Saturday, June 30, 2007

Immigrants Old and New

There's an interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal titled, On Letting Go, by Peggy Noonan. I can't find the article on the WSJ web site so I'll just quote a few lines here to give you the gist of it.

Peggy makes an excellent point about the differences among the current immigrants to America vs the immigrants we research on our family trees. Here's what she had to say in regards to the decision to come to America:
My grandfather had his struggles here but never again went home. He'd cast
his lot. That's an important point in the immigrant experience, when you cast
your lot, when you make your decision. It makes you let go of something. And it
makes you hold on to something. The thing you hold on to is the new country.

The problem with newer immigrants now is that for some it's no longer
necessary to make The Decision. They don't always have to cast their lot. There
are so many ways not to let go of the old country now, ...

Peggy goes on to make the point that with computers and the internet, with TV stations that broadcast in the old language, with the vast array of technology available today, one doesn't have to let go of the "old country", or fully join and embrace the new country in same way our ancestors did.

This really resonated with me and made me wonder if we (as a country) don't contribute to this with all the bilingual product labels, road signs, etc. It makes me wonder if newer immigrants who insist on their ethnic foods being served in the public schools, and classes being taught in their native language, really want to become American... or do they want to become American too? And does it matter? Is their patriotism for America diluted by their communication umbilical cord with their "old country"? What do you think?


  1. It's not a melting pot anymore, is it? All the ingredients seem to want separate (but equal!) plates. I forget, is that the recipe for Trouble or Disaster?

  2. You're right of course. And the likelihood of trouble/disaster increases when the table is full but the ingredients want still bigger plates.

    What will it take to make the melting pot again? For a while there (9/11) things looked hopeful but now I wonder if it will take the wolf getting into the room again for the ingredients to blend.

  3. My friend V found the complete article online for me. It's at:

    I don't know how long it will be available on the site.

  4. Thanks for the link to the article Jasia. I vividly remember the first time a few years ago when shopping in a "major" retail store that I noticed signs posted in both English and Spanish. To put it mildly, it knocked my socks off.

    I really don't think immigrants should have to "give up" their language and customs, there is a lot to be said for diversity, but I do think there should be a more concerted effort for them to learn our customs and especially, our language. The melting pot has changed to a bubbling cauldron, ready to boil over any time now... I wish I knew the answers.