Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 211
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 211
 
red and white of my fathers’ flag only the blue of heaven, where wrongs are righted, and I feel better for it. Why should it not have the same effect on others? I know it has.
  The school might be made the means, as the house to which all the life of the neighborhood turned, of enrolling the immigrants in the perilous years when they are not yet citizens. I know what they mean; I have gone through them, seen most of the mischief they hold for the unattached. That is the mischief, that they are unattached. A way must be found of claiming them, if they are not to be lost to the cause of good citizenship where they might so easily have been saved. I spoke of it in “The Making of an American.” They want to belong, they are waiting to be claimed by some one, and the some one that comes is Tammany with its slum politics. The mere enrolling of them, with leave to march behind a band of music, suffices with the young. They belong then. The old are used to enrolment. Where they came from they were enrolled in the church, in the army, by the official vaccinator, by the tax-collector—oh, yes, the tax-collector—and here, set all of a sudden adrift, it seems like a piece of home to have some one come along and claim them, write them down, and tell them that they are to do so and so. Childish, is it? Not at all. It is just human nature, the kind we are working with.

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