- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

Peggy Noonan writes this morning in an impassioned piece about the anti-enforcement immigration rallies:

While the marchers seemed to be good people, and were very likable, the march itself, I think, violated the old immigrant politesse—the general understanding that you’re not supposed to get here and immediately start making demands. It would never have occurred to my grandparents to demand respect. They thought they had to earn it. It would never have occurred to them to air mass grievances, assert rights, issue a list of legislative demands. Especially if they were here unlawfully.

Which puts me in mind of a trope I’ve heard over the years when debating immigration: namely that, with a name like mine, I should ipso facto be an open-borders kind of guy. It’s true: I come from relatively recent immigrants on both sides of the family. Legal immigrants, I hasten to add. The distinction doesn’t end with mere legality, moreover. It is one of utter and total cultural makeover.

For instance, my paternal great-grandfather changed his name from this to what you see in the byline above. The truncated version sounded more American, he reckoned. My maternal great-grandfather put his elementary-school-age daughter (my grandmother) in a local Catholic school in Atlantic City, where her given name, Michela, was mistakenly rendered “Margaret.” Rather than complain, they ran with it; and she still goes by the name today. And, in turn, she raised her own children as though they were never anything but American. There was no Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. No Italian spoken in the home, except to communicate with an old-country live-in matriarch.

Hence, for all intents and purposes, I’m Italian in name only. I consider this a minor tragedy, as well as a reasonable cost of transforming into full citizens of a big-hearted, wildly diverse country. That’s the way this country used to work: To thrive here, immigrants had to give up certain things; they had to adjust, at least publicly, to the norms and customs of their host country. It was not a perfect system by any means, but I’d prefer that to the chaotic, lawless, exploitative one that exists today.

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