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This is my second blog about John C. Liu and again I shall try to stay away from fund-raising investigations. That’s not easy to do. We seem to be reminded about such things on a regular basis. More to come, I am sure.
One of the comments about Liu is that he can pull in a heavy Asian vote because he was born on Taiwan. The implication in some of these remarks is that this is not a good thing.
Whether it is good or not, it is certainly very American. Let me be clear: I know that many immigrants to the United States — legal or otherwise — very often seem to be longing for their homelands for a number of years after they get here. I am delighted that my Kowald great-grandparents braved an ocean voyage in the first half of the 19th century. They got out of Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany and I could not be happier that they did. For a while, I imagine, when they were living in Buffalo, they might have been sorrowful on occasion about The Homeland, but come on, people, they left The Homeland because it was not very good to them, was it?
The same with my Ernst great-grandparents who left the same area, although I doubt they knew the Kowalds in The Homeland. The Ernsts settled in New York City and that is where Eugene Kowald met Elizabeth Ernst. In the very early years of the 20th century, a very young girl from Warsaw, my mother, braved a voyage to this country. I never heard her mourn for The Homeland and I can’t blame her. All of these people came here because this country was better than the one they left and they realized it as they got older and the next generation came along as the romantic delusion of The Homeland faded.
It has been that way with every ethnic group that has come to the United States. That is why they still come. This is still The Promised Land. It is still the world’s beacon of democracy.
The Germans faced discrimination. Too much drinking of beer. And all that heavy food.
The Irish faced discrimination. After all, they were Roman Catholics. And, of course, they were drunkards and lazy.
The Italians faced discrimination. They were slovenly and lazy and they were Roman Catholics, too.
The Jews faced discrimination. They were dirty, shifty and out for the buck.
As for the Asians, we allowed “coolies” in to work on the railroads in the 19th century and then set up walls against any immigration.
What about the plight of blacks in this country? Until very recently they were less than second-class citizens in many parts of the United States. We should all be aware of the problems they faced and still face.
The Latinos in this country — legal or not — have been subject to discrimination that no one except a Martian is not aware of.
Pick a group — any group — and you will find the same story. Of course, all the stereotypes still exist in the minds and actions of too many people, but I am an optimist and I believe progress has been made and will be made.
It is natural for a group, early in its assimilation into American society, to want to see “their own” as public officials. If the candidate looks like you, talks like you and knows your culture, when you become a citizen, you will vote for such a candidate.
Willard Mitt Romney anyone? Check with the nearest Mormon.
The merits of the person tend to be overlooked. The elected official is “one of ours.”
Nothing wrong with that in principle, but in actuality as the immigrants and succeeding generations find out, “one of ours” can be a crook, a murderer or fit into one of any number of criminal categories.
No group is immune.
For now with this generation Liu is revered in the Asian community. There is nothing wrong with that. As time goes by, he and others like him will be assessed not so much by their looks, speech and culture as by what kind of public servants they are for everyone.
Here I fall off the wagon: The fund-raising investigations into Liu’s mayoral campaign now taking place may result in nothing or in something much more serious. At that point, those who voted for Liu, of any ethnicity, will be challenged to determine the future of this man on the basis of his merits and not on any other bases. We must judge him on the basis of what kind of public official he has been, not by the number of awards he gives out or by his imperial insistence on having his minions stand when he enters a room.
I wish him luck, because you and I pay his salary and we expect and should get good performance as well as honesty for our taxes. He owes all of us that.
That, too, is the American way.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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