“A republic . . . if you can keep it.” So replied Benjamin Franklin when
queried as to whether our young nation was to be a republic or a monarchy.
Yes, a little more than 200 years ago our founding fathers providently
presented future generations of America a gift in the form of the Constitution
of the United States.

Under this revolutionary framework for self-government, our country has
experienced unprecedented and unmatched growth and development and achieved a
position of leadership in the world. The American people have attained a way
of life that even today escapes millions of less fortunate people who are
still living in varying degrees of bondage in other parts of the world.

Not surprisingly, this young nation of seemingly boundless opportunities
became the Mecca for an avalanche of immigrants from the old countries who
hungered for the opportunity to better their condition in life and to live and
work as free men. With some trepidation, but full of hope, they tore
themselves from their families, severed their ties with their native lands and
dared to seek a new and better life for themselves and their children in a
strange new world.

Here they endured privations, sweat shops, suffocating tenement slums,
humiliating indignities and discrimination. But to their credit they never
faltered in their drive to become Americanized. Through hard work, sacrifice
and perseverance they saw their children climb the educational ladder to
become part of mainstream America, to achieve prominent positions in every
phase of American life. Their success personified the American dream in which
people, regardless of their origin, cultural differences or religious beliefs,
were forged together in the common pursuit of simply living together in peace,
tolerant of each other’s differences.

Tragically, however, there are destructive forces among us today bent on
shattering the American dream and turning it into an American nightmare.
Extremists are instigating the splintering of America into racial, cultural
and ethnic enclaves. They persist in their efforts, despite the glaring and
tragic example of Bosnia, where warring ethnic and religious factions wreak
death, destruction and misery on their former neighbors.

These extremists, under the guise of building pride and self-esteem in
students, have convinced eager-to-please heads of education departments to
teach Spanish-speaking students in bilingual classes where the primary
language for instruction is Spanish, not English. Black students are being
taught “Afro-centric” studies and many schools are offering multicultural
programs that separate students by race and ethnicity; a far cry from the
melting pot envisioned by our founding fathers!

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, these curricula, presumably instituted
to help minority students achieve parity with other students, serve only to
widen the wedges between races and nationalities. Most tragic of all, these
curricula deprive students of an opportunity to compete on equal terms in
mainstream America.

The time has come to stop bashing each other, shed our guilt complex, and
stop trying to atone and compensate for injustices visited upon earlier
generations that were not of our doing. Since the beginning of time, the world
has seen a continuing narrative of death, destruction, subjugation and
annihilation of one people by another. How far back in history must we travel
to thoroughly cleanse ourselves of these inhumanities?

The time has come to disavow the seething invectives of these ministers of
hatred who travel freely across our land, stirring up racial animosity and
denouncing our system of government, while all the while they enjoy the
luxuries of the finest lifestyles America has to offer. Where else in the
world would they be so tolerated?

Yes, by all means, let us encourage the nourishing and treasuring of our
diversity of cultures, but let us reject this fomenting of separate racial and
ethnic communities.

As we enter the third century under our constitutional government, we find
an America beset with many problems. Yet, America still is looked upon as the
promised land by the less fortunate in the world who are willing to risk their
lives for a share of the American dream.

The melting pot concept of assimilating our many races and cultures into a
uniquely American race and culture remains the best assurance for the
preservation of our way of life for ourselves, our children and future
generations. Let us not turn the American dream into an American nightmare.

Mario Battista, born in Italy, lives in Port Richey, Pasco County.

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