|Manhattan looked great from the other side|
|Twas a very modular main room--reconfigured|
again and again over the years.
Of course, the history of the US and its immigration is not all peaches and creme. I was glad to see several displays featuring the backlashes against immigration. No, I am not a fan of xenophobia even if it played a key role in the Bill and Steve book (being re-printed as a paperback this August thanks to our pal Putin).
The timing was particularly apt as I recently got into an argument with a Canadian journalist who insisted that the US needed to make Spanish an official language of the US. Given that English is not an official language, this seemed strange to me. Indeed, after ten years in Quebec, I am more firmly convinced that the American strategy is the better one: rather than forcing folks to learn English, the US government lets the market and the society induce people to learn English. The great consistency over the centuries has been this: the first generation may not learn English but the second one will pick up enough and the third will be fluent. Which is why the picture to the right struck me: the many languages people spoke and wrote when they came over. Again, American history is chock full of conflict and the union still needs to be perfected, but there are some good reasons why people still want to move to the United States. I don't think Russia or China have the same pressures caused by people wanting to immigrate. People do indeed vote with their feet.
Maybe I am being overly patriotic because I found this while walking around Ellis Island:
We learned that these panels were not of all immigrants who went through, but those immigrants who entered somewhere and had family members recognize them (pay $, I suppose). Still, the idea that I was standing near where my ancestor came across more than a century ago gave me some chills.
And, of course, maybe it has to do with how beautiful the Lady was yesterday: