Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Saturday Speech--ii

(Continued from yesterday.) 
If you think Representative Steve King is wrong about "somebody else's babies" and you're in the area, please stop by at the Sioux County Courthouse, Orange City, 10 a.m., on Saturday, March 25th, for a rally that will include several speakers from the area.
But you didn’t have to be German to suffer discrimination back then. Even the Dutch were persecuted. In central Iowa, a bomb beneath the parsonage of the Reformed Church, set there by patriotic American terrorists, failed to ignite; but flag-flying vigilantes succeeded in burning down the New Sharon Reformed Church by vigilantes so muddle-headed they assumed "Dutch" meant Deutsch.

A Christian school in Peoria, Iowa, went up in flames for the same reason. Right-thinking, patriotic loyalist Americans looked upon German-Americans and Dutch-Americans—and just about anyone who spoke a foreign language as the Kaiser’s hellish brood.

We have a wide-ranging history of prejudice that includes almost all of the people here gathered.

Let me tell you a story:

Ten, maybe fifteen years ago, I was in line at a grocery store, behind two Hispanic men checking out. The clerk—just a girl—was having trouble communicating because those two customers' limited skill with the English language was, to her, an annoying distraction. Her frustration was evident.

When the Hispanic men walked away, she muttered something to us—the white folks in line—words meant more clearly for us but spoken loud enough for them. “Learn the language,” she growled. “When you come here to this country, learn the language!”

She was a kid, high school age.

I wasn’t next in line, I was second; but I heard the words clearly.

I wrote up that incident, sent the note to the Sioux Center News as a letter to the editor, and I mentioned that, almost assuredly, her grandparents or great-grandparents would have needed help buying flour or sugar from any store in LeMars or Rock Rapids because they wouldn't have had to learn English. As late as the 1950’s, men and women on the streets of Orange City or Sioux Center still used the Dutch language, forty years after immigration from Holland came to a halt for the First World War.

Just a couple of generations later, annoyance bred intolerance in that girl, something made her forget where and what she came from herself. She was Dutch-American, not Ioway.

But the story doesn’t end there, and the poison that Representative Steve King offered all of us last week about immigration and Muslims doesn’t have to end with his repulsive prejudice either.

The manager from one of Sioux Center’s two grocery stores called me—eight in the morning, the next day. She identified herself, then said, “Jim, I need to know who that check-out was. I have to know."

That call was a blessing.

We have a history of prejudice, a history we’ve created and perpetuated ourselves--and  we've suffered; but like that grocery store manager, we don’t have to tolerate it. We can fight it. We can call it ugly, call it wrong, call it evil when it is.

And that’s why we’re here, and that’s why our Representative, Steve King, a man we elected with 80% of our votes, has not only to listen but also to stanch the poison he creates.


jdb said...

My grandparents came from the Netherlands early in the last century and settled initially near Lismore, MN, a German Catholic settlement. When they received a new calendar from a Catholic merchant, they cut out the "Merry" in Merry Christmas, assuming it had something to do with mariolatry. With little or no formal education in the Netherlands, and no formal education in the USA, language was a struggle for them. How soon we forget our roots!

Anonymous said...

The Legion in Lismore is named Marian Schaap. His Dad Henry told my younger sister that his son had gone down with the ship. I later read Marian had been seen in the water after the Indianapolis had gone down.

It was only after the war that the American public learned about Japan's efforts to bring the conflict to an end. Chicago Tribune reporter Walter Trohan, for example, was obliged by wartime censorship to withhold for seven months one of the most important stories of the war.


Ron Polinder said...

Good work, Schaap!