An immigrant’s perception of U.S.
“As an immigrant who has chosen to become a U.S. citizen, I feel especially qualified to say what is special about America. Having grown up in a different society – in my case, Mumbai, India – I may not only able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to people who have always lived here, but I am also acutely conscious of the daily blessings I enjoy here.”
Here, then, is an immigrant’s list of the 10 great things about America:
1. America provides an amazingly good life for the ordinary guy: Rich people live well everywhere. But what distinguishes America is that it provides an incomparably high standard of living for the “common man.”
2. America offers more opportunity and social mobility than any other county, including the countries of Europe.
3. Work and trade are respectable in America, which is not true elsewhere. Historically, most cultures have despised the merchant and the laborer, regarding the former as vile and corrupt, and the latter as degraded and vulgar. Some cultures, such as that of ancient Greece and medieval Islam, even held it is better to acquire things through plunder than through trade or contract labor. But Americans have altered this moral hierarchy.
4. America has achieved greater social equality than any other society in the world. The American view is that the rich guy may have more money, but he isn’t in any fundamental sense better than anyone else.
6. In America, the destiny of the young is not given to them – it’s created by them! In most counties in the world, your fate and identity are handed to you. In America, you can determine them for yourself. America is a country where you get to write the script of your own life. Your life is like a blank sheet of paper, and you are the artist. This notion of being the architect of your own destiny is the incredibly powerful idea behind the worldwide appeal of America. Young people especially find irresistible the prospect of authoring the narrative of their own lives.
7. America has gone further than any other society in establishing equality of rights. There is nothing distinctively American about bigotry or slavery. Slavery has existed in virtually every culture. And xenophobia, prejudice and discrimination are worldwide phenomena. But no country in history has expended more treasure and blood to rid itself of slavery than the United States.
8. America has found a solution to the problem of religious and ethnic conflict that continues to divide and terrorize much of the world. Visitors are amazed to see the way Serbs and Croatians, Sikhs and Hindus, Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Jews and Palestinians work and live together in harmony in this country.
9. America has the kindest, gentlest foreign policy of any great power in world history. Critics of the U.S. are likely to react to this truth with sputtering outrage. They will point to longstanding American support for a Latin or Middle Eastern despot, or the unjust interment of the Japanese during World War II. But what the critics leave out is the other side of the ledger. Twice in the 20th century the United States has saved the world: first from the Nazi threat, then from Soviet totalitarianism. What would have been the world’s fate if America had not existed?
Consider, too, how magnanimous America has been to the former Soviet Union after its victory in the Cold War. For the most part, America is an abstaining superpower. America has shown no real interest in conquering or subjugating the rest of the world. (Imagine how the Soviets would have reacted if they had won the Cold War.)
10. America, the freest nation on earth, is also the most virtuous nation on Earth. This point seems counter intuitive because in a free society, freedom is frequently used badly. Freedom by definition includes the freedom to do good or evil. The millions of Americans who live decent, praiseworthy lives desire our highest admiration because they have opted for the good when the good is not the only available option. By contrast, the societies that many Islamic fundamentalists seek would eliminate the possibility of virtue because coerced virtue is no virtue at all.
All of us can reflect upon this immigrant’s words and perhaps in our own way to remind ourselves of what we have, what we must continuously protect, and what we should be thankful for – happy Thanksgiving!
Butch Mazzuca of Singletree can be reached at email@example.com