Should immigrants in essence forget where they are from?Should immigrants leave behind the politics and turmoil of their old country once they move to a new land, or do you feel it is natural to...

Should immigrants in essence forget where they are from?

Should immigrants leave behind the politics and turmoil of their old country once they move to a new land, or do you feel it is natural to have an intellectual, emotional, and political connection to your former home?

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kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

As an immigrant myself I have found that I have assimilated in some ways in that I have actively tried to absorb and understand the culture into which I have moved. I think that my observations on what I see and learn about my chosen home are coloured by my experiences in my homeland. I will always remain an immigrant as I was born elsewhere, but I am happy to be a citizen of the land I have made my home.

marbar57's profile pic

marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

These are all good posts, and each one has touched a little bit upon the way I feel about assimilation into a culture or nation. 

America has been called "The Great Melting Pot," because it's made up of many nationalities.  Most of its inhabitants came from another country, the only "natives" being the Indian tribes dwelling here when the first explorers and settlers arrived.  In essence, unless we're a full-blooded American Indian, we're all  "foreigners."  As such, we all have different heritages, comprised of generations of history, tradition, language, and culture.

There's a saying I know that might apply to this discussion:  "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl!"  The same thing applies to us!  We're a product, more or less, of where we were born, whether it was across the border, across the ocean, or right here in the United States.  We all hail from somewhere; sometimes our surnames definitively reveal our roots, but we've all become Americans. 

As Americans, we aren't expected to just forget our past; our past makes us what and who we are today.   But, we don't need to cling to our past to the extent that it keeps us from being loyal, productive citizens of this country!  We need to learn the laws and history of this great country, and since English is its official language, we all need to learn it well enough to speak and read it.   But in the privacy of our homes, there's nothing wrong with speaking our native tongue and teaching our posterity about their roots! 

dastice's profile pic

dastice | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Of course nobody should forget where they came from and what shaped them into the people they now are, but I do think that holding on too tightly to your previous life can be a hindrance.  To get along successfully in a new society, you must adopt that system of cultural beliefs and practices to a large extent.  Otherwise you will find yourself at odds with the norm and a smooth, comfortable existence will not be possible.  Conformity to a certain degree is mandatory, whether you are from another country or not.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that the posts here are quite passionate and I will not speak to countering anyone's emotion in such a forum.  I would like to point to a work of literature that might speak to this condition and context with a great deal of thought and eloquence.  Richard Rodriguez's "Hunger of Memory" is a great resource on how the lives of immigrants, especially from non- English speaking background, and their children have to make conscious choices about culture and identity.  Rodriguez recalls the time when the nuns at his Catholic school told his parents to stop speaking Spanish in the home and begin to speak English, as it would help their children acquire the language.  Rodriguez points out that the nuns were right in that the children of the home gained a greater flexibility and use of the language.  Yet, he also points out that while the children became better speakers of English at school and enjoyed a greater sense of being in the public arena, their home life suffered a bit as the discussions were less, their emotional content a bit withered, and the intimacy that comes from shared communication not understood by the greater majority was lost as a process.  I think that this one memory is a metaphor for how the issue of "forgetting" from where one hails is a part of this process and I feel that it might help bring a literary context to this discussion.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I do not agree with all the people saying that you have to keep these ties to the "mother country."  My dad is an immigrant but he does not try to continue to be involved in the politics of his old country.  He is an American and he does not feel that he has any stake in the politics of the old country.  He maintains ties with family, but he is not involved in trying to be a person from that country.

I think that his approach is appropriate.  He moved here, he decided he wanted to be an American.  If he wanted to remain active in the politics and culture of his home country, he would have stayed there.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Absolutely not.  It is part of who they are and what their heritage is, and should be passed on to their children and grandchildren.  That having been said, if they move to another country--the USA for example--they SHOULD learn the language, become a legal citizen, and BE loyal to that country as well.  I do not believe that a person should live and work in a country illegally and then complain that the country in which he/she resides isn't doing enough to help him/her make a living.  As a human being, we all have rights no matter where we choose to live, but we are obligated to follow the laws of the land in which we reside.  You can not expect special treatment if you are not legally living, studying, working in a particular country.  You will not be dealt with efficiently if you don't learn the language, customs, and history of the country. 

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Of course immigrants should not be expected to forget their heritage. It's part of who they are. Look at the people who feel loyalty to sports teams or Alma Matres. Our allegiances help define who some of us are--they help define our identity.

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think that it is important to maintain a connection to your homeland even if you are living in another country.  Often, people who live in different countries still have family and even friends who live in their home country, so a personal investment is necessary.  I agree that a person should have loyalty to the country in which they are living, but I'm not so sure that it should be their first loyalty.  I've lived in several countries, and I never considered any of them a priority.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Of course not.  Who we are is essentially connected to the circumstances from which we came.  It's what happens once the change in place has occurred--the future--which is what matters, it seems to me.  I recently attended a citizenship ceremony for an acquaintance, and present were people from all races and nationalities.  At the end of their oath, they were officially declared Americans.  In that moment, their pasts didn't change, but their futures did.  They've left their pasts behind them physically, but there is still plenty which ties them to the past, of course--family members, friends, memories.  How can those just be ignored or erased.  The answer, of course, is--they can't. 

As already mentioned, though, there is another side to this issue--being a citizen here means your loyalty should be shifted here, as well.  If you're going to live here, learn the language; if you're going to receive the benefits of this country, invest your resources here; if this is your country, as stated in the oath you swore, this is your first loyalty.  This country should be at the top of your list, in other words, not just on the list somewhere.  If someplace else is where all those things are, perhaps that should be where you are.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It looks like everyone is agreement here. I hail from Irish stock, though my last Irish-born relation was about four generations back. I'm still proud of my Irish heritage, but I'm sure I'd be instilled with an even greater pride had I been born there myself.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I absolutely agree with post #2. It is 100% natural for humans to continue to connect with their roots, be they social, economic, political, geographical, etc. To me, this question is like asking if children, once they've graduated from high school and moved from their parents' homes, should completely forget their parents and any influences resulting from their experiences. Just because you move from another country, doesn't mean you can or should deny what has shaped your life. That often includes the "politics and turmoil" one may have experienced there.

Now, I do believe there is a movement in America, a sort of backlash against what is seen by some as a loss of "American culture". I believe that the current push in many states to make English the official language is an example of this. This could be considered part of your question: asking people to forget or leave behind aspects of their culture/traditions in order to assimilate. However, I believe that there is no way to truly, fully assimilate; immigrants will always carry those influences from their native country on their identity.

  Isn't that an interesting phenomenon, that backlash?  I think the English only effort comes in part from the fact that most Americans, myself included, would have a very difficult time defining what, exactly, "American" culture is.  As a permanent and ongoing blend of immigrants, we've borrowed from every culture that's moved here, and the original inhabitants as well.

I also think there is another half to the assimilation equation, which is the willingness of the resident population to accept the immigrants as Americans - that is, to invite them to socially as well as culturally assimilate. The backlash against immigrants has an isolating effect on those populations, which slows the very assimilation some Americans are calling for.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I absolutely agree with post #2. It is 100% natural for humans to continue to connect with their roots, be they social, economic, political, geographical, etc. To me, this question is like asking if children, once they've graduated from high school and moved from their parents' homes, should completely forget their parents and any influences resulting from their experiences. Just because you move from another country, doesn't mean you can or should deny what has shaped your life. That often includes the "politics and turmoil" one may have experienced there.

Now, I do believe there is a movement in America, a sort of backlash against what is seen by some as a loss of "American culture". I believe that the current push in many states to make English the official language is an example of this. This could be considered part of your question: asking people to forget or leave behind aspects of their culture/traditions in order to assimilate. However, I believe that there is no way to truly, fully assimilate; immigrants will always carry those influences from their native country on their identity.

martinjmurphy's profile pic

martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

My grandparents were from Ireland and I still have a strong connection to that country.  I think it is healthy to maintain those ties, but it is also essential to embrace the new country and to make connections with the culture of the new country.  I think both can be done and should be done.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I feel it is completely natural to not only retain, but to maintain, the connection immigrants have to their former homeland.  I think what many people forget is that often times they never wanted to leave.  It is, after all, their "homeland".  Their language, history, family and culture all remain there, it's just that economics has usually forced their hand and they leave because they have to.

The typical pattern is that the connection to the old country is reduced after two to three generations have passed, when the grandkids have never seen, and so don't remember, the old country, and the grandparents who maintain that culture in the new country begin to die off.

So I guess I find the "should" part of the question irrelevant, like asking if the sun should be hot.  It just is, and immigrants just do have a connection, simple as that.  Great discussion topic though.

cb1989's profile pic

cb1989 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I think that the posts here are quite passionate and I will not speak to countering anyone's emotion in such a forum.  I would like to point to a work of literature that might speak to this condition and context with a great deal of thought and eloquence.  Richard Rodriguez's "Hunger of Memory" is a great resource on how the lives of immigrants, especially from non- English speaking background, and their children have to make conscious choices about culture and identity.  Rodriguez recalls the time when the nuns at his Catholic school told his parents to stop speaking Spanish in the home and begin to speak English, as it would help their children acquire the language.  Rodriguez points out that the nuns were right in that the children of the home gained a greater flexibility and use of the language.  Yet, he also points out that while the children became better speakers of English at school and enjoyed a greater sense of being in the public arena, their home life suffered a bit as the discussions were less, their emotional content a bit withered, and the intimacy that comes from shared communication not understood by the greater majority was lost as a process.  I think that this one memory is a metaphor for how the issue of "forgetting" from where one hails is a part of this process and I feel that it might help bring a literary context to this discussion.

The best way to deal with children who live in an English speaking country is to have one parent always speak the native language of the parent and the other parent speaks only English. This helps children to distinguish the differences of language in their home and to be able to accept both cultures and traditions with dignity. And on a personal note,  if you learn to take traditions that you develop in your household as a combination of both cultures...makes it excellent and unique.

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