Have you ever pondered whether the most patriotic Americans are those who are born here or those who chose to live here?
I have wondered it on occasion. I’m doing so right here and now.
You must understand where I’m coming from.
I am the grandson of immigrants. All four of my grandparents chose to move right after the turn of the 20th century from southeastern Europe to the United States of America to search for a better life.
All of them found that better life.
My dad’s parents were John and Katina Kanelis. My mom’s parents were George and Diamandoula Filipu. You know about my Yiayia and my Papou John. I’ve written about them both.
Indeed, my Yiayia was among the greatest Americans I’ve ever encountered. She died 38 years ago on the Fourth of July, 1978. Given her unabashed love for the United States of America, it seemed only fitting that she would depart this world on our nation’s birthday.
Remembering a great American
I remember all of them during this Independence Day weekend mostly because of who they were and the families they brought into this world. I also remember them because of the current political climate in the United States, which to my mind and heart has turned toxic as it relates to immigrants.
I know what you’re thinking: Hey, man, we’re talking about illegal immigrants, the folks who break U.S. law by coming here without the proper paperwork. And we’re talking about the scoundrels who come here to commit crimes.
True enough. This debate, though, usually has this curious way of morphing into a broader area to include all immigrants. There are those who call themselves “American patriots” who keep insisting that we’ve got enough immigrants in this country. They bristle at the idea that “foreigners” are pouring into the country and are upsetting what they believe is the “unique American culture.”
Actually, what historically has made our culture unique has been our open door. It’s been the principle of welcoming others to our shores.
These days we hear talk about building walls along our southern border. Or about banning people from overseas simply because they worship a certain faith.
What would my grandparents think about that? They would be appalled.
My memories of most of my grandparents are quite vivid; my maternal grandfather died when I was about a month old. All of them became great Americans. They loved their country with as much zeal and passion as anyone who ever was born here … of that I am quite certain.
I know my story isn’t unique. Other immigrants have come here to make their dreams come true. Their descendants are as proud of them as I am of my immigrant grandparents.
He was a great man
My grandparents didn’t achieve greatness in the way we too often measure it. They came here and followed the rules and the laws of their adopted home country.
They were true-blue American patriots.
I will honor them this weekend — and always.