Immigrants and Loyalty

Let me start by laying my cards on the table. I am an immigrant to the USA. I came here by choice and not as a refugee from persecution. In this respect my situation is no different from those who have arrived here in recent times from (East) India, Canada, many parts of Eastern Europe and South America.

I certainly was not driven here by starvation or extreme unemployment in my birth country but came for the employment opportunities that Silicon Valley offered. In the Bay Area of California where I live Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asians, together with Mexicans, outnumber Whites. We all seem to get on pretty well in our day-to day lives, living and working together, legally and illegally, and I almost never encounter evidence of serious racial friction. There is a lot of inter-marriage, surely a sign of tolerance

My social life also is spent mostly with people who were not born in the US, though I have a lot of American friends. American in this context means white and black people whose families go back many generations in the US.

I would like to feel more comfortable with this multi-racial multi-cultural life but one or two things bother me and prevent me from claiming wholeheartedly that it all works. Last weekend reminded me why. I spent a social afternoon with a married couple, an American husband and Korean wife who are long-time friends. Unexpectedly, we were joined by an Iranian couple who have lived in the United States for over twenty years. Eventually, the topic of conversation got around to politics, Iran and the Middle East, and some fundamental differences were revealed. The details of the argument were typical West Coast stuff over whether Bush lied, was the war about oil, was it about Israel, was America as guilty, indeed more guilty, of atrocities than Saddam, etc? Finally, my Korean friend got us down to the nitty gritty question of where should our loyalties lie. It was instructive that she dared raise this question, since her husband and I, being male and white, could not. My Korean friend, like several other Korean immigrants I have met, is fiercely loyal to the USA and its President. She has no divided loyalties over a possible war with North Korea, taking the view that the USA is her country now and has a claim on her. She also takes the view that the USA is a great country and possibly the greatest in the world.

The Iranian couple, like most, though not all, Iranians I know in the US, took a very different view. For them the US has always practiced duplicity in world affairs, Middle Eastern countries are victims of American (and British) duplicity, Islam has no particular responsibility for terrorism and the war that is now shaping up between East and West is one of moral equivalence. For them, it is not a war between civilized people and terrorists. These Iranians will not be on the side of the US should the war erupt, indeed they have quite a contempt for US life and culture. In all this, they differ little from most Indians I know here, most Eastern Europeans, Arabs, Jews, South Americans and quite a few Chinese. Apart from Koreans, the only other immigrants I have met who seem to respect the US and its institutions are Cubans, Filipinos, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and some Mexican Americans.

Of course, the anti-America immigrants share their feelings with many American Leftists and almost all of the Media Class. For them, America is always the culprit. Interestingly, all these critics of American foreign policy also like to point to consumerism and the vulgar corners of American life as justification for biting the hands that both feed and protect them. But just like American Liberals, they also like their SUV’s, pedicures and cheap Mexican house cleaners and have no intention of departing these shores soon. But then, Alex Baldwin is still here too.

I share the views of my Korean friend. The USA may not be perfect but thank God it is still the most powerful superpower. No country has been more generous to the world and no people more accepting of newcomers. This will still be true if the borders are sealed tomorrow. It is a country worth defending and I wish more immigrants felt this way.

Afterwards, when I reflected, it struck me that there is a very revealing difference between the pro- and anti-American camps. It is the response to 9/11. My Iranian friends never mentioned it and neither do most Leftists if they can help it. They are neither outraged nor terrified by that shocking event and it is not the wake-up event that it was for me.

In the past Italians, Austrians, Turkish and German immigrants were loyal Americans when war came. Now we are at war again and this time many of those who have chosen to make America their home seem unwilling to defend it. Indeed they sympathize openly with America’s avowed enemies. This is why I feel some reservations about this multi-cultural multi-racial society I live in. Is it too disunited to adequately defend itself?

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