By: Rebekah Fiedler
I hear it all the time; people talking about the threats of so-called Balkanization, people talking about the nation being threatened by immigrants who are “stealing our jobs and infiltrating our country,” people talking about encountering languages other than English. A common sentiment is that, “This is America! I should not have to ‘dial one for English!'” But that begs the question: Why not?
The United States of America has, from its conception, been a melting pot. As people from all regions of the world flock to the United States for opportunities they may not otherwise have had, those who were born and raised in the good old U.S. of A. face a perpetual challenge: Accept people as they are, or require them to assimilate to our culture. But now that begs another question: What is “our culture?”
I would maintain that we do not have one culture, but many. I have yet to see why or how that would be a problem, or a threat to anyone else’s way of living. In fact, the entire concept of a free country requires a lack of forced assimilation. To assimilate or not to assimilate to the culture of the people around them must be the choice of each individual, and association of any kind must be free- that is a basic human right.
Liberty does not see people in groups. Liberty only cares about individuals. When a nation is truly free, society does not decide if people should assimilate or if they are allowed to maintain or develop their own cultures. Instead, each individual decides for themselves who they want to be and how they want to live. This includes, but is not limited to, the way they act (so long as they are not causing harm to other people), the way they look, the way they dress, the language they speak, the religion they practice, and the people with whom they associate.
All those things are what define a culture, and all of those things are individual rights. If individuals with similar values and customs come together and form their own culture- well, I would say, that is what the United States is all about. The freedom of association requires that there be as many cultures as the different groups of individuals want there to be.
All that being said, it must be stated and acknowledged that so many of the people who want to immigrate to the United States want so desperately to be accepted. They are willing to venture into the unknown, and oftentimes they are willing to give up their culture to gain approval from their new neighbors, employers, and co-workers. Many want to learn English and work hard to be an active, productive part of their new society. I, for one, want to welcome them with open arms and help them be all that they want to be. I would hope that instead of, “Why don’t you just speak English?” the majority response to these kinds of people would be, “How can I help you learn English?”
I choose to use my freedom to be a decent person, and I always have hope that the majority of other people do as well.
The bottom line is that people should be able to do and say and be whatever they want. We should leave people alone to do as they please, or help them along their own individual paths if they want us to. So that challenge I mentioned earlier, to accept people as they are or require them to assimilate? I would like to add another option: To simply live and let live.
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