The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 20, 2013

Home is where the heart is

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Patriotic songs stir us, inspire us, excite us, spawn within our breasts a war feeling of nationalstic pride.

They also, it seems, make us cranky, at least those of us who utilize Twitter.

 Latin singing sensation Marc Anthony drew the ire of many in the Twitterverse for his performance of “God Bless America” during baseball’s All-Star Game this past Tuesday in New York.

Critics questioned the wisdom of having a foreign-born person sing the song made famous by Kate Smith in the 1930s.

Of course, the twits weren’t quite that polite. “Why the (expletive deleted) is a (racial slur deleted) singing ‘God Bless America,’ read one tweet, while another read “Nothing like having a Mexican sing ‘God Bless America,’ what the (expletive deleted).” Anthony was slammed with a colorful variety of racial slurs and was called un-American.

The incident brought back memories of last month, when 11-year-old mariachi singer Sebastien De La Cruz drew critical tweets after singing the national anthem prior to game three of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat in San Antonio.

“This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he singing the anthem,” read one tweet, obviously penned by an English major. Another read “This kid is Mexican, why is he singing the national anthem?” I added the comma and question mark. Tweeters don’t bother with punctuation.

They also, apparently, don’t bother with facts, either. Anthony is not Mexican, he is of Puerto Rican descent. And he is not Puerto Rican, either. He was born in New York, in East Harlem.

Marc Anthony is an American.

The Tweety Birds did get one thing right about young De La Cruz, a contestant on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” in 2012. His family hails from Mexico. But he is a proud son of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas.

Sebastien De La Cruz is an American.

But what if they weren’t? What if both were immigrants? What does it matter?

There is a great hue and cry these days over immigration. How do we control the flow of humanity wanting to legally seek refuge here? How do we deal with those who have come here illegally?

The man who wrote “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin, was born Israel Isidore Beilin in 1888 near Mogilev in the then-Russian Empire, an area today known as Belarus. He became a naturalized citizen in 1916.

Irving Berlin was an immigrant. To follow the logic of the twits who blasted Anthony and De La Cruz, how dare he write a patriotic song?

We are a nation of immigrants. Everyone is from somewhere else, even natives whose ancestors came over on the land bridge from eastern Siberia.

There is great consternation about the role of immigrants in today’s society, about the stress they put on our infrastructure.

How do immigrants benefit America?

It is safe to say Albert Einstein made a pretty significant contribution to America after he came here from Germany. Andrew Carnegie helped build this country after he moved to this country from Scotland.

Newswoman Christiane Amanpour is an immigrant, as is actor Will Arnett. Actors Antonio Banderas and Michael Caine are immigrants, as are rockers Carlos Santana, Jackson Browne and Tommy Lee.

Actress Natalie Portman is an immigrant, so is celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and baseball slugger Albert Pujols.

Talk show maven Jerry Springer is an immigrant, as are director M. Night Shyamalan, rocker Eddie Van Halen, and actresses Charlize Theron and Mila Kunis.

Famed immigrants of the past include actor Dezi Arnaz, millionaire John Jacob Astor, naturalist and artist John James Audubon and civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. Cary Grant was an immigrant, as were Audrey Hepburn, William Penn and Joseph Pulitzer.

What is more American than football? One of the game’s most famous coaches, Knute Rockne, was an immigrant.

One of America’s finest scientific and technical accomplishments was landing men on the moon. That wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of pioneering rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, an immigrant.

Students of American history all learn of the Revolutionary War naval exploits of John Paul Jones, who led his ship “Bonhomme Richard,” into battle against the British fleet and uttered the immortal words “I have not yet begun to fight.” John Paul Jones was an immigrant.

One of America’s most beloved patriotic songs, “Yankee Doodle,” was written in England and originally used to mock American troops.

Even “My Country Tis of Thee” has English roots, given that it shares a tune with British anthem “God Save the Queen.”

In the end it doesn’t matter where you were born, it’s where your heart lies.

By the way, God bless America, if you can accept it from someone of Irish-German bloodlines.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.