10/06/05 - immigrants

Today's excerpt addresses the perennial fear of allowing immigrants to enter the country:

"... New York, in its continual processing of new immigrant groups, tends to remain what it was at the beginning [when it had a population of just 500 that nevertheless spoke 18 different languages], and thus stays a source of hope and fear. The demographic fears that Tweed stirred—that 'we' are about to be engulfed by 'them'—are alive and well, not only in New York but throughout the country. We all have, somewhere within, a lowercase puritan who wants to hold the barbarians outside the gate, keep things as they are or return them to an imagined state of grace. ...

"Kenneth Jackson put it to me this way: 'People always fear that [New York] is about to become a minority city. A hundred years ago the fear was that it would become Italian or Irish. But what happens is 'they' become 'us'. Americanness is always changing, and that tends to happen first in New York'."


Russell Shorto


'All Political Ideas Are Local'


The New York Times Magazine


October 2, 2005


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