Column: A little more serious topic

Where I grew up, I often heard people negatively commenting about folks from other ethnic origins. In fact, when I met my then future wife, and first realized we would have an ethnically mixed-marriage, the problems we would potentially face were real.

Nick Jacobs

Her family was 100% Ukrainian, but even they would admit they could have been identified as Austrian, Polish, Russian, or any number of other ethnicities. That fact was based upon whichever century the country’s borders were being defined.

When the Irish bishops prohibited them from speaking Ukrainian in their services, they had become Ukrainian Orthodox, a church that was not under the Pope. That religious split was so intense that members of my father-in-law’s family actually stopped speaking to each other for decades.

When my soon-to-be wife at that time brought an Italian/English, Catholic boy home, she was very concerned about her parents. Would they accept me? Would they have irreparable concerns about my ethnicity, my religion, or my hippie-like mustache and wire-framed glasses? Those were all unknowns. Thankfully, we became the best of friends.

I guess I just don’t understand intolerance. If you dare to allow your DNA to be analyzed by 23&Me or, the vast majority of us will see the amazing amount of connectivity that we have with the rest of the world. It’s not like, as a species, we haven’t been cross pollinating for thousands of years. Don’t kid yourself, we have.

I was shocked at first to see that I had relatives from Germany and Sweden, but then I saw that somehow I also had relatives from Albania. Why was I shocked? Because all I’d ever heard of was my relatives from Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland. Then, when I dug deeper, I found relatives all over the place. Once transportation was invented, people moved around a lot.

Every culture, every nationality, every country has its good and it’s not so good customs, traditions, beliefs, and foods. I ate baked beans in Nigeria, London and the Netherlands for breakfast. I passed on the Rocky Mountain Oysters in Colorado and cow brains in Eastern Pennsylvania, but do any of you remember the meat counters in the 1950’s where pigs feet were always there for making Studenina (pickled pigs feet)? How about the head cheese? Now those snouts, ears, tongues and whatever else are just ground into your lunch meats or hot dogs.

I just find it interesting that we, as a country and geography have so readily rejected immigrants recently from places like Syria, Africa or Afghanistan. We all have had foreign friends. Maybe we just didn’t know how foreign? One of my friends was Syrian, Sicilian and Irish. All three of those nationalities had their share of terrorists, and she was a feisty, wonderful 4’11” tall American domestic terrorist who worked for a Congressman.

Well, today the announcement came that of the 41,362,393 people who had been living in Ukraine, we have agreed to allow 100,000 into the United States. That’s only 313,623 people short of 1 percent of their population. Oh, and I forgot to mention, for those isolationist bigots, these folks are predominately white Christians. In a country where, for the first time, our deaths have outnumbered our births, and where our landscape is decorated with help wanted signs, I say why not welcome refugees?

This country was built from the ground up by immigrants from all over the world. Many of them came due to labor shortages, and when they came, they assimilated into a mixing pot of ethnicities that have contributed to making America the wonderful country it is. Yes, it’s easy for me, a semi-retired former teacher, arts manager, tourism bureau executive, hospital president, research institute CEO, consultant, author and professional bird feeder, to take this stand, but I am. If you really believe it would be better to be in an ethnically cleansed environment, try Russia.

This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Nick Jacobs column on accepting different ethinicities