Immigration, aculturation and Balkanization. Essay
We Americans have a very important decision to make. It will affect the future of our country, maybe even its future existance. Unfortunately, most Americans are not even aware of what’s happening. It all has to do with immigration, legal and illegal.
When I was a boy, my favorite uncle was my Uncle Fritz. His name was actually John, but when he went to work in the saw blade factory there were already several guys named John. His thick German-Swiss accent quickly earned him the nickname “Fritz” and it stuck. For the rest of his life, he was Fritz.
Uncle Fritz came here from Switzerland during the Great Depression in the 30’s. As a Swiss-trained machinist, he had no trouble finding a job. He got settled quickly, met and married my mother’s sister, bought a house and became a citizen. He went back to Switzerland only once to visit his family there. When he came back to the US, he remarked that he was glad to be “home.” Someone asked him “Fritz, when exactly did you stop thinking of yourself as Swiss and start thinking of yourself as an American?” He pondered for a moment and answered “When I realized I was thinking in English.”
For generations, the waves of immigrants who came to the US thought “job one” was to learn English. They simply assumed that part of being “American” meant speaking and understanding English. They came from Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweeden, Russia, the Ukraine, etc. And they all learned English as quickly as they could. Those who came before didn’t coddle them or make any allowances. If you wanted to succeed here, you learned English.
This is no longer true. Today, especially but not exclusively among the Spanish speaking immigrants, there are a great number of immigrants who try to retain their old language. They want TV and radio in their old language. They want schools to teach in their old language. They expect bi-lingual instructions and labeling on the products they buy. They expect bi-lingual signage…