the British came for religious freedom, the Spanish came for riches, the French for territorial increase and the Irish for political independence. But it wasnt just those countries. The Germans, the Dutch and the Belgian, the Polish, the Italians, a good mix of everyone set sail for the shores of the new world. they came to build a new life for themselves and their families. they came to found colonies and together, they built a new country. a country built upon common values and ideals. a country literaly built by blood and tears. a country built by immigrants.
for the past several years immigration has been a very touchy subject. debates range from a complete open door policy, to just limited and specific immigration, to closing the doors altogether. opinions cover an equally wide specturm. and you are guarenteed a heated discussion if you bring up immigration in a group. political carrers can hinge upon immigration views. it is an issue that so many people take to heart, it is rarely discussed camly and with a level head.
i too have some strong opinions on immigration. well, to be fair i have pretty strong opinons on most things. But when thinking of immigration specifically, at one point or another, i have covered all areas of the spectrum. but tonight i saw a story of immigration that really touched my heart. and even though it doesnt take much, the story brought a tear to my eye.
it wasnt even suppose to be a story about immigration. it was american idol actally. before you judge, rhys is away all week. i am by myself. the baby had just gone to bed and i wanted something cheesy and unintelligent to unwind to. so cheap, reality tv it was. there was a young, teenage boy who was auditioning. both his parents had immigrated to america from nigeria. they had met each other whilst attending university, married and had 7 children. The whole family was there with the boy. The mother was dressed in traditional african garb. the father was dressed smartly dressed in a 3 piece suit. All the children were stylishly, but modestly dressed. and the entire family was very articulate.
and it hit me. is what it is all about.
the parents came to america for education. they came to give thier family a better life. and even though it was obvious that they still maintained quite a bit of their nigerian culture, they had equally embraced the american way of life. the son was auditioning for ameican idol for goodness sake. how much more 'american' do you get than reality tv? that is what it is all about.
historically america has been referred to as the 'melting pot' i think whilst it is important to be cautious about who and what is coming into the united states, its also important to remeber that we are a nation of immigrants. unless you are native america or have native american heritage, you and your family immigrated at some point in the line. and isnt that was makes us so great? i am firm believer that america is such powerful country because of the unique foundation upon which it was built. the nigerian immigrant family on american idol reminded me that immigration is not as cut and dry as it is often made out to be.
the boy made it through to hollywood although based on the judges reaction, i dont think he will make it beyond that. but the reaction from his family was touching. his sisters were jumping up and down and screaming, hugging him and dancing around. his mother and father just smiled, clasped their hands together and thanked god and america. they thanked god and the nation for blessing their son and their family. and it made me cry. theirs was a family who truly appreciates what america has to offer. they have fully embraced the chance they were given. it was a lovely story. and it was a good reminder.
i dont know the answers to the immigrant debate, but i do know this, we are a country of immigrants. and at the heart of it all, their story is our story.