Headline:Why do Americans cling to their European heritage?
Sub-headline: I find nothing about the country harder to explain than the quest for extra-American identities’
Mr. Ganesh never lets his utter historical ignorance get in the the way of his production of his feuilletons. The immigrants, who came to America in the 19th Century, were Italian, German, Polish, Irish, and Eastern European and Russian Jews escaping pogroms.
His historical ignorance leads Mr. Ganesh to ask questions that an American like myself, whose grandfather and grandmother, on my father’s side, came from Poland and Germany in 1865, to puzzle over his indulging his historical ignorance on his readers!
The American ‘indigenous white’ population took to calling these new arrivals names: whop, micks, kike,yid, kraut, ruski and other degrading epithets, and posting employment advertisements that boldly stated ‘No Irish need apply’. Over time these immigrant communities, in self-defense, began to celebrate their heritage as a completely necessary antidote to this American xenophobia: the land of land stealing and genocidal immigrants, from the ‘Mayflower’ on ,were the utterly intolerant Puritans. That had alienated all those who once,foolishly, offered them sanctuary. The Salem Witch Trials a monument to their hysteria.
This just a quick sketch of what 19th Century immigrants faced. Yet, even that experience, did not stop these new citizens from adopting the prejudices of those preceding generation, in term of prejudice against black and native peoples. Not to speak of the contemporaneous and subsequent wave of immigrants, even slaves, from Asia!
Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.