All across Europe and the U.S. leaders and citizens are being confronted with the real possibility of impending immigrants or refugees from Syria and Africa. In light of the Paris attacks just a week ago immigration has become the new dirty word. No one wants to hear it. dozens of states in the U.S. have said they don’t want the risk of absorbing Syrians who they fear may be infiltrating terrorists.
Here I sit in a country I was not born in. I am an immigrant from a foreign land who in spite of my want to fit in often find myself projecting my opinion of how things were done in the U.S.. I too often have used my previous life to define how I believe others should live. Am I that dirty immigrant? Have I done the dirty deed and immigrated? Yes. I am an immigrant.
Growing up the metaphor for good immigration in the U.S. was ‘melting pot’. It was considered vital to shed ones personal identity and previous origins of behaviors to fit in to the idealistic American way of life. Oh to live in suburbia, with a quaint house with picket fence, 2.3 children, dog and cat and two family cars. That was the life and everyone was supposed to be Ozzie and Harriet or at the very least the Brady Bunch. Well in theory that is just what I grew up with.
But today life is very different. The food is different. The scenery is different. The culture and styles are different. Oh much has been Americanized. The U.S. has successfully imposed its ideals on much of the world, but there are distinct differences and these are important to learn to fit in.
Being an immigrant is a partnership. It often places the burden however on the immigrant than on the receiving country. I do still struggle trying to fully communicate as my language adaptations are not quick due to several medical issues. Nevertheless, to fit in requires communication in the language of the new country. This really is much more difficult than natives realize. In my work place people will speak Russian, Hungarian, French, Arabic, and who knows what else. I try so hard to grasp Hebrew, but here I hear it with countless accents.
In the case of the Syrians and Africans, the complications of religion also play a role and it appears that so much of the blame for terrorism has been placed on Islamists. Frankly, in its own way, the same issue played out here for me. Was I Jewish enough for Israel? The questions the immigration office asked me were shocking. It turned into a three hour interrogation, endless visits and a seventeen-month wait for approval from Jerusalem all due to religious identity.
America is not so particular, or at least it hasn’t been for a while about what religion people are, however this has not always been the case and obviously it is an issue once again. Immigration, this migratory movement of people from one country to another has become so distressing for many that the very word ‘immigration’ brings out vile opinions.
The very history of human kind has been that of immigrating from one place to another. We must not fear that every immigrant is dirty or determined to change the new world they are settling into. In like manner immigrants must carefully choose what parts of themselves to bring into a new country.
It is my hope as I continue to try to fit in that other countries will have a more generous spirit and understand that the life of an immigrant is not easy and helping them is still more meaningful and more likely to encourage good relations rather than hurting or dispelling them at every turn.
Immigration is only a dirty word when people don’t take the time to learn and understand each other. And in America where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are smothered with gravy, cranberry jelly, potatoes and turkey this Thursday, pause to remember that unless you are 100% Native American Indian, you come from immigrants! And thank God someone let you in!