When I traveled abroad, I quickly gained a glimpse of how the rest of the world sees Americans. We are categorized as materialistic mass-consumers who resemble either celebrities or reality television show personalities. We appear wasteful, loud, opinionated and brash—not to mention ignorant to the standard or style of living of those in other countries. I can definitely see how that could come across to newcomers, and can understand how that could be a bit of a shock. However, it leaves me with one question: why does anyone take all the trouble to move here, then?
Seriously, I believe I know the answer. I like to think that it is because those who chose to immigrate here are eager and willing to share in our dream—the American dream. They want to enjoy the freedom of opportunity and to experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in a land where people have rights. Not to say that citizens of other countries don’t have rights, but in America we get to flaunt it, right? I am glad that so many from other countries want to come and experience, enjoy and live our dream with us.
However, this class has shown me that newcomers have many opinions and criticisms of Americans, as well. As one who tries to take criticism well, but doesn’t always succeed, some of the oft-repeated stereotypes of Americans are bothersome. How could they not be? I know we Americans have issues—many of us are overweight because we like to eat fast food, we let our kids watch too much TV and play too many computer games, we generate too much pollution driving our big American SUVs and are rather decadent (read: sloppy) with fashion, body decoration and language usage, (just to name a few). But, with all those criticisms, we American ‘people’ are real people, individuals with feelings and opinions who are trying to get along, just like newcomers. In fact, many of our relatives were newcomers to this land of promise not too many generations ago.
If I had one opportunity to speak to those who have decided to make America their home, I would say this: cut us Americans some slack. Come and enjoy what we have to offer, give us a pass when we act different than you expect, then assimilate. Don’t lose appreciation for your unique heritage and rich traditions, but also make an effort to join us in our melting pot of society and culture with fervor. Take on our language slang, enjoy our foibles, participate in our economy, and then stand shoulder to shoulder with us against obstacles. But, most of all, be one of us…not just a newcomer, observer or stranger. The truth is that we need you—America was built on immigration and is unique and wonderful because of it. Take pride in your choice to be an American, if that is what you have chosen.
This American welcomes you and loves the fact that you are here.