Lately I’ve found myself growling at the tv. This is part of the reason that, in the US I watch almost no TV. Okay, okay, I confess, it’s because at one time I threw a house slipper at the TV and Dan decided he should stop watching it when I was around, because next time I might throw a snow-boot.
But that was campaign speeches. This is the news.
My parents have, as many older people who live in a house with no one young, developed the habit of always having the tv on in the background. Possibly to compensate for no longer having teens tromping up and down the stairs on their steel-toed boots.
I’m willing to take any number of Brazilian soap operas (though some day I might write “little known things about how life works according to Brazilian soap operas” post.) I’m even willing to take commercials for the Communist Party’s shinding, called Party Forward. (Forward being a slogan of the communist party throughout every land. Just as a point of information for ya’ll.)
It’ s the news that get to me. And we’ll roll our eyes over Trump telling foreign journalists he’s fit to rule (RULE? Mr. Trump, these are my middle fingers) because he has German blood (yeah, that) which is annoying but not, really, the end of the world, or nothing we hadn’t heard in his unguarded moments. (I was just hoping we’d have a president who loves America for what she is and doesn’t wish to fundamentally transform her.)
What is getting to me, and gets me muttering and snarling at the TV is the mayor of Nice talking about the amazing outpouring of “help” and how people marched together, shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity and–
And I start growling “And what the hell does that DO?”
Fortunately I found my dad has evolved in past years, to mostly agree with me even on crazy stuff, so he’s right along with me, snarling.
Here’s the thing, I have lots of sympathy for the victims, and yes, I think we need to unite and do something. But the something is not marching together or mourning together, or wearing a ribbon for this, saying a prayer for that, lighting a candle for the other thing.
My friend, Dave Freer has a post on facebook about his view:
I try not to talk about politics here on my page. But… Nice.
Je suis sick of all this shit.
Seriously, we were all Charlie Hebdo, we were all Bataclan/Paris, we were all Orlando…
We put flags on facebook profiles, we lit candles, we prayed.
And they simply do it again. And again.
In Nice, again, an Islamic fanatic targeted random people (who are non-combatants, children, and possibly of any religion or nation). They were not shields for any weapon, nor were they even necessarily foes. It was intended to terrorize, to kill and to maim. To intimidate, to lead towards a future the fanatics believe they will win.
I weep for the victims.
We need to accept that there is a problem. That Je suis talk and candles are not fixing it. Repeating the gestures may do no harm, but it has not stopped the problem recurring. And it’s like a pressure-cooker with an inadequate steam valve. These are little spurts of nasty steam. We either take the heat off – or it will blow. And, if like me, you (or parents or parents parents even) were migrants – we need to realize who will get burned. It has happened before, and will happen again – those who are different, who are new, who have not become a part of the mainstream – even the innocent – will be punished.
I am Australian. I was born elsewhere, Australia took me in, has given me –and my wife and kids a place to live, to be safe, to thrive. I love this country and its people for this. They owe me nothing, they gave me a chance: I owe them everything. I do my best to show that love: to fit into the culture, the language, the way people dress, to learn the songs, the poetry and the history. To volunteer, to help out – to pay back and to pay forward.
And that is all I would like to say to migrants, of any kind anywhere and everywhere. If the country you find yourself in is where you wish to be, work hard at loving it, its people and its ways, and at showing that. If you cannot bring yourself to love it more than you love your old ways… then leave peacefully and by your own choosing and move to somewhere that you can love, while you have the choice.
Don’t talk about ‘je suis’. Talk is cheap and easy to disbelieve. Do things that people can see, feel and understand. That way they will know ‘you are one of us’. Tomorrow I am going to go out and do just that.
Yesterday my parents took me and my family to a restaurant they love, where they serve traditional food, including roast cabrito, one of my very favorite American foods, but cumbersome to make in their kitchen particularly in the heat of summer.
Our entry with gigantic men — my dad was considered a giant here at six feet, and my sons and nephew all top that — called attention, and it didn’t escape the keen senses of our server that we were speaking English. So, she said “You live abroad” and my dad said “my daughter, son in law and grandsons do.”
She asked me “England?” I said “United States.”
She said, with a smile, “Which one do you like better? There or here?”
Now, I know there are polite lies, but there are things I don’t lie about. I said, “There.” She asked again, looking disbelieving and I gave the same answer again.
After the order and things were settled, she started asking questions, starting with, “Why don’t the young men speak Portuguese? How can they return if they don’t.”
My dad said, “she’s been there 30 years. There’s no plans of returning.”
And the waitress looked shocked, staring at me, “you weren’t being sarcastic when you said there?”
I said, “no.”
She looks confused examines Dan and says, “Is your husband foreign?” I said “yes” and she said “Oh, so that’s why you don’t want to return.”
And my mom said, “Oh, no. She’s the one who’d never let any of them return. she’s more patriotic for them than he is.”
And I thought “Hot damn, mom gets it.”
Here’s the thing: acculturation is not easy. As much as I was in love with American ideals, getting used to the way people do things every day; getting used to the way people interact, when I came from a highly formal gender/class divided society; getting used to the food; learning the history; learning the popular culture; learning why and how and when things were done — all that was massively difficult. Not intellectually but at a baseline, gut level. It was important and difficult, and sometimes I felt as if I were being mentally torn about. There weren’t many days the first five years that I wasn’t homesick to the point of pain for the familiar sights and the big city I’d left behind, while I was stuck in Rock Hill South Carolina. (And yes, part of that is that I am and will always be a city girl.)
If there were any way to avoid acculturating while reaping the benefits of being American, I’d have done it. But I wanted to BE American and so I put myself through untold pain.
And this was me, immigrating from a at worst second and a half world country.
Immigrants from the Middle East to the west face a much larger hurdle. Their ways are far more different than they encounter. Their religion AND THEIR CULTURE promotes a sense of superiority, which is nonetheless negated by everything around them. And no one asks them to fit in, and everyone tells them they should hold on to their oh, so precious culture.
The amazing thing is not that they kill. The amazing thing is that the streets aren’t awash in blood.
I still think it’s easier to deal with the problem where it is, instead of allowing millions of third worlders into the first world, to replace the kids the boomers refused to have.
BUT if you must let them — or some of them — in, it’s important to remember this: you should make it more uncomfortable and painful for them NOT to acculturate. Fit in, pitch in or get out. And don’t let the door hit you on your multi-culti tail. Most of the countries you come from are richer in natural resources than the first world, and no, the first world isn’t rich because it steals those resources. That’s a fairy tale for elderly Marxist spinsters.
The first world is rich because of a culture that encourages work, respect for private property, respect for other’s choices in matters of religion and private life.
And unlike what those elderly Marxist spinsters told you, culture isn’t hereditary. You can learn it and unlearn it. Sure, it hurts but at the end of it you’ll be a productive member of the most productive parts of the world, whose inventions have transformed the globe and raised most people above abject poverty in historical terms.
Learn. Change. Or get the hell out and back to your mud-wallow.
And if the Western world wants to survive it will learn to shout this in the face of all incoming “refugees.”
That’s the choice, ribbons, marches, and petty solidarity have no place in it.