myfather came to America from the Lombardy region of Italy in December 1907, my mother in March 1920. They met, were married and raised three sons here. There was never a question in either of their minds that they had made a mistake or that this wasn’t the best of all possible places in which to live, work and raise a family.
Dad served in the Army during the First World War, my brothers in the Second World War, and I during the Korean War. We are now a third generation immigrant family striving for the American dream in a country populated by other immigrants from perhaps every other country in the world who came here for the same reason: to make a better life for themselves.
As the youngest member of the first American-born generation in my family and having enjoyed watching the second generation grow, mature, and produce the third generation (which is about to produce the fourth generation), I can truthfully say, “I’m glad they decided to immigrate.” That is, except when I visit the family in Italy and enjoy the pace of their lifestyle with the beauty of the lake country area around Como.
It is interesting to listen to how my Italian family views America and some of the strange things “you Americans do.” I always hasten to inform them that although I was born an American, I am Italian, too. Our mutual ancestry is planted in Italian soil— we’ve lost track of the number of generations entombed there.
One thing that my Italian family finds strange with America concerns God—not the worship of him, for they are aware that more Americans attend Church regularly than do Italians—but what they consider is the strange “lack of respect for God by the government and for public prayer with America’s odd separation of church and state doctrine.” It’s a moral issue.
Laws against public prayer to them is doubly strange when they see on the CNN TV news that the law-makers in Washington begin their sessions with a prayer and that our money has “In God we Trust” printed on it. Even the naturalization oath concludes with the declaration that the person takes “this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God.” Maybe these will be the ACLU’s next targets tode-godify America. Not to worry. Karl Marx tried to do the same with Communism. However, the USSR’s seventy year experiment with a communistic economy and government failed and the churches are still open in every former Communist country.
I assure my Italian family that it is not that Americans don’t pray in public or that there is not a Christian morality here. While there is public prayer, it is not done in schools or most public government sponsored functions. However, in our society religion and prayer have become an increasingly private matter.
Many Americans feel that the courts’ interruption of the separation of church and state doctrine is a scandal which has led to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice. Some people see the press in general as an un-godly element that manipulates public opinion with an agenda to turn America, and especially the next generation of Americans, away from Christian moral values.
In sociologist Alan Wolfe’s book, Moral Freedom, he uses a combination of opinion polls and interviews to show that the attempt to change Christian moral values is not working. While this year’s college graduates are very career-money oriented, they are also concerned about morality. But they want to determine for themselves how to construct a moral life.“There is a moral majority in America,” Wolfe writes. “It just … wants to make up its own mind.”
Perhaps much has changed in the moral standards of Americans since my parents came here looking for “the good life.” As John Adams, the second president of the United States, observed: “Democracy never lasts long. I t soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Are we strangling ourselves with stupid laws that squeeze life from the majority while claiming to protect a few in the minority? Perhaps. One thing for sure, we are a strange group to the rest of the world with all our flaws, but as we celebrate our “independence”, we are still the magnet for immigrants.
God bless America!
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