NBC network COZI TV just played Season 2, Episode 20 of “Little House on the Prairie,” the one titled the “Centennial” — and boy, what a face-slapping reality check of how far our country has strayed, in the span of about 40 years, from its moral, political and cultural compasses.
Particularly, pertaining to immigration.
Here’s the show, in its nuts and bolts, as described on Fandom: “Walnut Grove prepares to celebrate the nation’s centennial, but the party is threatened with cancellation when their taxes go up. A Russian immigrant, Yuli Pyatakov, gives an impassioned speech about what it’s like to live in America. … The townsfolk are inspired to resume the celebration.”
Taxes didn’t just “go up,” in the show. That’s an understatement.
They were increased by local governing authorities to the point where most of the townsfolk were put in the poorhouse, practically overnight.
But the real story was Pyatakov.
In the show, he had only moved with his wife and son from Russia to America a few months earlier, paying what he thought had been a decent price for the home and land he bought in Walnut Grove.
Turns out, that decent price was due to the fact the land had seven years’ worth of arrears taxes attached to it, a fact that wasn’t made clear to Pyatakov during the purchase. When Pyatakov received his tax bill, he tried to appeal, but in the end, he couldn’t pay and lost his property.
The final scene showed Pyatakov, his wife and his son sitting beneath a tree some distance from their house while a new family moves in, and “Little House” lead character Charles Ingall approaches to offer comfort. That’s when the smiling Pyatakov tells Ingall: Take your pity somewhere else.
He launches into a gentle defense of America’s greatness, telling Ingall that the mistake he himself made in failing to research the tax records about a piece of property he was purchasing didn’t make the law wrong — it didn’t make the government flawed — it didn’t make the country evil. No, he went on, America was still the land of opportunity, the country of the free, the hope of so many depressed and downtrodden of the world — the nation that, unlike his home Russia, wouldn’t jail someone for speaking critically about the government.
Ingalls is amazed. And humbled.
That episode aired in 1976.
Now fast-forward to today.
“Immigrant rights activists surround ICE headquarters, demand the agency’s closure,” NBC News reported just this week.
“Families Of Deported Immigrants Storm [Joe] Biden Headquarters To Demand Apology,” one HuffPost.com headline stated earlier this month, in a story about the previous administration’s deportation activity.
“Locals Fume as Migrants Take Affordable Housing in This California Town,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in June, in a story of how “housing reserved for migrant farmworkers sparks tension among residents” in Santa Maria.
It’s all about what this country owes those coming to this country. It’s all about the entitlements, the gimme, gimme, gimme, the demands, the cries, the feelings of foreigners.
“Know Your Rights: Immigration 101 — The New Sanctuary Movement,” SanctuaryPhiladelphia.org offers.
“Illegal Immigrant Rights,” Lawyers.com provides.
“Democrats Give Illegal Immigrants Advice on How to Avoid ICE During Possible Raids,” Townhall wrote in July.
Where’s the talk about America’s greatness? Where’s the acknowledgment of America’s exceptionalism?
Where are the attitudes of humility and gratitude and expressions of thankfulness of those coming to this country toward those in this country? In “Little House,” Pyatakov worked hard to learn English. He volunteered to make the flag pole to fly the American banner on centennial celebration day. He worked hard to assimilate into American society. He strove to contribute to the country — not take and bleed dry. And when tragedy struck, he refused to throw himself a pity party.
My, how far we’ve shifted.
If that episode were reshot today to reflect modern culture and attitudes and morals, Pyatakov would’ve demanded a Russia flag be flown for centennial day as civil rights’ activists burned the tax office; as Democrats in D.C. sent lawyers to nullify sale of his property; and as liberal politicians rode reelection waves decrying capitalism and the Constitution and the unjustness of private sector pay scales.
That’s the distance between 1976 and 2019.
Now think how it’ll be in another 40 years.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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