I did not come to this country to change it – learning the basic rules to increase diversity
I did not come to this country to change it – I wanted to contribute purposefully (Click to tweet this)
That is what went through my mind over 20 years ago when I arrived at Philadelphia International Airport coming from Germany. There is a clear distinction between coming here on vacation, or to stay and live / work here.
When you are on vacation you can pretty much not totally lose your own culture or native language. It is generally tolerated wherever you go on this planet to not perfectly know the cultural do’s and don’ts and not to be able to speak the local language either at all or not well enough.
Living here carries a more significant responsibility: It requires to ponder the active choice to either change the country by remaining the same and building your own mono culture, or you change whilst keeping your differences to your family unit, bring your different views to the table when needed and thus make your local infrastructure stronger. The latter provides long term sustainability and a sense of overall inclusion and greater community.
Since I wanted to make a living here indefinitely, I felt pretty strongly about how I needed to assimilate as best as I could. That involved speaking the locally used language and adopting the vast majority of local customs. The United States of America loved me back by letting me become who I wanted to be. The nuances that made me unique make my contribution unique. This interweaving of cultures and mutually benefitting from one another has been long known under the term melting pot.
It is more though. To me this is the American Dream that anyone can enjoy no matter where you are from.
There are a few conditions tied to it though. For one you need to be the one who needs to actively ask yourself if and how you want this to pan out for you. If you do not plan – you plan to fail. The other main conditions are linked to sharing the same language. That is the language in which we converse, and the legal language as well. A common language can unite and increase communication and understanding, just as well as different languages can segregate and distance folks from one another. This is also applicable to the legal boundaries. The same rules must apply to everyone no matter where we live together here. Ironically enough in order to live free, we need to have rules to live by.
I am not suggesting that everyone give up their heritage. The opposite is quite the case. Let our differences make us and our world around us stronger. That is how you can be who you want to be, remain the same in one way and yet make a purposeful contribution without ostracizing anyone – we need to just agree on the basic rules.
Think about your heritage and how your ancestors came here to live their form of the American Dream. If you have kids, they probably have asked you already where you have come from and what cultural background you have. How did your families change and how were they changed by immersing themselves in our culture of inclusion and tolerance? You had better think about this sooner than later, because this is the legacy that you are leaving behind. You had better make it memorable.