Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is America A Melting Pot Or Not?*

In case you don't know me personally, I'll preface this blog by stating that:

1) I am a very proud American. I wear red, white and blue every 4th of July. Our nation's anniversary is my second-favorite holiday (after Halloween; refer to earlier blog for details).

2) I'm a third-generation native California, and feel extremely proud that my children are fourth-generation native Californians. (Because most Californians move here from other places, we are a rare breed.)

3) I believe that one can be a patriot (a person who adamantly loves one's country) without being a nationalist (a person who believes their country is better than every other country).

Furthermore, one thing that even my closest friends might not know is that I am absolutely scandalized that anyone would punish or even scorn any person for displaying an American flag in the United States of America. (I'm referring to the case in which some school-children were punished for displaying the Stars and Stripes on Cinco de Mayo:

(I do recognize that these students were likely trying to start fights with the Mexican-Americans with their flag-flaunting. But punishing them for displaying their own country's flag was not the appropriate action to address their confrontational behavior. Punishing the troublemakers for their provocative words or aggressive actions would have appropriately addressed this issue.)

For the record, I'm also against flag-burning. Incendiary statements can be made without setting fire to the flag. [Yes, pun intended. :-)] The fact that they live in America enables dissenters to express themselves without persecution. So to burn the flag as a statement of free expression sends a (shocking but) dissonant message.

But, to get back to my main point (about America as a melting pot)...

In elementary school, I was taught that one of the things that makes America great is the fact that we're a "melting pot" -- a colorful conglomeration of people from all over the world. My continued belief in this philosophy is not just a result of my continued love of Schoolhouse Rock's "The Great American Melting Pot" song, but observations and experiences I've enjoyed in my adult life. Here are some examples of why I love Melting Pot America:

My Lifestyle

- I drank a cappucino (Italy) and ate a croissant (France) for breakfast this morning.
- Yesterday I enjoyed English Breakfast tea and crumpets.
- Last week I savored some Thai Fried Rice with Thai Iced Tea.
- I haven't seen an Indian movie for a while. The last one I saw in the theatre (in Hindi, with English subtitles) was My Name Is Khan.
- I may have some Green Tea (Japan) later for its good nutrients.
- I've been thinking about the message from the fortune cookie I selected when the kids and I ate Chinese food a couple of weeks ago.
- This weekend I look forward to chomping on chips and digging into a yummy cheese enchilada, accented with a frothy margarita!

(Must I go on? I could, ad nauseum! I'd enjoy it, too; so just ask!)

My Friends

Plus, I literally have friends from across the globe -- some who look like me; others who look nothing like me. Some who share my Californian accent; others with accents markedly different from my own. All of these people enrich my life, and I likely would never have met many of them if America were not such a melting pot.

Our multiculturalism is the very thing that makes the United States of America one of the best nations in the world. For we absorb and (used to!) welcome people from almost every country across the globe. As a nation, we benefit from the unique strengths and perspectives that these immigrants (and by immigrants, I mean all non-indigenous Americans -- whether this generation or numerous generations back) bring with them. Some of us even apply our amassed strength and resourcefulness to assisting other nations in humanitarian efforts [e.g., in Haiti ( and Chile (].

Also, those in favor of Arizona's SB 1070 might want to keep in mind that, in the Southwest, the Mexicans were actually here first. Sure, we fought them until they moved further south. But Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, Texas... Anyone who lives in these sections of the United States lives in what was once Mexico. In modern times, most people (claim to) agree that the historical persecution of native peoples was wrong and not something that we should repeat. But it looks like some people only believe in tolerance for native peoples when it's convenient, or when the economy is thriving.

Also, as a note on Mexicans and the U.S. economy, most of the people the proponents of AZ SB 1070 want to expel are the poor. For white collar workers typically can afford to acquire necessary documentation. They have access to companies who will sponsor them, or they are educated enough to figure out how to acquire a green card or similar documentation. The destitute Mexican people do the work that most other Americans (who are wealthier, because they have been here longer) refuse to do. So are they really taking jobs away from anyone? For more on this point, check out:

In addition, the United States is HUGE. We still have plenty of room for everyone.

Now you might argue that it's not the people themselves to whom the pro-SB 1070 Arizonians and their adherents object, but rather the illegality of their entering and living in the United States without the appropriate paperwork. But I ask you: Raise your hand if your ancestors -- the first people in your family to enter the United States -- came here legally. The Puritans did not come here with the blessing of the British, but rather to escape mistreatment in their country of origin. Sound familiar? The people escaping the Russian pogroms and Nazis did not come here legally. They fled at great risk, fearing for their lives. Sound familiar? Many Irish people and Italians also crossed the Atlantic to U.S. shores -- not necessarily because they were in danger, but in hope of a better life. Sound familiar? I won't go on because I'm sure you get the point.

So, in summary, I'll answer my own question:

Yes, we are a melting pot. What's more, we should be a melting pot, because that's what makes our country great. We should celebrate our diversity and devote our minds to how we can improve our economy, rather than focusing on the poverty-stricken people who (just like our ancestors once did) come to America hoping to live in peace and prosperity.


* This blog is in indirect reference to the Arizona's Anti-Immigration Law (SB 1070). According to The New York Times, this law would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Learn more at: