and you have the dismal situation in which this country now finds itself.

My kids will make more money than I ever did, but it will be so much harder for them to buy a house and live the dream that once was America because so much more of their income is siphoned off by a government willing to trade free services for votes. This creeping socialism has got to the point where those working at jobs are tired of supporting those unwilling to educate themselves, get work and contribute to society. This in turn has created such divisions in America, and such extreme positions in our political parties that the country is being torn apart with no end to the animosity in sight. Barack Obama has made it clear that redistribution of income through taxation of the "rich" is the primary goal of his Presidency.

I don't know how this will end, but I do know that the hope I see in the eyes of the Italian-American immigrants in my new book is no longer in the eyes of this country's young people. As Margaret Thatcher said: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money".


Children's Craniofacial Association   http://www.ccakids.com


Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I think it is not the illegals that are the problem when it comes to benefits that they are not entitled to, it is the jackasses who give the benefits and so called "entitlements". There seems to be an insanity that these illegals will accept that is unacceptable to our ancestors. If you said: Grandpa, go ask for welfare, he would laugh at you for being silly, then lecture you on hard work and earning it.

Jim Pantaleno said...

And that's exactly the point Joe, Grandpa's mentality is a thing of the past.