Great Falls Tribune from Great Falls, Montana on December 22, 2007 · Page 8
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Great Falls Tribune from Great Falls, Montana · Page 8

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Saturday, December 22, 2007
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PAGE 8, SECTION A GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE X WWW.GREATFALLSTRIBUNE.COM For comment!, tips or correction: tr "T"T" I 1 "TXT "fX TT T fll "N Edl,or,al mi (ur opinion) Call Managing Editor Gary Moseman, 1 I I i 1 1 A I If 1 I V I I I lLl Jim Strauss, President & Publisher 406-791-1465 or 800-438-6600, 1 I W ll' Kl II I Gary Moseman, Managing Editor or e-mail the editorial board at V I I 1 1 V V I 1 f I I 1 I L 1 Karen Ogden, Enterprise Editor triblettersgreattallstrlbune.com Y JL 1 A f T JL JL 1 FV-X Mike Grale, Production Director Assimilation is what makes us 'one nation, one people' By MICHAEL SMERC0NISH I have gotten used to being asked: "So what kind of a name is that?" My simplest and most accurate answer is "Eastern European." Pinpointing my heritage gets difficult in light of a few name changes. Take my dad's side of the family. Mildred Walker, my paternal grandmother, was born Carmella Vaccaro. Her family, who were from a town called Lungro in Calabria, Italy, became the Walkers in the United States. She led her life as Millie Walker until she married Wasil Smerconish, whose family came from somewhere in Austria-Hungary. His name had been changed from Smer-akanich. Still, the census takers couldn't get it straight. In three consecutive censuses beginning in 1900, it was recorded as Smerakowitz, Smerakanos and Smerkovitch. Mom's side is more straightforward. The Grujichiches were from Yugoslavia. But they, too, changed to Grovich when they passed under Lady Liberty. And there is hardly anything unique in that. My family's willingness to change its name was just part of their assimilation process, one that began at Ellis Island. But today I see evidence of that process in retreat, as the Smiths, Jones and Wilsons are quickly being displaced by the Garcias, Rodriguezes and Martinezes. A recently released analysis of U.S. Census data compiled in 2000 found that we have to change our ideas (if we have any) about what constitutes an "American" surname. Among the most common surnames, two Hispanic names Garcia (No. 8) and Rodriguez (No. 9) cracked the top 10, a first according to many demographers. Martinez advanced eight spots to No. 1 1, barely behind Wilson. (The data made no distinction between those here legally and illegally.) The influx of Hispanic names has been swift: Between the 1990 and 2000 census analyses, Garcia jumped 10 spots, while Rodriguez moved up 13. There are six Hispanic names among the top 25 double the number in the previous compilation. The increased frequency of Hispanic names is, no doubt, due in part to unprecedented immigration. An analysis of census data conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies revealed that 10.3 million new immigrants have come to the United States over the last seven years more than any other seven-year period in our country's history. It is estimated that more than half came illegally. Today, one out of every eight people living here is an immigrant good for an estimated total of almost 38 million. That many of those 38 million are arriving with their names intact may illustrate the main difference between today's immigrant and those who arrived at the turn of the last century. The Smerakowitz, Vaccaro and Grujichich families arrived prepared to do whatever it took to be "American," even if that meant updating the spelling of their names every 10 years. While they did not forget where they came from, they were anxious to follow immigration laws, to team the English language, and to become a legitimate, moving part of the economy. The result was the oft-cited image of the United States as a melting pot. But today, we've stopped melting. Or as former presidential adviser and candidate Pat Buchanan recently told me: "The melting pot is cracked and broken." What has changed? The issue is not that too many Hispanic names are finding their way over the border. It's what happens or doesn't happen once they arrive. I know I'm not alone in my belief that today's immigrants those here both legally and illegally are not assimilating the way my forefathers did when they arrived. And before I'm shouted down as a xenophobe, hear me out. My intent isn't to amplify the shrill debate surrounding illegal immigration. What I'm interested in is defending the tradition to which my grandparents adhered: the one that led them to a new name and a better life in this country. I fear we are leaving it behind. Something else Buchanan told me struck a chord. "We all want to be proud of our ethnic groups," he said. "It is when we diverse people became one new people that we became strong, that we became Americans, that America became great. "It is when we came together as one that we became a united and great nation. So ... I'm not denying people the right to their roots; they ought to be proud of them. But we ought to celebrate the fact that we are a new nation, one nation, one people, we are Americans." He's right. And it's the reason I find no fault with those who want the same for the Garcias as we did for the Grujichiches. And the Vaccaros, as well as the Walkers. Michael Smerconish writes a weekly column lor the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may contact him via the Web at www.mastalk.com. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR On our minds: Federal pork, school fights, good food Pork, national debt I couldn't help but notice the December 18 Tribune headlines reporting on the $1 12 million Montana received as part of the omnibus $516 billion spending bill. All three of our members of Congress touted their efforts to retain these earmarks for the people of Montana. I guess we should be thankful for this? However, I also noticed an article stashed in the back part of the sports section citing that the government is promising $45 trillion more than it can deliver on Social Security, Medicare, and other benefit programs. This is the projected shortfall between what our government has promised in benefits versus its projected revenue stream to fund these promises over the next 75 years. When we are thanking our congressional delegation for their procurement of pork on our behalf, we should also keep in mind that they are charging these projects on our public credit card, adding to the growing national debt. There is a huge difference between the annual federal . deficit we always hear about and the growing federal debt. Our government routinely spends more than it collects on an annual basis, which is the deficit. The federal debt is the Daisy's Deli accumulation of all these years of deficit spending plus interest. Using accepted accounting, some feel the real 2006 deficit was around 1.3 trillion dollars, not the reported $248 billion. The national debt as reported by the Treasury Department is currently around $9.1 trillion. Keep in mind that this is accumulating with compounded interest. Wake up America! Randy Kuiper, Great Falls School fighting I wanted to state what a very insightful, intelligent column about fighting written by Meghan 0"Dell, teen panelist. Many years ago, growing up in Butte, I was rather short, unlike now where I tower at 5'8 and 332" (notice how we vertically challenged squeeze the measurement to the nearest ten-thousandths of an inch.) I fought a lot. During the ninth grade, circa 1969, 1 could overpower everyone in class except two people. One was the female class bully, the other an old flame, neither known for fair fighting. Many years later the reasons for fighting remain the same and just as stupid. So for those that keep fighting, we will meet, but probably not at church. I'm a nurse at Benefis and also at the Juvenile Detention Center. So for those that use their fists instead of their minds, I'll be seeing you. Ralph A Moody, Great Falls The article last week about the new restaurant called the Health Food Cafe stated that it was the only health food restaurant in town. That is not correct. Daisy's Deli and the accompanying Health Food Shop at 508 1st Ave. N. has been around for at least five years and has wonderful healthy food and a cozy inviting atmosphere. It is the only restaurant in town that we are aware of that uses as many organic ingredients as possible for breakfast and lunch plus a fabulous array of baked goods. For those who are gluten intolerant, there is rice bread for sandwiches and often baked goods that are out of this world. The staff is friendly and very knowledgeable. Recently one of us stopped by with a cold just starting. Mary Ann suggested an herbal supplement that she said worked like "magic." By that evening the symptoms were virtually gone. Magic it was, and that supplement will stay close at hand this winter. So for healthy delicious meals, a wide variety of supplements and health food plus lots of excellent information, Daisy's Deli & Health Food Shop can't be beat. Sandra Lundstrom. and Kathy Kiser, Great Falls Who's the blackest of them all? Race card complicated in this race WASHINGTON -In the politics of race, black and white isn't so black-and-white anymore. Rather than a matter of skin tone and pigmentation, race has become a question of blackness and whiteness a calculation of attitude, experience and cultural identity. Our first hint that the race card had found a new game was when Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison called BUI Clinton "our first black president." "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, bom poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas." At the risk of contradicting Morrison, but for the sax, those are white-trash tropes. T( ss in a banjo and you've got Deliverance. Nevertheless, Morrison's title stuck and Clinton subsequently was hailed as "First Black President" at the 2001 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Awards Dinner. But if Clinton was the first black president, what would sn i Kathleen "C ramer i a bynaicatea -rr columnist , ; 1 Barack Obama be? As a matter of DNA, Obama is obviously blacker than Clinton, despite being a veiy-dis-tant cousin of Dick Cheney. But, bom to a white mother and a Kenyan father raised in Hawaii and Indonesia Obama doesn't quite fit the profile of black-in-America. It didn't help when civil rights leader and former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young said recently that Bill Clinton is "eveiy bit as black as Barack." Joking, he added, "He's probably gone with more black women than Barack." Talking about race in stereotypical terms is of course risky. Then again, we all know that stereotypes exist because they're often true enough. Besides, where would political pandering be without them? Thus, when Hillary Clinton goes to the 'hood, she tries to slip a little soul in her step. She pulled off a not-bad ghetto head-bobble at a black college in Columbia, S.C., early in the campaign. And nightmares still thrive on her channeling of James Cleveland and his freedom hymn in Selma, Ala., during the 42nd anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday: "I don't feel no ways tahred ... I come too far from where I started from ... " she blared with an accent that was two parts bubba, one part soul sis-tah Nasal T. Lardbottom starring in "The Color Purple." Three blocks away, even Obama felt compelled to loosen his vowels as he invoked civil rights leaders. In Southern states where equal numbers of blacks and whites often turn out for Obama, the former high school basketball player sometimes inserts an extra spring his step. It's subtle, but the "Yo, bro" is there. If blackness is the coin of the Democratic political realm these days, Hillary is richer by virtue of her husband's bona fides. Obama lags behind Hillary even among black women voters, which Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 campaign, has explained as follows: "The way it works is that African-Americans tend to support those they know, and Hillary Clinton, like Bill Clinton, are known commodities." So exactly how does a black man take black women voters from the wife of the first black president? There was only one answer. The Goddess. She Who Needs No Last Name. No one has bridged the racial divide as successfully as Oprah and few people have more street cred among women. Oprah's isn't just a race card. She's a deck of race and gender. She's a casino of transcendence. The pot o' gold 'neath Jesse Jackson's rainbow. Together the double-0 team hit Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina recently, attracting crowds totaling an estimated 66,500. Irony, never far from the political pulpit, politely averted her gaze from the donkey in the stadium: The black woman, whose success is largely owing to her popularity among white women, stumped for the black man in hopes of drawing black women away from the white woman. This race business is complicated. No one, including Obama, doubts that his huge crowds were thanks more to Oprah's star power than to his, as he charmingly acknowledged. He got a rousing ovation when he asked an audience if they'd like to see Oprah as vice president, which was a question perhaps more prescient than merely affectionate. The contest between a black man and white woman for the Democratic nomination is both historic and fascinating to watch. But while Obama and Clinton are the candidates, the race these days seems to be between Bill and Oprah. Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached via e-mail at kparkerkparker.com. Edge Aptly named The subject line in an e-mail news release from the offices of Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said, "Bringing home the bacon," an apt description considering the porkish origin of bacon. , The release goes on to list the almost $112 million in specific Montana projects funded under the omnibus spending bill that passed the House Wednesday night and was under study by President Bush later in the week. Most are exactly the kinds of state-specific projects Bush previously threatened to veto, and he said Thursday that he had ordered his budget director to review the bill before he agrees to sign it. Of course, as we've observed many times before, one person's pork is another person's crucially important project. The crucially important Montana projects are pretty evenly spread around the state. In northcentral Montana, there's more than $9 million for Great Falls (mostly the long-awaited $7 million activity center for Malmstrom Air Force Base); $8.4 million for the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation (housing, a detention center and a large payment in settlement of a longstanding water claim); and hundreds of thousands more each for work, mostly water and wastewater improvements or medical center projects, in Glacier, Pondera, Valley, Toole, Teton, Richland and Roosevelt. Number of the week: 13 That's how many medical centers or hospitals out of 101 entrants were ahead of Chester's Liberty County Hospital and Nursing Home late this week in an online voting competition to get a free MRI unit from Siemens. It's a pretty good showing, and Chester's 15,969 votes put it solidly in the second tier in the competition. Unfortunately, a handful of entrants four as near as we could tell by working our way through the lists are into the six digit range, so if Chester is to win, half the people with online computers in Montana will need to vote. One computer can vote once a day, and you do it by. going to this Web site: www.winanmri.com. Give 'em a shot. By the way, a clinic in Americus, Ga., was leading, with more than 227,000 votes. Bumper sticker of the week Elephants and asses Are conning the masses Seen recently on the South Side Great Falls on a blue Volkswagen minibus with Missoula plates. Quote of the week "My wife and I were wondering why Great Falls keeps landing new national restaurants while Billings is stuck with Olive Garden and Red Lobster." That's Billings businessman Jaime Givens after sampling the fare at a new Great Falls restaurant, Boston's The Gourmet Pizza. The new eatery opened its doors Tuesday. PLEASE WRITE TO US The Tribune publishes all nonli-belous letters it receives on topics of public interest. Each letter must be written and signed by its author for the Tribune only, and not longer than 250 words. Letters should contain the i author's full name, home address and daytime phone number. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, taste and brevity. Readers are welcome to write for publication every 60 days. Write to Great Falls Tribune, P0. Box 5468, Great Falls, MT 59403. Fax us at 406-791-1431 ore-mail us at triblet-tersgreattallstribune.com. Letters to the editor and guest opinions submitted to the Tribune may be published or distributed in print, electronic or other forms. SO FAR THIS YEAR Opinions published in the print edition of the Tribune in 2007: Our opinions 351 Montana guest opinions . . . .232 National guest opinions 307 Syndicated columnists 175 Counterpoints 78 Editorial cartoons 407 Reader letters 1,266 Current letter backlog 24 Registered to chat 5,182 Story chats posted 13,906 t 1 he Buzz Comment on opinions, Today's Question from 1Mand news and sports articles at www. greatfallstribune.comforums

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