A Hyphenated America?
On this Friday, September 9, 2011, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9-11-01 Islamic Terror bombings, I am proud to be an unhyphenated American.
I am third-generation Italian; my grandparents on both sides landed at Ellis Island in the late 19th and early 20th Century. But I am not an Italian-hyphen-American.
I am a white farm boy from Wisconsin. But I am not a white-hyphen-American farm boy.
I am a United States Marine. But I am not a Marine-hyphen-American.
I am many other things. But first, I am American.
It previously puzzled me, then concerned me, and now has begun to anger me that so many groups in America have chosen to place the hyphen before American, when it should come after -- or not at all.
It upsets me that we have become a hyphenated America.
The term “hyphenated American” actually developed around 1890 and was used for many years to disparage Americans of foreign birth or origin who moved to the United States but still displayed fervent allegiance to a foreign country or ideology.
At that time, it generally referred to German or Irish immigrants who called for U.S. neutrality in World War I.
One of our most beloved U.S. presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, believed that there was no room in America for hyphenated Americanism. Said he in 1915:
“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic.”
President Woodrow Wilson was suspicious of hyphenated Americans. He said, “Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”
Yet in spite of these warnings and others like them, we have become a hyphenated America. On a daily basis, you can hear terms such as Arab-American, Asian-American, African-American, European-American, Latin-American and Native-American. We have Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Russian-Americans, Korean-Americans … ad nauseum.
One the most American of men -- The Duke, John Wayne -- had concerns about the hyphenated American and even wrote a poem about it, “The Hyphen.” In it, he wrote:
“The Hyphen, Webster's Dictionary defines,
Is a symbol used to divide a
compound word or a single word.
So it seems to me that when a man calls himself
An ‘Afro-American,’ a ‘Mexican-American,’
‘Italian-American,’ an ‘Irish-American,’
What he's sayin' is, ‘I'm a divided American.’”
He goes on in the poem to say that although all of us or our ancestors came here from somewhere else, we all have become Americans first.
There is apparently a school of thought that promotes the hyphenated American as a way of creating a sense of unity in America. It has the opposite effect; it promotes division.
At the very least, if a hyphen must be used, it should come after American. So we would have first American, then hyphen-whatever. Perhaps American-Italian.
The same Islamic terrorists who orchestrated the 2001 bombings are still out there, and you can rest assured they will not give up, through terror and through infiltrating our schools, courts, finances and very social structure -- through whatever means we allow them to use. Their goal is to destroy Western civilization and assimilate the entire world into their way of life.
A hyphenated America plays into the hands of our enemy. For the sake of our Republic and our way of life, I hope that 10 years after the most horrific terrorist event on U.S. soil, we can return to the unhyphenated period of American unity that followed, when flags flew and “American” came first.
On this Friday, September 9th, 2011, I am proud to be an unhyphenated American!
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is a regular contributor to PRB and lives in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (678) 350-8642 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.