Super Bowl ads offer healthy reminder of our immigration history

I’m guessing that many of us watched the Super Bowl. Maybe some of us watched every minute of the game, cheered like crazy through the exciting parts and talked through the commercials and half-time entertainment. Others tuned in only for half-time or to watch the commercials.

by Kathy Langer

I was one of those who paid special attention to the commercials. News commentators the following morning noted the “political nature” of some of them, which I too noticed.  In the midst of Humpty Dumpty’s hospital scene, Martha Stewart and her cellphone sweater, and kangaroo wine sales were some commercials pointing in the direction of diversity and immigration issues. Seeing these issues come up on the daily news has become almost normal, but not during the Super Bowl!

I was especially moved by the Anheuser-Bush depiction of the history of its company which began with a German immigrant, with a heavy accent, who was told to “Go home!”

History repeats itself as today refugees and immigrants are told the same, “Go home!” Those words must ring in their ears and in their hearts as they know that their “home” is no longer the land of their birth. Home is no longer safe, no longer a place for their children, and they are desperately trying to make this new country a home.

Welcoming the stranger

Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year, called on all of us, from our Catholic perspective to “firstly … become aware that the phenomenon of migration is not unrelated to (our own) salvation history, but rather a part of that history. One of God’s commandments is connected to it: ‘You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Ex 22:21); ‘Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’ (Deut 10:19).”

Yes, my grandparents spoke mostly German; my father was born in Bohemia and all came here to be safe and free. I’m sure that they, too, were told to “Go home!” But I am sure, too, that there were people who welcomed them. People who got to know them and overcame their fear and prejudice against “those Germans.”

I know there were people at that time who chose courage over fear and love over hate. I know there were people who stepped out of their comfort zones to be a neighbor to my grandfather and his young family because of their belief in a God of all people.

It seems that over and over in history we forget we are children of immigrants. It seems to be a kind of collective forgetfulness by people who are second- or third-generation immigrants.

We need to be reminded, and to remind our children, that only Native Americans are truly the first in this land we call home.

Writing history

Bishop Donald Kettler, in his Jan. 30 statement, reminded us of our call to “reach out to refugees and immigrants already in our midst to learn about the challenges they face.” He also encourages us to speak out by, “contacting our president and federal lawmakers at this critical time and share with them the importance of adopting refugee and immigration policies that are fair and just for all of God’s people.”

It seems to me that even a Super Bowl commercial can be a healthy reminder of who we were, as history names us. Now we need to decide how historians will write the history of our time. Will we be a nation of walls and bans? Or a nation living the proclamation on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?

Kathy Langer is director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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