Cal Thomas’ Feb. 7 column is technically correct: Conservatives have always opposed hyphenated Americanism. For self-proclaimed conservatives, anyone of white, Protestant, European ancestry, whether English, Scottish, Scots-Irish, German, Dutch, Scandinavian etc., was just “American.” Everyone else was subhuman; so people of African, Asian, American Indian, non-Protestant ancestry etc. could not be hyphenated Americans, as they could not be assimilated.
Thus black people could be slaves — and the minority of “free” black people were only marginally better legally than slaves — but never even hyphenated Americans. Conservatives went to war to prevent even the possibility that black Americans could gain hyphenation, much less assimilation. Post-Civil War segregation was just slavery under another name and, in some ways, was more vicious than slavery for nonhyphenated black Americans.
Indians could be massacred or driven off nonhyphenated Americans’ lands, never assimilated.
Chinese immigrants could help build the West, notably the first transcontinental railroad (reportedly averaging one Chinese death per mile of track), but afterward were packed into ghettos or massacred (for some Chinese workers, their last paycheck was a bullet and a mass grave), never hyphenated/assimilated.
Japanese Americans were so unhyphenated that they could be hauled off to concentration camps in World War II despite the U.S. Constitution.
The Catholic Irish and Italians could be denied even hyphenation — and entry to many businesses — until enough Protestant “conservatives” decided to make them “white” in order to oppose the dark-skinned hordes. Hyphenated Irish and Italians today are a reminder of how Thomas’ ideological brethren long treated them as second-class citizens.
Until recently, LGBT Americans could be imprisoned simply because they did not fit religious conservatives’ ideal of assimilated Americans. Despite four “conservative” Supreme Court justices’ hysterical, anti-First Amendment votes, LGBTs are now “hyphenated,” as Thomas might put it.
Many conservatives now deny Muslim Americans assimilation by trying to strip their First Amendment rights.
Finally, “right-wingers” always imply hyphenation in dividing us between “conservative-Americans” and “liberal-Americans.” Yet some popular “conservative” ideals are actually quite radical in terms of U.S. history, such as no regulations of businesses, while some “liberal” ideals are actually conservative, such as environmentalism and the founding principle of church-state separation. The former used to be called conservation — conserving basic common goods, such as nonpoisoned air, war and land — while the latter restricts all governments’ power to interfere in what most people consider a vitally important right.
So it’s radical “right-wingers” like Thomas and his fellow pundits who keep hyphenating Americans, even as they denounce “identity politics.” The only legal national motto, E Pluribus Unum, is anti-right-wing. Cal and other cry-baby “right-wingers,” take the gigantic hyphen out of your eyes before you criticize the motes of “liberals.”
William Sierichs Jr.