While I am only the grandchild and great-grandchild of immigrants, a certain amount of my ancestors' values rubbed off on me.
First and foremost they believed in knowledge. It could have been knowledge about anything - a trade, the natural world, a language, history, politics, mathematics. Being free young people, we could pretty much choose our fields of interest. "Study hard and be smart," they might have said. "Smarter than we are." When we began to surpass them in book learning, they would tease us by calling us "Professor," or "Doctor," often in Italian, but their faces also beamed with pride and joy.
None of my grandparents went beyond the 8th grade, and my parents only graduated from high school, although my father had "some college." Even though they were all staunch Catholics, I never heard them speak of creationism, or doubt the theory of evolution. Science and medicine were practically worshiped. History took the silver medal; we were from a culture that was 2700 years old, after all. And speaking well, utilizing good grammar and elegant words, earned even more kudos. It was shameful to be ignorant. Better to keep silent rather than betray your own stupidity.
Now, however, in the dangerously right wing Republican Party, there has somehow grown up a pride in ignorance, misinformation, and lack of awareness. Even so radical a commentator as William Kristol warned the New Know Nothings in 2006 in The Weekly Standard against "turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know-Nothing party..." adding, "It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?”
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