Monday, October 02, 2006

The American Dream

Touted as fulfilling the American Dream, roaming the Land of the Free, making it in the promised land, and reveling in the melting pot, thousands have flocked to US, through both legal immigration and illegal entry. While some may be pushed by dire circumstances back home, the pull factor is often what tips the balance, leading to willful transplantation into what for most is a culturally challenging expedition.

Save for a relatively short duration more than a century ago when Chinese were banned from coming to the US, immigrants have largely been welcome as a positive contribution to national development here. To increase ethnic and geographical diversity, a greencard lottery system has also been put in place since the mid-1990.

But of late the chorus for border control is reaching a crescendo and attempts to terminate the greencard lottery are purportedly debated in the Capitol Hill. While the issue continues to simmer and awaits a comprehensive resolution, hopefuls would have to make some adjustments as necessary while both legal and illegal non-immigrants already in the country may face backlash from an increasingly polarized populace. For one thing, one would have to strive to merge into the American mainstream beyond the economic sphere. In addition, one could likewise leverage one’s linguistic and cultural background to help project a neighborly image for one’s adopted country in the international arena.

I’m ethnic Chinese. This qualification may seem superfluous as I can’t possibly be confused with the ilk of Christopher Lee, Tom Lee, and Sara Lee nor the like of Lee Majors and Lee Remick. Instead, I’m more likely to be grouped with TD Lee or YT Lee, both Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry, respectively.

Being a member of the so-called Under-Represented Minority (URM), I can imagine there are situations where it may be advantageous to keep my ethnicity to myself, say, in a college application, lest I’m cast as a stereotypical studious kind whose ability to contribute to campus diversity is dubious. But to do that is to ignore my cultural heritage when learning Chinese is becoming popular as evidenced from the fact that schools are setting up Chinese classes and Advanced Placement Program will soon include Chinese as one of the course offerings. As in most things in life, short-term expediency is no substitute for peace of mind in the long haul, not often anyway. So be true to yourself, and to humanity as well.


Keng Hui said...

My Strategy Management lecturer showed us a video about doing business in China, and they kept talking about "guan xi". At first we thought it was one of the provinces... To our surprise, English is taking Chinese word into its vocabulary, "guan xi" means relationship. It is also widely used in many self-help books.

If Chinese is hard to learn, since one cannot pronounce just by looking at it, at least han4 yu3 pin4 yin1 is readable.

Say Lee said...

Similar words that come to mind are kowtow and shanghai.

Actually I prefer networking to relationship for the English equivalent eventhough the term as used in China has earned a less than savoury connotation that implies, amongst others, nepotism.

As for learning Chinese, sometimes it's difficult for native speakers to appreciate how tough it's to learn, much less master, a highly naunced language such as Chinese.

While learning chinese the phonetic way or romanized way helps, it does take away an essential character of the language itself, i.e., the writing form with all its intricate but systematic strokes. But it does help to propagate Mandarin, the spoken form.

Keng Hui said...

Thats right, networking!
关系 (Guan Xi) -relationship
人脉 (Ren Mai) -networking
All resolves around
缘 (Yuan)

Hmm, I do not have a Chinese viewer with me, so I do not know if the above characters are displaying. Time to setup my browser.

Say Lee said...

The chinese characters turn out fine as most browsers now come with built-in a chinese reader.

You mean all revolve around 缘, which is loosely translated as condition in Buddhist parlance.

projectmanager said...

American Dream, a possible dream.

Say Lee said...

Thanks for the link.

Yes, the American adventure where you alone decide whether you would make or break.

projectmanager said...

I am now dreaming about my American Dream, like the chinese saying: "Eating the Big Head Vegetable."

Say Lee said...

You lost me there. Do you mean the equivalent of "春秋大梦"?

But do dream on as to dream is the start of many great things as eloquently spelt out by Bernard Edmonds:

"To dream anything that you want to dream. That is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything thing that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed."

We make goals regularly. But goals are but dreams with a deadline.