The Hands That Built America…. or Love an Immigrant Day

This weekend we drove down to San Diego for a Mute Math concert, and returned via Orange County… yes, the famous O.C., California. We saw some cool stuff, and were honored to drop in on some great friends at North Hills Church. In the early morning, we were surprised to spot oil wells pumping away on the sun-kissed hills, and our time in the mall revealed a stack of businesses that ‘made it big’ from California. Yup, there’s something about the soil here, it grows things big… I’ve felt like a giant in Asia, but I’ve never felt particularly short – I did this weekend trying to see Mute Math over a seven foot person was a challenge I was up for. This is an ironic comment given the Giants were one of the two superbowl teams this weekend.

I got to thinking about oil fields, and the building of America – and the dynamics of this land –Pilgrims seeking religious freedom, and American Indians that helped them grow crops in sandy soil; the Tobacco farmers and the slave trade; the Civil War between States and the diversity of the various state cultures; Ellis Island and all the successive waves of immigrants that made America what it is today. U2 have a beautiful song ‘The Hands That Built America’ –  I think because they were Irish (as we are I guess in ancestry), they couldn’t help but see the Irish wherever they went. Of course, the international career of U2 was launched from America, and the Joshua Tree shows the influence USA had on the band too.

This song is from a movie primarily about NYC, but we’re on the West Coast, so are enjoying the warm sunny Winter and learning Californio mission culture (Spanish missions mixed with Native American culture), each settlement a day’s journey from the next, in a winding line up the coast from San Diego to San Francisco. We walked through Old Town on Saturday morning, savouring Americana… and enjoying the Mexican food, wow.

I think the principal is still the same…. the diversity in L.A. is astounding. This weekend, we saw Aussie wherever we went – in Brea’s shopping mall there were Aussie flags hanging up for the Aussie chain ‘Cotton On’– of course, they don’t market themselves like this in Australia, so it shocked us, we were sure they were British. Our friend Doug mentioned they have been smart to capitalize on their origin (as a sidenote, I’m not sure how much is Australian about Cotton On, I’m hoping they pay their Chinese employees fairly – I’m SO willing to be wrong on this small hunch, but cheap cotton is an interesting concept). And L.A. is such a melting pot of all different places, it’s potentially possible to come from anywhere in the world and see your part of the world in the city…

So, I’ve christened today ‘Love an Immigrant Day’…. a fantastic missiologist M. Daniel Carroll Rodas talks about the metaphor within Hebrews, about the spirituality of the sojourner. He outlines the life of an immigrant –  lack of certainty, insecurity, administration and bureaucratic lines that must be crossed, the financial cost, the day-to-day challenges, lingual barriers and the sometimes heart-wrenching homesickness. I think that the USA has much to be proud of – and Australia can learn from this nation’s story. For every immigrant that has entered Australia, there is a person with talents, dreams, and loved ones, taking a risk that may mean they lose everything they’ve ever known – including their identity. Here’s to immigrants.

Here’s a link to the old-skool U2 video:

Oh my love 
It’s a long way we’ve come 
From the freckled hills to the steel and glass canyons 
From the stony fields, to hanging steel from the sky 
From digging in our pockets, for a reason not to say goodbye 

These are the hands, that build America.

I last saw your face in a watercolour sky 
As sea birds argued a long goodbye 
I took your kiss on the spray of the new line star 
You gotta live with your dreams 
Don’t make them so hard, oh. 

And these are the hands, that built America. America. 

Of all of the promises 
Is this one we could keep? 
Of all of the dreams 
Is this one still out of reach?

It’s early fall, there’s a cloud on the New York sky line. 
Innocence, dragged across a yellow line. 

These are the hands that built America.

2 thoughts on “The Hands That Built America…. or Love an Immigrant Day

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