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This Son of Immigrants Fought For His Country While Rep. Steve King Dodged the Draft

The nativist Iowa congressman should have met my uncle before railing that you can't "rebuild civilization" with "somebody else's baby."

Georgetown BookstoreGeorgetown BookstoreMy Uncle Nick—my godfather and the man for whom I'm named—died last week at the age of 84. He was a really great uncle, brother to my mother and his other siblings, husband to his wife, and father to his daughters.

He was also, in the repugnant, nativist parlance of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), "somebody else's baby." That is, he was born to immigrants from Italy and thus, according to King and other xenophobes, incapable of helping to "restore our civilization." (For more on that, go here.)

Except that Nick Guida did make America a better place, first and foremost by being a good son, brother, husband, father, and uncle. He was a hardworking guy and even started his own business. He also served in Korea when called up to that bloodbath. (Steve King, in contrast, avoided service in Vietnam via college three college deferments even though he never actually graduated.) Nick's older brother, my Uncle John, served in World War II during the invasion of Italy, the very country his parents had left behind. My mother and my Aunt Lee, the only surviving member of her family, did their share to make America a better place, too, in all sorts of ways despite only learning English when they went to school.

I don't want to waste much time just a couple of days before my uncle's funeral thinking about politicians, pundits, and demagogues who grotesquely dismiss whole groups of people who were, or are, "somebody else's babies." But for those of us who are within a few generations of being American, I think it's vitally important to remember how much our parents and grandparents were vilified for wanting to come here to create a better life for themselves and their children. In fact, my Italian grandmother, homesick for her family, traveled back to her birthplace with her oldest child and got locked out of America for several years due to immigration restrictions passed in the early 1920s. Like Mexicans and Arabs today, Italians were not considered desirable. In the 1890s, in the wake of a mass lynching of nine Italians accused of murdering the New Orleans chief of police, Theodore Roosevelt said the extra-judicial killings were "a rather good thing." A future governor of Louisiana proclaimed Italians as "just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous." In reality, Italians in early 20th-century America had it much better than blacks, but it didn't mean they had it particularly easy.

Today's immigrants (legal and illegal) come from different countries than 100 years ago, but like those in the past, they start businesses at higher rates than natives, use less welfare, and cause less crime. Go ahead, look it up.

Despite the rhetoric of the Steve Kings and Donald J. Trumps of the world, immigrants and immigration are not antithetical to "making America great again" or, less dramatically, making the country a slightly better place than it was before my Uncle Nick was born. I won't be thinking about Steve King during Thursday's funeral, I'll be thinking about all the people my uncle helped during his life and how lucky we all were to know him. I'll be thinking, too, about my Italian grandparents, who never spoke English and yet somehow helped build this country nonetheless. And I'll be thinking about today's immigrants and children of immigrants, and hoping they get a fair shake in 21st-century America.

And maybe next week, I'll start thinking about what sort of arguments might actually help change the contemporary discussion about immigrants and immigration from one that is filled with anger and invective to one characterized by a sense of history and a willingness to talk about facts.

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  • John C. Randolph||

    My condolences for your loss, Nick.

    -jcr

  • widget||

    Nick, you didn't tell us what your uncle thought about muslims immigrating to New Jersey, or anything else he thought, for that matter. You know his story, but not the man.

    Did you ever talk to him? This Philadelphia kid finds it hard to believe an italian american of your uncle's generation shares your views on immigration.

  • Les||

    Yes, we really need to get to bottom of this.

    Thank you for your courage in speaking up!

  • widget||

    You don't want to know Uncle Nick either. Got it.

  • MarkLastname||

    if your contention is that Nick's uncle was a hypocrite, what exactly do you think your point is?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I don't want to waste much time just a couple of days before my uncle's funeral thinking about politicians, pundits, and demagogues who grotesquely dismiss whole groups of people who were, or are, "somebody else's babies."

    And yet you wrote an entire blog post on the subject...

    My condolences on your loss though.

  • spanky & alfalfa||

    well named baby aren't you ?

  • spanky & alfalfa||

    read the cnn headlines if you're not happy here.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Words are never enough, but they're all we have; I'm sorry for your loss, Nick.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "He also served in Korea when called up to that bloodbath. (Steve King, in contrast, avoided service in Vietnam via college three college deferments even though he never actually graduated."
    And there are countless Americans who died in foreign entanglements while immigrants never served. You seem to be implying that immigrants make better Americans or are better for America than natural born Americans. You better bring a bigger sack lunch to back that up.

    I would even argue that many immigrants bring horrible voting and custom habits that impact America's freedoms. The mafia is one example of bad customs and Asian immigrants voting for Democrats is an example of bad voting habits.

    Sorry for your loss though.

  • MarkLastname||

    Much as I dislike the Democrats, do you really think it's less than absurd to be indignant at people not voting for politicians who don't think they should be allowed in?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I think its absurd to vote for people that want to enslave you. The Democrats want to enslave you.

  • DJF||

    Fighting in Korea was not fighting for America.

    It was fighting for Korea or anti-communism or globalism or other things but the US but the US could have gone on very nicely without fighting in Korea.

    The same with Vietnam and many other places.

    What did the US get from the Korean war, dead Americans, wounded Americans, debt.

  • gaoxiaen||

    There are lots of politicians that are willing to send others to fight who weaseled out of it when they were called. King, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gingrich, etc... "had other priorities". Sorry for your loss, Nick.

  • creech||

    Don't forget Bill Clinton.

  • sasob||

    Sending men, who serve voluntarily, to fight a war is one thing; supporting a military draft so as to force them to go is quite another. Military conscription is and always has been outright slavery by a fancy name. I'm a Vietnam veteran myself who joined the Navy, mostly to avoid being drafted into the Army or Marines to go fight a war that no one seemed serious about winning, except the North Vietnamese (and ended up spending the better part of three years on Yankee Station in the combat zone anyway.) I have no complaints against those who avoided the draft either legally or illegally, or through "connections", in that war or any other.

    I do, however, have issues with those who think conscription is wrong only when it is applied to them personally or when it is used to fight a war with which they disagree. I can't speak for those politicians you listed - I'm not familiar with their views on the subject. But BJ Clinton didn't dodge the draft because he had any moral or political scruples against military conscription or other forced national servitude - he doesn't - he just didn't think such laws should apply to him, plus the fact that being part of the liberal left he was against the war because his sympathies would lie mostly with the communists.

  • Merl3noir||

    Actually it is fighting for America. You would be right in saying they are not fighting, to defend America, but they are still fighting for America.

    What did we get, A half of the Korean peninsula as a stable society, a free society that we trade with, and a great Allies in the area. Or if you want to be more material, Lots of Great electronics, and cars, and all the jobs that go with those products.

  • sasob||

    Yeah, I can just imagine how gratifying all that must be to all the military draftees who were either maimed for life or who died there. But today's Americans get some cool electronics, cars, and other consumer goods nice and cheap. That's really swell.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Some just did their duty. Many of them fought to stop Communism and they did. Stopping cCommunism also allowed South Korea to be free and enjoy the free market. That free market allows opportunity for the above mentioned cheap electronics.

    You can use military deaths as a punchline but those boys were fighting to survive and those Communist fuckers were trying to kill every last American.

  • ||

    I was in the military during the Vietnam era. I have a scar from a Vietnamese woman wielding a knife.

    But I got the scar in 2000 from a scalpel wielded by a young, attractive doctor performing a surgical procedure.

    Thank [whomever] for immigrants!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I knew your comment was going to be Hot, even before I finished it.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But... on further reflection, I feel the need to ask, when the surgery was completed, which bathroom did you use?

  • ||

    Well, not that kind of surgery. Just a cyst that had gone bad.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    If you mean cis, then the question stands.

  • Free Society||

    I'll start thinking about what sort of arguments might actually help change the contemporary discussion about immigrants and immigration from one that is filled with anger and invective to one characterized by a sense of history and a willingness to talk about facts.

    Good of you to finally get started on that.

  • chemjeff||

    Condolences, Nick. Look forward to better days ahead.

  • Diane Merriam||

    My sympathies on your loss, Nick.

    As the French say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," the more things change the more they stay the same. And as Santayana said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Today's immigrants will be all over the case of the next wave of immigrants from another place.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Trumpistas and xenophobes, just like their brethten on the Progressive left, love to blame others for their own inadequacies.

  • TGoodchild||

    Sounds like you had an honorable Uncle Nick, Nick, but I'm not sure what that has to do with this country's broad problem with immigration protocol and enforcement. Generally requiring that the laws we have in place are applied and enforced equally != anti-immigrant sentiment, but if your logic allows for that then your intellectual dishonesty is revealed.

  • Zeb||

    Or perhaps he thinks the laws are bad and need to be changed.

    And while wanting laws to be applied and enforced equally isn't necessarily anti-immigrant sentiment, people who are anti-immigrant are going to want the laws to be enforced more consistently and vigorously.

  • John Rohan||

    As a veteran myself, this kind of reasoning is a little convoluted. Draft deferments were common in the Vietnam era. The Army didn't need manpower on the scale of the Korean War. And maybe King opposed the war, who knows. I don't begrudge him for getting a deferment for college unless he used undue influence to get it.

    Sounds like your Uncle Nick was a great guy. I'm guessing he wasn't an illegal immigrant, and that was the context of King's statement about "other people's babies". The US and Canada are the last remaining 1st world nations that still have birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli

  • IceTrey||

    Not just illegal immigrants. You can come here legally for one day and your kid is a citizen.

  • Bearded Spock||

    Did I read that right? A Libertarian, Waving the Bloody Shirt?

    A non-interventionist website that now features angry columns implying that serving in the US armed forces during an undeclared military intervention is morally superior to avoiding military service during an unpopular, pointless war?

    The only thing missing from Gillespie's column was him calling King a "Yellowbelly" a la George C. Scott in the movie Patton.

    Reason morphed into the American Legion so slowly I hardly noticed. What hath Donald Trump wrought?

  • SIV||

    What hath Donald Trump wrought?

    Endless libertarian moments blurring into a libertarian eternity. I'm sure it will all be over soon, unfortunately.

  • Dick Puller, Attorney at Law||

    That's the interesting part - presumably, his uncle was white racially, and Italian ethnically - those are organic identities a geneticist or an anthropologist could identify without regard to politics.

    But the only identity the anti-statist libertarian considers legitimate is "American", a creature that is purely a construction of the state.

  • chemjeff||

    I'm guessing he wasn't an illegal immigrant, and that was the context of King's statement about "other people's babies".

    No, King's context was not limited to illegal immigration. It was about foreigners broadly speaking. Read the whole tweet yourself. (trigger warning: NY Times)

  • SIV||

    Nick still pretending to be "non-white"? Kinda funny as nearly all those Mexicans and all Arabs are white, nttiawwt.

  • Homple||

    Omar Mateen, Major Hasan and Rizwan Farook were sons of immigrants as well. Plus, lots of people dodged the draft.

  • Azathoth!!||

    This Italian-American Citizen Fought For His Country While Rep.Steve King Got Perfectly Legal Deferrments

    Headline looks different when you take off the prog-colored glasses.

    Your uncle was an American citizen, Nick. A proud American citizen. He wasn't 'someone else's baby'.

    Nor were his parents.

    But his grandparents may have been. They may have been Italians living in and loyal to Italy. Which is fine.

    Because 'someone else's babies' refers to trying to fill economic niches-- 'jobs that Americans have been priced out of being able to do while maintaining the profitability of the enterprise thanks to highly restrictive labor laws'--with people who are not seeking to become American citizens or who are actively hostile to the idea.

    Or, the hideous European practice of importing people who might actually have wanted to become part of one's country--but offering them no real path to citizenship.

    We've seen the failure of this in Europe--and the start of failure here as segregationist immigration takes hold.

    It takes a lot of convoluted rationalization and conflation of contradictory information to present the intricate web of lies open boreders advocates use as a response to the simple desire to have a 'high wall with a wide gate', to be able to welcome all we want while knowing who they are. And with all of that, you still have no answer for why such a process is bad.

    Nick, celebrate the times you had together and remember your uncle with happiness.

  • chemjeff||

    "Because 'someone else's babies' refers to trying to fill economic niches"

    This is bullshit. Along with the claim above that 'someone else's babies' referred only to children of illegal immigrants, that is also bullshit. Again read Steve King's own tweet, quoted above. He is referring to foreigners BROADLY, people who come here and bring a foreign culture with them. Legal or illegal has nothing to do with it. The economics of the immigration have very little to do with it. This is about scary foreigners importing a scary culture which, according to him and many other restrictionists, will turn the US into, alternately, Venezuela, ISIS, and/or Somalia. This is based on an UNFOUNDED fear that recent immigrants just don't assimilate, and instead come here and sit on their lazy asses while on welfare when they are not out raping and killing citizens, and teach their kids to hate America.

  • damikesc||

    Again read Steve King's own tweet, quoted above. He is referring to foreigners BROADLY, people who come here and bring a foreign culture with them. Legal or illegal has nothing to do with it.

    A tweet lacking nuance?

    HOLY FUCK, WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THIS WORLD?!?!?!?

  • Azathoth!!||

    This is the entire tweet--

    "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

    And this is my entire sentence--

    "Because 'someone else's babies' refers to trying to fill economic niches-- 'jobs that Americans have been priced out of being able to do while maintaining the profitability of the enterprise thanks to highly restrictive labor laws'--with people who are not seeking to become American citizens or who are actively hostile to the idea."

    Context is important.

    King's context is Wilder's ideas. Mine is the ENTIRETY of what I said--not the excerpt you choose to respond to.

    'Other people's babies' refers to people--who begin as babies-- who do not wish to be a part of the country/culture in question or are openly hostile to it. Or, as is the case in many European countries, who are denied a pathway to becoming part of the culture/country in question.

    Try to keep up.

  • Pooter||

    I'm so tired of everyone who avoided the draft during Vietnam being called cowards. Nick had a good reason to go get shot at. Steve didn't.

  • sasob||

    I'm so tired of everyone who avoided the draft government-mandated slavery during Vietnam being called cowards.

    FIFY

  • sasob||

    I'm so tired of everyone who avoided the draft government-mandated slavery during Vietnam being called cowards.

    FIFY

  • sasob||

    Fixed it twice, in fact.

  • damikesc||

    He was also, in the repugnant, nativist parlance of Rep. Steve King ...

    Anecdotes ain't data, Nick.

    But for those of us who are within a few generations of being American, I think it's vitally important to remember how much our parents and grandparents were vilified for wanting to come here to create a better life for themselves and their children. In fact, my Italian grandmother, homesick for her family, traveled back to her birthplace with her oldest child and got locked out of America for several years due to immigration restrictions passed in the early 1920s.

    So she never tried to become a citizen.

    Good to know.

    Today's immigrants (legal and illegal) come from different countries than 100 years ago, but like those in the past, they start businesses at higher rates than natives, use less welfare, and cause less crime. Go ahead, look it up.

    They "may" use less. Well, with that type of hard-hitting evidence, open up the floodgates I say!

    And maybe next week, I'll start thinking about what sort of arguments might actually help change the contemporary discussion about immigrants and immigration from one that is filled with anger and invective to one characterized by a sense of history and a willingness to talk about facts.

    I hope so because you REALLY shat the bed with this attempt.

  • commentguy||

    First of all, anecdotes ARE data. But I'm more concerned about your sarcastic reference to "hard-hitting evidence". The article provided links to the evidence. You just inserted the word "may" with no further elaboration. Please provide more information about the levels of welfare use by immigrants before your post can be evaluated further.

  • ThomasD||

    Wait, since when did compulsory military service become a libertarian thing?

    Because 'draft dodging' would seem a rather pejorative term...

    Or is this principals over principles?

  • ThomasD||

    Or, maybe we should file it under "Appeals to Emotion While Flying the Reason Flag."

  • skunkman||

    False equivalence. Americans fought for the freedom of the citizens of the US not to support unfettered access to the welfare state. Immigration needs to be fixed. The acceptance of illegal immigration creates an underclass that too many ignore and it is pathetic. Reform is needed and regulation is a must. Immigration is great and it should be regulated based on need.

  • sweettea71||

    Sorry for your loss Nick, but do you honestly believe the men coming into our country today are of the same character as your uncle? The men, and women for that matter, that I know from that generation who migrated here did it legally because they wanted to be a part of something and contribute to it. I don't see that with the vast major that have broken into our country these days. They are here for love of self, not love of country. Men like your uncle made this country what it is today and it's a shame you diminish his character by comparing him to the invaders you are trying to defend.

  • White Hispanic||

    big difference between Europeans immigrating 100 years ago, before we had welfare, food stamps, medicaid..
    The question is - can non-westerners maintain western civilization ?

    also, how many immigrants should we allow in ? in the last 20 years almost 30 million have immigrated. Maybe it would be better if we limit immigration to 900,000 per year...which is still a significant number and will encourage them to assimilate as our grandparents did.

    Please explain why we should allow in 200,000 muslims each year while rejecting 500,000 Europeans who wish to immigrate to America.

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