Thursday, September 22, 2011

Immigrants

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America....Neil Diamond
These people....why don't you just go back to your own country....they are dirty/lazy/criminals...we do not need them....freakin' immigrants!!!! Bet almost every immigrant group including your own forefathers heard some version if not that particular one at some point when they first got to the States.  I know hard to believe because you may have thought some sanitized version of it about someone who had the audacity to come to the States these days.  It is actually not a new or even novel story it is the story of the United States and it is becoming the story of the European Union, only they have just begun this journey and they are not as politically correct in keeping these thoughts out of public hearing distances.


At some point someone who had been here for longer decided their ancestors were of a better stock than the current wave of newcomers.  Looking at the history of immigration in the US that is so not likely.  Oh yes you have your Brahmins and yes you have your Astors but those were the exceptions...mostly you had the people who due to class and caste or religious fanaticism (yes that would be you oh so proud my greatxxxx came on the Mayflower people) would not be able to succeed, to move ahead, to be who they wanted to be in their own native land.  They were the undesirables and they desired more than they could get.  This is what built the United States because let's face it if it was all Astors they would have hauled ass back fairly quickly without anyone to build, serve, work for them here.  As the Cold War progressed you got your Soviet bloc refugees, running toward a beacon of freedom, a place where they would not be afraid to tell a joke, to vote, to think out loud, to have aspirations for more.  These days the Middle East, Africa, South America donates to what is the quilt known as the United States, patches that look different sewn together by a thin thread.


My parents came to the States with a lot of hope for a place that would offer them and their child opportunities.  They did not ask for anything else just the ability to not look over their shoulders for a secret police, to not have to wait on line for basic food supplies, to be able to travel with their child where they wished when they wished.  They did not expect to be offered jobs that mirrored their former professions, nor housing, or pretty much anything because they never forgot (much like immigrants before them) that they had chosen to come here.  They took jobs that were less intellectually challenging and reminded me that there is no shame in any job as long as you do your best.  They learned the language and adopted some of the customs. My father did not know quite how to make the American dream his ....he thought he had more business savvy then he actually did and was a never ending example of keep trying what you think you can do.  Not always easy emotionally or financially for the family but a good example of believing in yourself.


It is not easy to be an immigrant, there were people who made fun of my parents' accents instead of admiring their ability to learn a new language in their thirties.  There were people who got a kick out of scamming the newcomers through the ages.  There were dreams that would never get off the ground.  Yet there were also success stories upon success stories.  It is not easy to maintain a sense of your nationality, to impart it to your children, to use it to better the quilt that is the United States.  It is not easy to leave behind the safety, even when it is poverty stricken or war ravaged or just hard to live in, of your native country/language/family /friends/sense of self.  It is not easy to try and accept that it is not the same here, that there are people who are so different that they may as well be from another planet not just another continent.  It is not easy to be an immigrant.  However, it is the choice all immigrants have made to be just that.  As an immigrant I can never lose sight of that choice.  I choose to live in the United States and understand it's imperfections and try to better my adopted country through my actions.  I am Romanian and American and feel a part of both of those places and not fully of either.  The only way we could succeed as a country is to remember that as citizens we too were immigrants at some point and for immigrants to choose to be Americans. We are not a tossed salad ...we are a stew whose flavors intensify one another the longer we meld together.  It annoys me to see people not learn English (you are choosing to lose the opportunities you came for), to see signs in languages that I do not understand, to hear an immigrant tell me only what is better about the place they left, the people of their land over the US.  To all of that I say you chose ...so choose to either be part of the stew or go back and make your own place a success.  Be proud of your heritage, share it with all of us and take pride in embracing the crazy, rude, loud, happy, wondrous, diverse, secular, religious, vast country that morphs us from (insert nationality here) to Americans.

Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..Emma Lazarus

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