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In his opening speech at the recent Tea Party Convention held in Nashville, former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo claimed that Obama would never have been elected if we'd still had the Jim Crow era "civics, literacy test before people can vote."

Guess he misses the good old days of separate but equal, huh? Amazingly, he was applauded rather than booed off the stage.

Tancredo also attacked "the cult of multiculturalism, aided by leftists, liberals all over who don't have the same idea about America as we do."

Tom Tancredo is right. I don't have the same idea about America as he does, and I thank God for that. America is only the great country it is because it is and has always been a cultural melting pot, built on the ideas and strengths of immigrants from foreign shores melded with the cultures of its native peoples. How dare he try to "whitewash" our vision of America!

My America is painted in multicolored hues and worships a Higher Power called by many different names, or even no God at all -- most of the atheists and agnostics I know are wonderful, kind, humanistic people, who treat their neighbors with more tolerance and compassion than many of the self-proclaimed "righteous." It is from the confluence of all these ideas and differences that we have become a great nation, not because we are an ethnocentric, homogenous society that thinks the same way.

Just take a look at some of our "American" Nobel Prize winners, for example. Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the second woman to win a Nobel prize in Physics after Marie Curie, originated in Katowice, Poland, before emigrating to the U.S. and being awarded the prize in 1963. Luis Alvarez, winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physics, was born in the U.S. to a family of Spanish-American descent. Mario Capecchi, winner of the 2007 prize in Medicine, spent his early years on the streets of wartime Italy while mother was imprisoned in Dachau for distributing anti-Fascist pamphlets. Chen Ning Yang, winner of the 1957 prize in Physics, emigrated here from China; Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 prize in Chemistry, from Egypt.

But it's not just the geniuses who have benefited this country. The fabric of our history is woven from the threads of each person who came to these shores seeking to live a life free of political and religious oppression, willing to work hard so that their children could have a greater opportunity to succeed. My great-grandparents were amongst those people. Ironically, so were Tom Tancredo's grandparents, all of whom came to this country from Italy. Now he's trying to pervert the national vision and seeking to close the door through which his forefathers came, denying others the American dream from which he himself has benefited?

Like many Republican candidates this election, GOP Senate primary candidate Rob Simmons has been shifting his positions rightwards and kowtowing to the Tea Party movement, disavowing previously held moderate positions and proudly telling all comers that he carries a teabag next to his pocket copy of the Constitution.

Maybe Mr. Simmons should reread that Constitution, and ask himself if being aligned with xenophobes and racists is something to be proud of. Perhaps he should take a Circle Line trip around New York Harbor so he can re-read Emma Lazarus' words engraved on the base of Lady Liberty, the "Mother of Exiles": "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

That's the idea of America I have. A melting pot America that welcomed my ancestors, and Mr. Tancredo's. If that makes me a "leftist and a liberal" then I'm proud to be one.


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