Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More on "Born American"

Regarding my article, "Born American, but in the Wrong Place," a reader comments:

What if somebody was born in America and felt that he was born in the wrong place? Then you guys would be all over this person proclaiming him to be dangerously unpatriotic. So, perhaps the idea of being born in the wrong place is just plain silly. Isn’t Peter Schramm’s self-congratulary piece on being born in the wrong place a slap in the face to all Hungarians who decided to stay and try to defend the country and improve it? After all, they were born in the same place as Schramm and his father. Certainly, things weren’t easy for those who decided to stay and fight. Maybe "born American, but in the wrong place" was just a euphemism for "I give up. We’ll do what’s easier for us, let others decide the fate of our homeland." Why not stay, fight the Communists at every turn, and work for a Hungary that follows the American model?

…I think such "born in the wrong place" claims could simply be used as convenient justifications for disengaging oneself in shaping the future of one’s native country. If it’s all about "accepting an idea(l) as the basis for a political regime," well, those ideas and ideals can and do change. I see "born in the wrong place" as the flipside to the ignorant "America: love it or leave it" mentality.

A response: I fought the communists at every turn after we left, both here and there; and I returned in the Fall of 1989 (and following) to help finish the job, and we did. I am not in debt to Hungary and the Hungarians. I paid and so have "my people" over the centuries. They tried liberalization innumerable times in their history (not only 1956, but 1820’s, 1830’s, 1848, etc). They always failed. The costs were great. Your great-grandfather is a slave, your grandfather is a political prisoner, as is your father. Your family starves. You remain human. You help those who are even worse off than you. You save a few Jews here and there, you risk yourself and yours. You sacrifice a family member here and there. You think, you brood, you act; you always hope and pray. How many generations of this can you take before you "give up?" How many generations before you become one of them (fascists, Nazis, Communists, monarchists, etc), just to feed your family and have a modicum of peace and tranquility in your life? How many generations of noble action are required before you pay your dues? How many generations of sacrifice before you admit that you are not an angel but merely a man? How many generations of slaughter before you say it is more important to be a human being than a "Hungarian"? How many wars do you have to lose--how many souls debased or extinguished--before you say enough? This is why we all want to come here, and no one (almost no one) ever leaves. God bless this people, and the things for which they stand, and may the country live just so long as there is a mankind. And I am not going to apologize for my love of your people and that on which their freedom is built.

Discussions - 16 Comments

The "reader" seems to diggin’ real hard for some convenient excuse to diss what conservatives, like Schramm, so firmly believe America stands for. For folks like the "reader." they’ll never get it.

One of the reasons America has been the light of the world is that the very best of foreign peoples - those of an independent spirit not content to be ruled by tyrants, apparatchiks, or greasy palmed bureaucrats - emigrate here and start again. Their talents employed here have helped destroy tyrannies over there, time and time again. Leaving for America is not fleeing, it is grasping the larger hope.

One of our duties to mankind is to refuse to be servile. This refusal might mean taking up arms, it might mean going to prison or camps, or it might mean leaving a tyranny so as not to be implicated in its misrule by silent consent. America is fortunate in her enemies. Oppressive states of every stripe continue to make a gift of their best and brightest to us. These are the best of all immigrants. They stiffen the backbone of Americans who may not appreciate what we have here, and they help us destroy or degrade the tyrannies who sent them.

It’s sort of hard to critique Mr. Schramm’s piece - which, at this point, seems to be popping up in about every other thread; even in this post we got a link to the "Born American"-referencing op-ed for some reason - without it being seen or interpreted as something personal. It’s his personal story, after all, and people tend to be defensive with those.

Regarding the idea put forth in your reply to the reader that "it is more important to be a human being than a ’Hungarian’," I would agree and add that it is also more important to be a human being than an American.

"Regarding the idea put forth in your reply to the reader that "it is more important to be a human being than a ’Hungarian’," I would agree and add that it is also more important to be a human being than an American."- C. Scanlon 7/12/06

Then it must seem that most Americans are human beings and therefore their land is a magnet for those yearning to be human beings.

The Scanlon fellow, who’s somehow managed to get a 2x4 wedged up his rear-end, impolitely gasps "It’s his personal story, after all, and people tend to be defensive with those."

Methinks this Scanlon fellow looks ridiculous the way he walks, too. :)

There are only 4 types of people:

1. Americans;

2. Those who want to be Americans;

3. Those who used to want to be Americans but have given up; and,

4. Those who don’t know enough to want to be Americans. Oh, and some of the people in categories 3 and 4 live within the geographical boundries of the U.S.A. and most of those who live here were born here.

my love of your people

Peter, You aren’t "us" yet? What does it take?

And to that reader, If it’s all about "accepting an idea(l) as the basis for a political regime," well, those ideas and ideals can and do change Not for some of us or even many of us, (oh, I do hope it is many) who love the place for the original idea(l) and try to live as if it will never change. And wm. is quite right.


I agree and I agree.

Peter, shame on you for referring to "your people." You are as much one of US as any, and more so than many.

Wm, you ought to be a speech writer. Well said!

They are his people, folks. States of mind and two generations in North America cannot wipe out thousands of years of ethnic history. Indeed, it is not conservative to expect people to leave behind the "little platoons" that gave them birth and mom and dad, you love and hate them at the same time, but regardless they are yours by blood and history.

What is an American? Someone who is willing to join this new tribe that is glued together by ideas and a common fate, and to give it precedence over his/her mother tribe. This is why millions of Americans have an affinity for the Brits, why America is the biggest source of support for the IRA, and why FDR engaged in internment camps...ties of blood will never be lacking in our polyglot nation. We just need to teach people to love America as much as they love their kin...hard to do, and the main reason why we need to be much more careful about immigration. There is a thing called homophily, and it matters a great deal.

Dr. Schramm- I have a question for you, if you will indulge me. I suspect that your clever rhetoric conceals an interesting perspective of an immigrant. That is, no matter how long one might live in the United States or how closely they study and appreciate the Founding ideals, there is always a sense of awe and seperation for an immigrant. Let me be clearer and actually ask a question: What does an immigrant think of when they read "We the people?"

What if somebody was born in America and felt that he was born in the wrong place? Then you guys would be all over this person proclaiming him to be dangerously unpatriotic.

Not if he left. That’s one of the nice things about America--if you don’t like it here, no one tries to stop you from leaving.

To Allan Carey: "We the people" includes us former non-citizens; something like what the ancient regime used to call "nation" (but of course not really, because it has nothing to do with birth; see the etymology of "nation"). There is certainly a sense of awe because of our experience, which is, quite frankly--let’s just say--more in the realm of necessity and contingency than what a native born American generally experiences. I never cease to be amazed at how good things are here (and I do not mean essentially material, of course), how enlivened we are, how one chooses so much, how one is able to freely move and walk and run and work and play and pray, how good and free one can be. I can make the comparison easier than one who has not had this other experience. There is no separation, in my opinion because of the closer connection of this regime to that which is human. When I say "you Americans" I’m playing with you, taking advantage, making a joke, wearing a mask; a very American thing. I’m talking to myself. And, yup, as one of my interlocutors implies, folks come here because they want to be more human, or more fully human, or closer to being human. Something like that. And they also know that in a certain way they cannot simply lose their past, their former culture. And that’s O.K. That’s why life is harder here. The American way demands more from you. It demands that you give fewer excuses about your present predicamnent by blaming the habits of your grandparents. It forces you to be good and free on your own. You Americans aim higher. O.K., O.K. We Americans aim higher. We the people aim higher.

That’s better.

Just because you wish to make a change in your life, it’s a "slap in the face" to those around you who do not?

That’s what’s really ’wrong’ with America. We dare to be different and have different views and opinions than the rest of the world. We’re the ’new’ kids on the block, so we’re resented by the old, established families.

But, there are a lot of ’Americans born in the wrong places’, all over the world.

A laborer, working on a new highway here in Afghanistan, when thanked by us for his work, simply said, "I have to work, and rebuild. It is my country. We will make it better."

He may have no aspirations to ever come to America, but he is an American.

Many, many people around the world are Americans, whether they decide to stay where they are and do their best job for family or country, or whether they decide to emigrate to America itself.

That’s the key. The old ways are defined by entrenched habit and looking to the past with sadness. The new ways are defined by new habits, designed for new times, and look to the future with hope.

Dr. Schramm- Thank you. That was exactly what I had hoped you provide. I think your analysis and explanation are spot on.

Peter Schramm puts it best in his article "Born American...." than I have ever read, heard or seen. It is in the style of Lincoln, if I may say. It "feels" to me very Lincoln.

Peter Schramm is right. As a legal immigrant of sixty years, naturalized citizen for forty years,I too came to his conclusions thirty years ago. The difference is that I was a small child when I came so my attachments to the
"old country" were never very deep.

For Post #4, you cannot seem to "get it".
The article is not negative in any way, it is as it is. Life if funny that way.

Post #11..."Me".

I have spent over three decades developing my own philosophy to live by. I also used the word "human" to describe what homo sapiens should aspire to. It is the very hardest work. It requires no self victimization, total acceptance of personal responsibility for words and deeds. But it does in fact make us different. We are only, after all, less than three hundred years old as a country, our philosophy around five thousand.But, if anyone doubts that the Greco/Judeo/Christian philosophy has not been successful, then there is absolutely nothing anyone can say or do to alter that perception.

In my philosophy, 95% of the world’s population are not free. About 2.5% live in considerable more freedom than the other 95%. But most important, the remaing 2.5% live right here in America and are the freest of all! No one has said America was or is perfect. No one has said we don’t have a lot of work still to do. But many have disliked and/or hated us because we are the freest people on Earth. They dislike or hate us because we have choices (although we may not always choose well)
they wish they had and cannot see any way to obtain the freedom of choice.

The current Isreal vs. Hezoblah clearly shows what happens to a country when they are forced to appease their enemies. Hezoblah cannot guarantee it’s people anything but terrorism nor can the Muslim or Arab world, so to destroy Isreal, a beacon in their midst to better things, is the only solution.

We need to understand that there is a vast difference between being human or homo sapien. Homo sapiens are guided by the "old brain" rather than the cerebrum. Therein lies the important difference and for some homo sapiens there may be no choice but to be just a homo sapien.

I wish to give Kudos to Winds of for providing the link to Peter Schramms article.

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