As I was flying to England this past Christmas, I watched the short documentary Out of Many, One on Netflix. It is the story of US residents in their journey to American citizenship. Immigrants from Venezuela, Colombia, China and Mexico meeting to study for their citizenship test through the art and artifacts of the New York museum.
Not only is this idea like super fucking cool and worth watching just for that reason. It is also an inspiring watch about being an immigrant and how, as immigrants, we interact with the world differently.
I noticed in the stories of these strangers the strongest of parallels to my own experience. As immigrants, through love, loss or persecution, we have chosen our home. We have chosen the USA as the place we want to build our lives. As the country we WANT to contribute to. We make this choice knowing that we are not extended the same liberties as citizens. We make this choice knowing our residency can be revoked at almost any time, for any political purpose. I had never really thought about it this way but it means a lot.
The individuals on the documentary love the States. They love the freedom and opportunity. They love the liberty of life here even when faced with the backlash of this political climate. Immigrants are not only filled with love for this country but also gratitude. This got me thinking: how would this country look different if all legal born citizens looked at the liberty and opportunity in the same way as immigrants do?
How would society change if every one woke up each day thankful to be able to live in American? If rather than focusing on what they do not have and who is to blame, they focused on all the incredible things this country brings to us.
Would people still be so filled with hate and discontent for other members of society if they instead saw the lessons history has written? Instead of blaming immigrants for woes, finding gratitude that we reside in a country others risk their lives to be part of?
I love the patriotism of America. And I always loved how I saw anyone could be American once you’re here. Yet since moving I’m beginning to see that that only really applies if you are white and of European decent. People can gladly accept me as American because I look like the majority and I talk like the majority.
What makes the country a place I choose to be is the diversity here. Looking back on history this is a country who has invited those who are different, invited those who are persecuted. And now we see a widespread rhetoric of hate and distaste to anyone brown, anyone who does not worship America’s god, or speaks with an accent.
We live in a country where the president praises nationalism. Like it’s a good thing. He is preaching to the uninformed and encouraging them to stay just so. Anyone who cares to look will see nationalism is dangerous. Because nationalism is isolationist. Nationalism is us versus them and thus there needs to be a them. The them changes but the outcomes are the same.
Nationalism does not encourage emphathy. If there is one thing the US needs right now it’s more empathy. Rather than seeing a bunch of young men rushing a border wall, think of the collection of lost souls willing to risk their lives to make a better life for themselves. Husbands willing to be gassed and removed over and over in the hopes of making enough money to send their children to a good school.
I just sure hope the US is never in a position where it needs to be extended the empathy and kindness it is currently refusing to give to others.
We live in a country of immigrants, founded by immigrants, raised by immigrants, fought for by immigrants. The lives of Native Americans were forever transformed by immigrants. There is not a blade of grass, a word in a book, or a child in school that has not been impacted by immigration.
We need to embrace the history of immigration. Embrace how it has allowed us to be the strongest country in the world. Immigrants see the US for what it is, we see the flaws and the steps away from progress and we still chose you. We’ve been choosing you. We see the foreign affairs, proxy wars and bad decisions and we still LOVE this country.