Home » From The Readers, Letters to the Editor » Dear Editor: When did character lose its value in America?

Dear Editor: When did character lose its value in America?

A cousin sent an email about an Arizona student who raised a Mexican flag on a school flag pole and another student who took it down; the student expelled was the one who took the Mexican flag down. A family member in Oregon sent an email about a California school Cinco de Mayo incident that caused students wearing T-shirts with the American flag to be sent home. Many other emails circulate, true or false, that chronicle a lack of discourse, a divisiveness. Liberals and Conservatives square off as though immigration situations are single-purposed, the undermining of each.  We are living in the valley of “scisms.”

We are writing on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants and their offspring who died fighting in wars for this country, and for the U.S. flag which cannot stand up without us. If you disagree, argue with fact and not opinion.

And shame on anyone who tries to make this a racist message!

I am the second born American generation of Syrian and Chinese immigrants among others. If that sentence stills your replies, we are embarrassed for your lack of conviction. It only proves that those who cry xenophobia are but lambs in another shepherd’s flock, or as is a line in an Arabic proverb “chaff among wheat.”

Our Arab family respected the law of their adopted nations, first Mexico while waiting for US visas which took nine years, and the nation they wanted to adopt, the USA. Although the Arab grandfather grew up fluent in Spanish and Arabic, he found English difficult, but he learned. A Chinese born grandmother did the same because she wanted her children to admire her tenacity, her intelligence, so she demanded that her children teach her English.

The eldest child began to be teacher to the family in first grade! The grandmother would tell us that by the eldest son’s second grade school conference, she was confidant in English and the next child began school almost fluent. She told that story often, beaming with great pride, knowing the story honored her eldest and his mother! She could not help adding that she was fluent a year before her husband, the intelligent doctor.

Our grandmother did not learn English because she was ashamed or because she was denying Chinese culture or discriminated against in America, but exactly the opposite of all. She was embracing the new, unafraid to look at the past for what it was, and she wanted to teach her children a valuable life lesson of embracing change.

Our grandfather, her loving husband, passed down a family story of their first Christmas tree; it had so many lights that the tree toppled over at least once a day, and he remained amazed that the origami cranes did not go up in flames from the hot lights. They decided to have the eldest chose a Christmas story to read in English before Christmas dinner of rice and fish soup, and at the used bookstore, eldest son chose “Jesus is Risen.”

To this day, the youngest reader in attendance reads that Easter story at our Christmas gatherings.

Another grandmother exchanged after school English lessons for her family by baking communion wafers for a local church. When poverty overwhelmed the family (after the death of a widowed aunt demanded that 9 more children be added to the brood of 5), a decision was made to send the two youngest (one of their own) to live with wealthier relatives in British Columbia for four years (wealthier is defined by living in a rented house with enough food on the table that could be shared with two more mouths). Everyone went to work who could, including the children, and pooled resources so a house could be bought where everyone could live under one roof (three bedrooms, one bath, and an enclosed carport housed all the children and adults); the children in BC returned, now fluent in English, and never bitter about needing to be sent away.

Never once did any of the children want to miss a day of school and while food was very scarce, no one starved to death. They appreciated opportunity, had experienced adversity and never once expected others to help or provide without giving back two-fold.

EVERY CHILD in those first immigrant families graduated from high school, most with perfect attendance. Several attended some college and two got degrees.

An education was the key to success that no one could take away, everyone was taught. Most of us and now my children are appalled by peers not understanding that a free public education is, even in America’s worst schools, a gift never offered in the old countries. No matter how poor the facilities, or even some of the teachers, it is never an excuse for not going to the free public library to learn what is not taught or using the internet when one is handicapped.

Not one relied on curves or breaks or teachers that felt sorry. That would have been unprincipled. No excuses, our families told the young, accept your responsibility and learn.

The point of this lengthy saga is that following a path of legal immigration may involve adversity, but it does define character. Leaving the old countries, waiting to enter the country legally, and abiding by the law of the new land were givens. Hardships and overcoming life’s obstacles to live in countries that offer a good life by hard work and sacrifice shape the very character of the people facing adversity.

The principled demand an adherence to the law, and do not demand that the law be ignored or manipulated to make paths easier yet corrupt.

A niece, Marie Cohen, wrote in a school paper: “This nation must demand adherence to equal justice under the law, and no matter how flawed, our system of justice is defined by the quality of its juries and its judges. If we fail to require the best of our immigrants, our native-born and naturalized citizens, we lose the fragile best of a globally superior democratic society, a melting pot of one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. So on behalf of my family, the Ukrainian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Korean, Austrian, Nigerian, Dutch, Bosnian, Canadian, Egyptian, Filipino, Mexican, Italian, English, German, Brazilian, Cuban, Israeli, French, Indian, Chinese and Peruvian mixed race relatives who sit at the table as one family, and never hyphenates one from another, we stand together proudly as Americans.”

Joy Wing Martinez, LA CA (thanks to my Arizona cousin for sending this web site and to my two aunts and an uncle and niece for contributing to this email that we hope you will consider worthy of the time to read)


  1. Gretchen and Dave says:

    Brava to your family! much like mine as we get ready for Thanksgiving

  2. Mike Schroeder says:

    And your story represents what this country should be and I still believe is all about.

  3. Lonnie says:

    you should meet MY family being an american mutt works for me

  4. Jessica says:

    yeah Joy! finally someone speaks for the 99% of us who are americans

  5. NAU view from the peaks says:

    history 101:
    Mexicans are citizens of Mexico
    Americans are citizens of the USA
    illegal is when Mexican citizens violate the laws of the USA
    illegal is when American citizens violate the laws of Mexico
    stupid is when stupid argues that obeying the law is about race
    apples and oranges old people!
    excited to vote for barack O but when O chooses hilary–freaky scary–hear theme song by those old geezers about ebony & ivory-halloweeeeen scary
    only grannies get panties in a wad for hillary–Vote Chris Deschene a good guy!

  6. Phil says:

    What makes our country great is the various mixture pf people who arrived to our shores legally from many parts of the world, with the richness of their cultures, customs, languages and scrumptious recipes for delicious food.

    My family and I arrived here as immigrants in the 50’s from Poland, Russia and Italy and were happy as soon as we landed at Idlewilde Airport (now JFK). We did all we could to learn English, become citizens and do what was expected as citizens of this country. While in college, It was very important to me to be able to give back to the country that gave my family and I so much. As a result I joined the Army ROTC and , once I graduated,I was assigned behind the Iron Curtain as an intelligence officer. It was the least I could do to earn my stay in this wonderful country. Being in this country legally was very important to us and the many generations of immigrants who came here and made this country as great as it is. The key issue nowadays,is not that people are against immigrants, they are against illegal immigrants from ANY country. It’s not a matter of racism or discrimination. It’s just pure common sense. Is it fair for those of us who came here as legal immigrants to support those who haven’t? ‘I have traveled to many parts of the world and never gave it a thought every time I was asked to show an ID. Why is that such a big deal? Let’s take emotions out of this issue and do what generations of immigrants to this country have done, earn your stay and become a citizen!

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2008-2017 · Sedona Eye · All Rights Reserved · Posts · Comments · Facebook · Twitter ·