If stating “No Human is Illegal” on a 5-foot digital sign board, run under the auspices of Forest Park’s village government, is political speech, then count us in. We’d call it basic decency. A Christian virtue. A declaration of shared humanity.
This happened last week after the same language, included in the Circle Avenue public art project, was defaced for the umpteenth time. While the village and volunteers keep restoring this affirmative message on the bridge, Mayor Rory Hoskins also placed it out of vandals’ reach by posting the message on the sign board at the Community Center for a week.
It was gratifying to see the positive response on social media to the digital sign messaging. Many, who have seemingly felt outside the norm in Forest Park, spoke up with enthusiasm and pride. We share that feeling.
There were, of course, detractors. That’s good. It is an opportunity — ignore the haters, that is a given — for dialogue with people, mainly it seems older, whiter, but the children of European immigrants nonetheless, who feel threatened by a national immigration battle that is both real and also actively ginned up to fuel Trump’s base.
Forest Park is a village of immigrants. How often do we celebrate and recall our German, Italian, Greek and Irish roots with pride, maybe some nostalgia. Let’s revel in it. Every immigrant story is rooted in risk, hope, grit and celebration.
It’s still the case. But now our immigrant brethren are brown and escaping danger and oppression in countries in South and Central America and Mexico more so than from Europe. The hopes and the risk are the same. The needs of America for hard workers are the same. Maybe they’re not laying railroad track, working in dangerous factories or mills. But today’s immigrants are still processing meat and poultry in dismal conditions, same as those Chicago Stock Yard decades. They’re still harvesting bounty for our dinner tables. They’re still graduating into entrepreneurs. They’re still pushing their kids to new heights.
Those of us in the old white immigrant rut need to open our eyes wide. The American dream is the American dream unless we end it out of our fear and our racism.