Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The True Patriots: Some Post-July-4th Musings

Coincidentally, I had already been contemplating doing a one-day fast tomorrow, and then I found out about this on Democracy Now. I hope some of you will join me.

Yesterday, I got an email from a colleague, who used to be an organizer at Asian Pacific Environmental Network, on whose board I'm currently serving. I thought his email summed up some of my own thoughts about July 4th/Independence Day, especially during this year of intense debate about immigration policy and what the 'real America' is all about.


"Celebrating the Fourth, Remembering the Past"
by Son-Cheong Kuan

What comes to mind on Fourth of July, our Independence Day? Fireworks? Family vacationing? Outdoor BBQ? Big sales? It's true. Have we heard so many ads using holidays as big sales opportunities? Yes, our holidays have been over-commercialized, not only on July 4th, but also Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, etc. Have we wondered what the true meaning of our national holiday is?

As we celebrate July 4th, our northern neighbor, Canada, is also celebrating their Independence Day, July 1st, Canadian Day. This year Canadians have something to remember and to celebrate. The Canadian Prime Minister did the historically significant ceremonial action on behalf of Canada of apologizing to thousands and thousands of Chinese-Canadians for imposing the unjust "head tax" on Chinese laborers hundreds years ago.

Like our country, Canada also "imported" thousands of Chinese laborers to build railways across Canada. After they built the railways, they were required to pay the so-called "head tax", and barred from becoming citizens. Haven't we heard similar stories before? But, Canadians have learned their history, and righted the wrong this year.

With the latest debate over immigration reformed, I feel like it's "deju vu" all over again. We "brought" Latinos over to work on the farms. Now we want to bar them from becoming citizens or require them to "pay to play". Have we apologized to African Americans for slavery, Japanese Americans for internment camps, to Chinese Americans for the Chinese Exclusive Act, and many others--Filipino Americans, Vietnamese Americans and Korean Americans? As we claim to be defenders of human rights, haven't we learned from history that we need to make our policies more humane?

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