If there’s anyone who knows what it feels like to be an alien, it would be an immigrant. I mean an immigrant immigrant; the one who landed here first generation on a plane, not a descendant of immigrants. Imagine the feeling of being on the harsh end of a xenophobe’s insults, or the worse: being asked “innocent” questions about your homeland.
Being an immigrant in the United States is like being a blue goat among black sheep. You’re not only alien among people who are estranged from each other, you seem to be like another creature dropped haphazardly from the sky above (or Hell below, as I’ve been told). But don’t get me wrong, there are countless perks as well as setbacks to this. Consider these:
I’m bilingual. I’m working on being trilingual. Hell, I’m working on being quadri-lingual if Ebonics counts. Average Americans, on the other hand, are pitifully restrained to their mother tongue. They are neither affected by it, nor do they care. After all, think of it logically; why should an American, high and mighty as I am, bother to try to learn other people’s languages? They’re the ones migrating over here! They’re the ones who need to learn how to talk. This is America, we speak English here, so learn it.
My response to such a dim-witted viewpoint is this:being bilingual has given me such a profound appreciation for the ability to see the world outside the safety of my borders. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a translator numerously, and have helped many people understand each other in ways a person without my skill could never fathom.
The Chinese have become the worlds second largest economy. What does that mean? It means in about ten years, we had better learn some goddamned Chinese, that’s what. Americans in general have such a sense of pride that they dismiss any global threat as propaganda. They simply choose not to believe.
I remember my Turkish friend and I having an argument with a redneck about whether we should be alarmed at China, Japan, and India’s rising competency in the sciences, arts, and mathematics. His answer?
“At least we’re free. We can do whatever we want and still kick their ass.”
I have nothing against freedom. But one thing I’m not naïve enough to believe is that freedom comes without a cost, and that freedom stays without a cost. To believe that is to be on the verge of complete idiocy. When an Indian has a higher percent of landing that engineering job, or becoming the next breakthrough mind at MIT, freedom won’t mean a thing. When a person in China owns half of your neighborhood while never setting foot on it, freedom becomes a questioned factor of our lives.
Being an immigrant at times can prove to have a dual nature of being so harsh and so nice. My stereotypical American friends have such a dim view of our planet; nothing else seems to be as simultaneously intriguing and frustrating. Picture this:
Stereotypical Media-Fed American: “Hey L, are there any cars in your country?”
Me: “Absolutely not! I never heard of technology until my family and I stepped unto the magic flying tube with wings that landed me upon this mystical land!”
Me: “NO, dummy!”
Consequently this conversation would take a steep dive towards the sour end. I would hurt the SMFA’s feelings, their respect for people of my kind would go down south, and I would be labeled a complete jackass.
But how else can I react? I have seen poverty in my own country beyond what the media shows me. I have seen poverty in the U.S. beyond what the media shows me as well, such as riches beyond what I’ve seen in the U.S. and kids who actually want to learn and make something of themselves. However, the deep feeling of gratitude I feel is seldom felt by native-born Americans. I see what the media doesn’t show: the difference in the mindset of the world and the U.S. of A.
I stumbled across a video the other day of ultra-right wing conservative Tea Party member Marg Baker expressing her views on illegal immigration. Watch:
Legal or illegal, they are people, Marg. Not foreign snakes out-competing the native animals, reproducing and terrorizing our backyards. And as a legal immigrant, I can gladly call myself an American citizen, but equally, there are others who would kill to be in my place. I acknowledge that. Does that give me a right to ship them off to some internment camp and kick them back to wherever they came from, splitting their families? Absolutely not! And it’s this kind of ideology that has sprung the protests in Arizona.
It takes the ability to see it from another point of view in order to create a solution to a widespread problem. Americans cannot condone open racism in the name of social and economic “stability.” It’s just not right.
We are all immigrants. The true Americans are the Natives. Legal or illegal–that is up for debate. One thing is for certain:
There is not a single acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its original owner-Mark Twain.