“I am Retired Republican conservative senior and I believe in your cause… but I want to make a comment you need to pass on to others…Do not use signs in Spanish [or] Mexican flags [or] español. If you want to be American, you need to be American all the way through.”
The message was left on my personal voicemail. I’ve made it very easy for the general public to track me down and contact me. I don’t regret that because people have generally used it to ask for help. It’s been a while since I’ve been left a message like that. So forgive me for being appalled, annoyed, amused and finally, just sad. I’m sure it is much more deeply personal for someone who is actually Latino.
I don’t know what it is like to be “American all the way.” I’m never going to be “American all the way through.” I have spent some foundational years in another country. Most of my values about working hard, getting an education, making a living honestly, not wearing shoes in the house and a plethora of other rules are informed by my parents, who are also immigrants.
I love the fact that I can read, write and communicate in another language besides English. I love knowing that my name actually means something. I love that my family hails from a place that looks like heaven on earth. I love being part of a rich, cultural tradition.
I firmly believe that America is a salad bowl. We’ve a multitude of languages and cultures. I don’t see anything wrong with speaking several languages and showing our cumulative national prides. In an ever globalizing world of McDonalds, international holidays, languages, Facebook/Twitter, the bond of nationality is eroding. And I do not see that as a tragedy. Today, we self-identify in so many different ways. If society can accept so many identities without placing teleological components to legal status citizenship, why are the undocumented and documented migrants put to the test? Why are we asked to lose or hide our culture, our languages and assimilate to a particular mold? After all, I don’t think we need to be alike in order to co-exist.
But for some people, maybe the truth is that we do.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote:
Your car is Japanese. Your Vodka is Russian. Your pizza is Italian. Your kebab is Turkish. Your democracy is Greek. Your coffee is Brazilian. Your movies are American. Your English Breakfest is British, Your tea is Tamil. Your shirt is Indian. Your oil is Saudi Arabian. Your electronics are Chinese. Your numbers Arabic, your letters Latin. And you complain that your neighbour is an immigrant? Pull yourself together!
Hasta la vista.