Immigrant citizens don’t owe a special debt of gratitude of to this nation — a debt over and above the gratitude that native-born citizens should feel for their home country. To be crystal clear, I believe Ilhan Omar and every citizen immigrant should be grateful for their place in this country. What I reject is the notion that native-born citizens like myself can demand a level of gratitude from immigrants beyond what we demand from native-born citizens.
In fact, to the extent that we should parse gratitude at all, I assert a simple proposition — the people who did exactly nothing to become citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the earth should be among the most grateful people on this planet. We should be grateful to God that we weren’t born elsewhere. We should be grateful to those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” to defend our nation and our Constitution. We should be grateful for those who endure great hardship to defend our liberty, safety, and prosperity.
Against the backdrop of this immense American gift, native-born Americans by the countless millions don’t trouble themselves to be educated enough about their own country to pass the basic citizenship test that we give to prospective citizen immigrants. All too many native-born citizens forsake the moral obligations of citizenship and instead focus only on reaping its considerable legal and constitutional benefits.
I think French is wrong. I think my native birth is worth more, because my parents sacrificed a lot to make this country better. My father and his brothers and fought in WWII. My brothers-in-law fought in Vietnam. I have been signed up for selective service for 35 years. Together we have paid about a hundred years of taxes to build the $100 trillion of infrastructure the USA has. Isn’t that worth something? David French seems to say “no”.
My story is actually very common. People fight and work and die to make the country better. It seems to me that those sacrifices build up an inheritable equity and when we choose to share that equity with outsiders, the newcomers should be extra thankful to get a share. I don’t care about civics tests, because I think that being American takes more know-how than can be summarized on a 3×5 card. A lifetime of living American counts for a lot, even if somebody cannot summarize the first three articles of the Constitution.
I am not saying that immigrants can’t be great Americans. I know many that are. I am saying that great Americans are always thankful for the opportunity to be American and appreciate the efforts of those that built and sustained the greatest country ever.Published in