ISSUE | NATIVISM

Huddled against

the huddled masses

At first, there was no need for laws to limit immigration. Most of the continent was nearly empty. Sailing ships were small, slow, and dangerous. But by 1890, large steam ships were bringing millions of immigrants each year. The frontier was gone, and wages fell.

By this time, 15 percent of the population was foreign-born. There were deadly conflicts between racial and ethnic groups, which included riots, strikes, and lynchings.

After 30 years of debate, America put limits on immigration in 1921. During the next 70 years, wages rose. Immigrants were a stable 6 percent of the population. They rapidly learned English and joined the mainstream. Blacks also made progress.

Starting in the 1990s, Presidents Clinton and Bush stopped enforcing immigration laws. Now 15 percent of our nation is again foreign-born. The same low wages and violence we had in the 1890s are with us again.

|Seth Grossman, executive director, Liberty and Prosperity 1776, Somers Point, sethgrossman49@gmail.com

ISSUE | WORD CRAFT

Jawns of old

I remember hearing about "jawnaments" in high school during the '80s, when I assumed the term was a modification of the word joint, which was used in the same way as in "a Spike Lee joint" ("Hang some jawn on the tree," Dec. 19). Also in use at the time were jimson and my favorite, jimmy-jawn.

I was genuinely surprised when my wife, who is from Illinois, knew nothing of jawn. Language is a beautiful and ever-changing thing.

|Matt Hagele, Philadelphia

ISSUE | GUN CONTROL

Political safety latch

I would feel more confident that Pennsylvania's senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, are actually in favor of gun control if they voted for a bill that drew ire from the National Rifle Association ("Congress must act to ensure safety of children," Dec. 16). I am deeply suspicious of sympathy votes that go nowhere: That smacks of posturing, designed to give a politician an air of moderation, like some fantasy perfume ad with an unobtainable model or actress as Everywoman.

As a general rule, if the NRA does not oppose the politician in his campaign, consider his words to be strictly for show: They know their friends.

|Ben Burrows, Elkins Park

ISSUE | TORTURE DEBATE

Dubious precedent

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently had the chutzpah to cite actions by fictional counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer as a legal precedent for the use of torture when a "ticking time bomb" is moments away from detonating with millions in harm's way. Scalia routinely criticizes other justices for referencing international law yet has little problem referencing Bauer's exploits.

Scalia should resign and follow a new career path better suited for his ideological beliefs: Run for Congress or work for a think tank.

|Larry A. Wernick, Fort Washington, mastermedicalgroup@gmail.com

ISSUE | WHITE CHRISTMAS

Snowy holidays are for the sleigh-bound

The two worst Christmases of my life were due to snow ("Holiday snow not likely for Philadelphia," Dec. 20).

I've spent my entire adult life in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, but my parents and extended family lived more than 50 miles away. The year my dad died was the first time my mom would spend Christmas alone. I lived alone at the time since my three kids had their own homes. That year, it snowed like crazy, and no one could get together - so we all spent Christmas alone.

So when I hear weather forecasters apologizing that this will not be a white Christmas, I wonder at their sanity. When it snows even a couple inches, the news stations spend hours covering the storm, and we are warned to stay in. But who wants to stay in (alone) on Christmas, even if we get to look out on a pretty scene?

|Sharon Breen, Lansdale

ISSUE | BRIGHT SPIRITS

A time when all can spread goodwill

The holiday season has a great feeling that everyone can enjoy regardless of faith. Being a Muslim American, I don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. However, I do feel that the basis of the Abrahamic religions, and all religions for that matter, comes down to basic common ground and basic beliefs.

No matter our faith, we should take this holiday season to remind ourselves of some of these basics: Do unto others as you would like done to you; be the first to greet someone or say hello; try to spread compassion and goodwill; try to overlook the faults of others; and smile.

|Affan Abdullah, Downingtown

ISSUE | EAGLES

Sugarplum visions? Maybe one day

'Twas the night before the big game, and all through the house, despite two previous losses, hope had not yet been doused ("Must win," Dec. 20). When what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the whole Eagles team - they were shaking in fear.

With a little old driver we knew as Chip Kelly - he was dressed up as Santa, with a big old fat belly. And he whistled and shouted and called them by name: "Now Sanchez, now Huff, now Maclin, now Foles, we really must close up those defensive holes."

He laid his finger on the playbook and made some decisions - most of them poor. They sprang from the benches after giving a cheer, and said, "Don't despair fans, there is always next year."

|Lynn Meyer Brown, Philadelphia, bonniesimone1@gmail.com

ISSUE | PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE

Words that could heal from not so long ago

Via YouTube, I recently viewed President Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech, given in Philadelphia in 2008. The 37-minute speech was beyond captivating. It was a bold statement by a visionary who took the opportunity to address the nation on racial inequality, a subject that has divided and ripped apart this country for hundreds of years. It offered hope, understanding, and the dawn of a new day - a time where people might embrace one another as fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, six years later, racial inequality has exploded and moved into the streets. There is no question that this is Obama's time and the reason he was elected president. As an African American, this president is in a historic, once-in-a-lifetime position to help bridge the gap between black and white. Americans desperately need to hear words that will begin the healing.

|Peter Tobia, Philadelphia, petertobia1@verizon.net

ISSUE | NEIGHBORS

Rapprochement with Cuba makes sense

Oh, the hand-wringing and despair of the Republicans over the fact that we now have diplomatic relations with the despotic, human-rights-challenged commies ruling Cuba. Listening to Rubio et al, one would think that we are in league with the devil ("Cuba's ripe for change," Dec. 21).

How ironic all of this is. Does no one remember that Richard Nixon was hailed for his extraordinary courage and vision when he opened relations with China, which was the largest and most repressive of communist governments? Where was the Republican outrage then?

None of the upset over Cuba today has anything to do with the actual realities of 50 years of arbitrary refusal by the United States to have relations with a small, nonthreatening country 90 miles from our shores. It's all politics and nothing more.

If we cut off relations with all the countries that have major human rights deficits (think, for example, of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and several despotic regimes in Africa), we would be left talking to a few democratic allies and cut off from the places where we should be trying to have dialogue and maintain peace. Enough crocodile tears already.

|Ben Zuckerman, Philadelphia