Tuesday, June 19, 2007

俺はアメリカ人 - Ore wa amerikajin

That means "I am an American" in Japanese. And to be an American can mean many things. You could have been born in China, or you could be a third-generation Mexican-American, or your family could date its American presence back to 1620. However, there are certain things that all Americans have historically shared.

A understanding and belief in the God-given rights that underlie the Constitution. A belief in the Christian ideal of charity and personal responsibility. And the English language.

Like it or not, the United States is a country built on English common-law traditions, Protestant Christianity and the English language. And until very recently, immigrants coming to this country understood that they were stepping into a culture built on these principles and that it was their responsibility to adapt and fit in. But in the last fifty years, something has changed. The new immigrants, many off them from south of the border, have decided that they want to change this country into what they are trying to escape. It is OK to build little cultural walls around one's community and never bother to learn the overarching culture. And of course learning English is out of the question. But the saddest part of the new immigration lobby is their habit of demonizing immigrants who have succeeded through their unerstanding of the need to assimilate.

In TownHall.com today, Mary Katherine Ham has a wonderful article discussing three immigrants- Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jessica Alba- who emphasize their American-ness, not their original nationalities. Alba, for example, is quoted as saying,
Alba is my last name and I'm proud of that. But that's it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I'm American. Throughout my whole life, I've never felt connected to one particular race or heritage, nor did I feel accepted by any.


He tried to forget his Mexican roots, because he never wanted his kids to be made to feel different in America. He and my grandmother didn't speak Spanish to their children. Now, as a third-generation American, I feel as if I have finally cut loose.

Nor should she. She is of a family that correctly understood that to emphasize their Mexican heritage was to damage their descendants' chances of success in their new country. Jessica has succeeded, in part due to her complete acceptance of U.S. culture. In the same vein, the Austrian-born governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger recently told an audience of Hispanics,
"You've got to turn off the Spanish television set" and avoid Spanish-language television, books and newspapers, the Republican governor said Wednesday night…

"You're just forced to speak English, and that just makes you learn the language faster," Schwarzenegger said.

"I know this sounds odd and this is the politically incorrect thing to say, and I'm going to get myself in trouble," he said, noting that he rarely spoke German and was forced to learn English when he emigrated from Austria.

And yet Schwarzenegger succeeded in Hollywood despite his originally impenetrable accent. He made himself into a passably good actor, and has now risen to be governor of California by downplaying his roots and working very hard to master English and assimilate into American culture and society.

Al Pacino also looks at immigration differently from the mainstream lobby. He said recently,
Explain to me what Italian-American culture is. We've been here 100 years. Isn't Italian-American culture American culture? That's because we're so diverse, in terms of intermarriage. Most everybody who's Italian is half Italian. Except me. I'm all Italian. I'm mostly Sicilian, and I have a little bit of Neapolitan in me. You get your full dose with me.

Pacino also has it right. Immigrants who come to American wanting to become Americans usually end up contributing to the American culture. Chinese, Italians, English, Irish, Japanese, and many other races have contributed. But most of these groups have also become Americanized, assimilating into the culture. And American culture, unlike Chinese or Japanese or Mexican culture is very welcoming as a rule. Most Americans don't really care where you're from if you genuinely want to be an American we'll usually help you make it. Try becoming an accepted member of society in Asia if you were not born Asian. Try being accepted in Muslim territory if you were born Christian.

But the immigration lobby (who seems not to care for LEGAL immigrants, only illegal ones), has a whole different take on the issue. For them, if an immigrant wants to assimilate, it is betrayal. As Alex Nogales said in response to Schwarzengger's talk about assimilating, "I'm sitting shaking my head not believing that someone would be so naive and out of it that he would say something like that,".

It is Nogales who is naive, unless he is simply focused on destroying the United States by inundating it with Mexican illegals. When immigrants move to someone else's country, they must assimilate. It is not Americans' responsibility to change to fit the immigrant; it is the immigrants' job to become American. When I lived in Japan, it was always I who was expected to adapt in order to fit in. This is only right- it is not my country. But in America, we have the same right to expect immigrants to become Americans- not the other way around. And it is sad that so many of our elected leaders simply do not understand this.

No comments: