Tag Archive | "Philadelphia Italian market"

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What does the word “dependent” mean to you?  To the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it means an individual under the legal age, who requires the assistance of another person (i.e., a parent or guardian) to ensure his or her survival.  The concept of “dependent,” however, is changing: it now seems to reflect an entire nation — the United States of America — instead of an individual.


As a result of the riches that once abounded here, many Americans achieved comfortable lifestyles — comfortable, that is, from the perspective of those living in emerging nations.  But, comfort is a two-edged sword.  Because our lifestyle does not demand long, hard hours of menial work, we have become dependent on other nations for our future.


Oh, how the worm has turned!


At the dawn of the twentieth century, America opened its doors to the people of Western Europe.  Clearly engraved upon the Statue of Liberty, our invitation stated, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  With the further promise of lifting her lamp “beside the golden door,” Lady Liberty warmly greeted Europe’s downtrodden at Ellis Island.


The immigrants came with the hope of building a better life for themselves and their families.  Although poor, most were inspired by what lay ahead of them. Contrary to what many immigrants had heard, our streets were not paved with gold.  There were no social programs to launch them on a journey that would require hard work, sacrifice, and the love of family to succeed in this brave new world.


Many unskilled immigrants settled in ghettos with others of their own ethnicities.  However, they soon broke down the barriers of language and culture as they assimilated into an American society later and appropriately dubbed, “The Great Melting Pot.”  Some immigrants even took to the streets to earn a living, using pushcarts, horses, and wagons to vend their wares.


The Italian market in Philadelphia is an example of how immigrants created a marketplace for all types of food and vegetables sold in an open-air environment.  That market survives until the present day, but it is slowly changing to an Asian market via an influx of new immigrants. 


With only a basic education, these émigrés have established small, service-oriented businesses.  They run their enterprises on blood, sweat, and tears: the work ethic that once made American great.  The new immigrants have little time for TV, sports, or other types of entertainment.  The Land of Paucity for many native-born Americans has become the Land of Plenty for the newest wave of immigrants.  With diligence, they have achieved the American dream in less than a generation.  They are to be applauded for this!


Meanwhile, native-born Americans are living a nightmare.  Manufacturing is gone, but we refuse to accept the types of jobs that are putting food on the tables of the immigrants.  Maybe we, and particularly, our children growing up in this economy, should take a page out of the immigrants’ book to find other avenues of surviving.


Learning a trade is one such avenue; a blue-collar education will read immediate and long-term rewards.  If you doubt this, think of all the times that you have had to rely upon the services of a skilled electrician, a plumber, or heating and air conditioning technician.  And, the cost of a vocational school education is considerably more affordable than college tuition.


When Donald Trump says, “You’re fired!” on TV, it’s entertaining.  But if an employer uses those same words, it’s a death knell.  Before the axe falls, we should cultivate another perspective, another set of ideals.  Perhaps we should look to the industrious immigrants, quietly and methodically toiling toward economic independence, as our role models for economic independence. 


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