Suicide by (Legal) Immigration

I was fortunate to grow up before the Immigration Act of 1965 began an incremental and insidious change in the ethnic composition of America.  I had friends whose parents were immigrants.  I thought nothing much of it because the parents had all come from countries in Northern or Western Europe and almost immediately became indistinguishable from other residents of our little community of Pacific Palisades.  With the exception of a Chinese family, the 8,000 or so residents of the Palisades were white.  Moreover, with the exception of a few Jewish families, Palisadians were uniformly Christian.  Everything closed on Sunday, and nearly everyone went to church—it was only a matter of which one.  There were Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Christian Scientists, and Catholics aplenty.

The immigrant parents I spent the most time with were Peter and Pat Kinnell.  They were different in only one way.  They insisted that all of us kids call them by their first names.  This stunned me at first because we addressed all other parents as Mr. or Mrs.  The first-name address did not mean, though, that proper manners and decorum were not observed.  In what we called “strictness” the Kinnells were definitely not lax.  An incident on their back patio left an indelible impression on me.  Chris Kinnell and I were about ten, and Chris’s kid brother, Patrick, was seven...

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