Ehrlich forgets the immigrant's dilemma

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was named for his father ("Multiculturalism is the enemy of democracy," June 2). My dad was named for his father, and his father before him. My dad was named Giovanni. He was born in 1925 in Pennsylvania. When he entered school his name generated scorn and derision. So he became just John.

My paternal grandmother and her siblings were born in the same Pennsylvanian town. They were first generation American born children of Italian immigrants. When they entered school, their teachers changed all of their names. Amalia, Yolanda and Adelena became Nellie, Helen and Evelyn, respectively. Their brothers Olivero and Armando had the terminal vowels dropped from their names to Anglicize them. They were all forever known by those names outside of their family. In the film, "Amadeus," the emperor found Mozart's beautiful music contained "too many notes." Educators found my relative's beautiful names contained too many syllables.

Teachers also felt free to openly display their bigotry. A teacher called my father an ethnic slur in front of the entire class. Unfortunately, he would hear that slur again in his life. My dad lived with his parents above his grandparent's grocery store. A cross was burned outside because his grandparents and father were immigrants.

When World War II broke out, my grandfather was well into middle age. He was a naturalized citizen. He volunteered for the military offering to spy for the U.S. in Italy. His offer was declined. My father went from high school into combat. He continued serving his country in his 25-year career in the Army. Despite his negative experiences he never lost faith in or love for America. He never spoke Italian again, enjoyed apple pie and rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mr. Ehrlich sees the past through rose colored glasses. The seeds of the much reviled "multiculturalism" go back a long way, back to the young American boy who just wanted to bear his father's name proudly. Just as Mr. Ehrlich does.

Patty DiBattista Nicholls, Loch Hill

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