Monday, October 16, 2006

Upon looking into my readings for today's class...

...I find a little bit of irony. My classes are reading, among other things, Bharati Mukherjee's "Two Ways to Belong in America", about the 1996 near-miss vote which would have denied legal resident aliens any gov't benefits (I summarize). She describes the difference in reaction to the events from her point of view-- Indian immigrant, wife of an American-- and her sister's legal resident status. Something she said made me both sad and thoughtful for a minute-- like Edward Said, she makes reference to the immigrant experience as multifaceted and at times contentious: "The price that the immigrant willingly pays, and that the exile avoids, is the trauma of self- transformation."

In this she's referring to her sister's strong links to India and Indian culture, even after acknowledging the limitations sometimes imposed on females from traditional families. Mukherjee herself relaxed into near-complete assimilation, though her critique makes me wonder if it's assimilation so much as the mestiza hybrid nature many Mexicanos de este lado find themselves in (And from experience, let me say Arizonans do not seem very friendly to the idea of anything except complete assimilation!).

She discusses the large rise in legal residents applying for citizenship to avoid problems, while her sisters mentions how stupid, inane, and reactionary the potential law was. In this, excellent point--her sister gave 30-plus years to education in her city in the US, only to be looked at like so many others as potential terrorist scum. Oddly, nowadays you can just be a good ol' US citizen and find yourself arrested, threatened, or shot if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (viz post 9-11 deaths of some people of color).

What I hope my students take out of this story is how Americans (with or without the sanctioned help of the gov't), with our piss-poor education, lack of attention span, discouraging of clear debate and thoughtful discussion, fear of "a black planet", and a general drugged (real or not) hysteria and anger and trepidation sometimes do not make it easy to BE in this land! When she wrote about two ways of being in America, I thought about all the ways she's missed.

America. Love it or Leave it, so said the bumper sticker this morning. Funnily, that's the problem-- why can't we wrap our tiny minds around more than two things??

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