Immigration and Assimilation
At what point does an immigrant way of life become the American way of life? In my opinion, based on the interviews I’ve conducted; one with an immigrant from Switzerland, an Immigrant way of life never truly becomes an American way of life. Unless a person moved here when they were very young, I don’t believe that people would ever truly think of themselves as American, if they were from another country. They may have American kids, an American wife, and even to some extent they may have integrated themselves into American culture, but the little differences between the country they come from and the United States would stop them from ever really thinking of themselves as American.
I think that feeling that a custom of ours is strange would contribute to feelings of not belonging, being an outsider. And feeling like an outsider causes paranoia and anxiety. This obviously goes more for poor immigrants then rich ones, because rich people already have a sense of security and can more or less live in comfort wherever they go.
In Mango Street (it’s a book, can’t remember the author) the Mexican people all live in a sort of ghetto. It’s implied that they didn’t really get along well with the White kids in the city, or at least they didn’t feel comfortable walking through their neighborhoods. Feeling comfortable I think is a big part of considering a place home. I feel comfortable in Amherst, but even in just other towns in southern New Hampshire I don’t feel quite as comfortable. Imagine that on a scale about three thousand times bigger.
The one point though that I think really cements the argument I’m trying to make is just a simple exercise. It depends on the person doing it, and that’s why it’s my opinion and not a fact. It is this: If you moved to France, no longer how long you lived there and no matter how many of their customs you picked up, would you ever consider yourself French? I wouldn’t.
I think it comes to what you think the American way of life is. Is it about democracy? No, Democracy is just a system of governing. Democracy doesn’t promise anything but Tyranny of the majority, which is why we have Judges to uphold the laws and protect unpopular opinions . If it were left up to the people if would be a bloodbath. There’s no system of government with as much potential for discrimination as Democracy; if your in a democracy and 78% of the people, who are right handed, vote to kill the 22% of people which are lefties, the lefties are going to die. Democracy is not as big a part of the American way of life as your lead to believe.
In my view it’s the opposite that makes this country what it is. It’s the willingness of the governing body to protect everyone’s rights no matter what the vast majority thinks about it. They uphold the laws that the people indirectly voted into being, but these are laws that I don’t think the people themselves would uphold for everyone. In our country A child molesting murderer is entitled to the same rights as a petty thief, which is the single most important aspect of America (ideally). Everyone gets the same treatment. (once again in our most idealized notions of what America is.)
I think that as soon as an Immigrant becomes a citizen and is under these same protections as all other citizens, he’s every bit as American as you and me, but only in the legal sense. Culturally as I stated earlier in my paper, I think people are too hard wired to ever integrate totally.