The United States is a society of immigrants. Ever since its formation in 1776, and even before that, the United States has attracted immigrants from around the world. Since its early days, the country has admitted more than 50 million newcomers, a larger number of immigrants than any country in history.
For over two centuries, people have flocked under this nation’s protective wings as opportunists, sojourners, missionaries, refugees, and even illegal aliens. With the Statue of Liberty greeting Europeans entering Ellis Island, and The Golden Gate Bridge greeting Chinese and other Asians in San Francisco, the U. S. has long since been a refuge of the world, with opportunities abound and freedom for all. Over time, millions around the world have found emigrating to the US as the only alternative to starvation, death, or a life full of hardship and suffering. Most immigrants came, and still come today, for wealth, land, and freedom.
With thousands from nations spanning the globe, America has become a mosaic of people, culture, and hope. It is one of the most developed countries. It houses a lot of cultures, traditions, and ways of life. A lot of people think that it is the land of a dream so they strive to live there. Many scholars, journalists, and writers from all over the world tried to investigate the phenomena of this “unique” country. Among them are Zoltan Kovecses (a Hungarian Professor of Linguistics in the Department of American Studies at Eotvos Lorand University), James Ciment (an American writer, journalist and famous M. E. Sharpe Publishing Inc. general editor), John Hector de Crevecoeur (a French immigrant writer), Louis Adamic (a novelist and a journalist) and many others. Some people describe American society as a salad bowl while others see it as a melting pot. In a sense, both are correct depending upon one’s point of view. There are two other metaphors for American society – “a pizza” and “an ethnic stew”. This ethnic multiplicity is a result of the history of immigration. Which of the metaphors suits America the best? It is a disputable question even in the USA itself.
Our interest was also ignited by this puzzling question and we decided to disclose “the curtain” on it. So, the aim of our research was to investigate in what way immigration influenced the formation of the American nation, its culture, and religious beliefs. We wanted to know which words of immigrant vocabulary flew in American English and became an integral part of this language. Another goal was to inquire into the reasons and circumstances which forced people of different nations to immigrate to the USA, to get to know if the image of the “country of dreams” corresponds to reality.
We see the practical value of our research in further usage of the investigated information by the teachers, students at the history, English, and geography classes. Also, the facts we provide would be useful for all those who are interested in this country or who are going to visit it in order to prevent different problems caused by ignorance of the inherent peculiarities of the USA. In our scientific work, we have examined some books, journals, internet sites providing profound analyses of American history, culture, population, and some newspaper and magazine articles devoted to the culture of the country.
Using the historic, comparative, and statistical methods of investigation in our scientific work we studied the mentioned above materials, cited data about the US population by selected ancestry groups, we could define the main countries which had affected the formation of the American nation and its language. To distill the complex and rapidly changing nature of America and American life into a balanced survey is a difficult task, but we tried to do our best. We hope that the slides we show in our presentation make our research more interesting, vivid, and add to the palette of our scientific work many colorful tones.
The given theme has been investigated by us for two years. Thus from abstract work, it has developed into scientific research to what the volume of the material we provide testifies.
Chapter I. In Search of America
“America is so vast that almost everything said about it is likely to be true, and the opposite is probably equally true. ” (James T. Farrell) In setting out to describe America and the Americans, it would be tempting to assume that the United States is just another country, and try to approach it as such.
It is a superpower; at the same time, it has its population centers, high and low temperatures, educational systems, arts and crafts, politics and problems, battles and bruises just like any other country. To take this approach, however, would mean ignoring two fundamental problems. First, we all carry around in our minds images of America. As a result, most readers, like most tourists, set out in search of America wanting to find what they’re looking for, and are displeased if they don’t find it. Secondly, we all know and certainly feel that America – that dream and that promise, those myths, legends, and hopes – is somehow different.
The very subject of America attracts opinions and judgments as no other country does. In approaching America, therefore, we first need to take a closer look at these problems if we hope to get closer to the central question of what America is and what it means.
America: Its Image and Reality
“This land is your land” is the United States popular song. It is such a well-known refrain because it is one of the first tunes which many people learn to play on the guitar. Yet this land, America, is not our land (unless, of course, we are American citizens).
Anyone who was born in the second half of the twentieth century, and who has lived in a land that displays all the modern media – newspapers and magazines, paperback books and films, radio and television, videos and advertisements of every type – has grown up with hundreds, even thousands of images of America and American life. Because of this, most Europeans have already been to America, even if they have never placed one foot on American soil. As a result, it is rather difficult to introduce people to America. After all, they have seen, heard, and read about the United States for most of their lives.
If we ignore this problem, we can easily find ourselves in an embarrassing situation. It would be like introducing someone to his neighbor after he has lived around the corner from her for the past 50 years. “Thank you very much, but we’ve already met! ” He knows the USA very well, or at least he thinks he does. To put this differently and a little more directly: just about everyone seems to be an amateur, armchair expert on America. And why not? Think for a moment about how many old and new American movies you’ve seen. And there are all those songs you’ve heard which is sung in American accents.
We can’t overlook all the articles which appear every day in newspapers and magazines, giving the latest news, trend, or scandal in the United States. Then there are those special TV documentaries on problems in America and on “the American way of life. ” We shouldn’t forget the many television series, the cops in the big cities, the cowboys out West, the rich in their beds and boardrooms. Popular novels and even comic books that have American scenes and characters sell well in most countries, too. There are posters, feature films, cartoons, greeting cards, bumper stickers, and T-shirts with their messages, and graffiti.
What is hard to remember is that all of these images and views of America are heard, seen, read, or observed outside the United States. We don’t need to listen to an American radio station to hear American music. American television programs are normally seen on European television stations, and magazines, newspapers, novels, stores, or advertising firms in many parts of the world also publish, create, show, or sell images of America. In short, America does not stop at her borders. It seems to be everywhere, but everywhere is not America.
Of course, American images and products are not always welcome. Whether jeans or jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, violent movies, or even those “damn dangerous” skateboards, more than one nation in both East and West has tried to discourage, or has simply forbidden the inflow of unwanted Americana. It is important to understand how this constant so everyday contact outside the United States with things which might seem to be American has affected views of what America actually is. Is there anyone among us who has not seen a photograph of the New York City skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Statue of Liberty?
The two most-watched television series in the world in the early 1980s were Dallas and The Muppets, of course, making a friendly frog named Kermit as well known to children throughout the world today as a mouse named Mickey or a dog named Snoopy were to their parents. Even if someone living in England, France, or Germany might not know, for instance, who the current Dutch prime minister is, they will probably know that New York City is the most violent city anywhere and that whiskey is the favorite American drink.
Most serious students of America realize that because so many images of America are such a common, normal part of cultures outside of America, it is almost impossible to separate the image from the actual, the reputation from the reality. John Steinbeck stated that the picture of America and the Americans which is branded on the minds of foreigners is derived in very large parts from novels, short stories, and particularly from moving pictures. ” And, he felt, while even “the least informed American” was able to separate fact from fiction, daily life from the dream machine of Hollywood, the foreigner too often was unable to do so.
The Reasons of Immigration to the USA
Major changes in the pattern of immigration have been caused by wars, revolutions, periods of starvation, persecutions, religious intoleration, and in short, by any number of disasters which led people to believe that America was the better place to be. America was the country where they could start a new life. It attracted farmers by free lands. Stories of the New World’s gold attracted the first Spanish explorers, who in the 1500s established outposts in what is now Florida. Prospects of wealth also motivated French fur traders, who set up trading posts from the St.
Lawrence River to the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. The British, who were the first to colonize on a large scale, came for-profit and also for religious freedom. The first successful English colony founded at Jamestown, Virginia, was financed by a London company that expected to make money from the settlement. English Puritans, Protestants who disagreed with the teachings of the Church of England, established settlements in the northeastern region. In the New World, they could worship God as they pleased.
More than a million Irish emigrated to America between 1846 and 1851 in order to escape disease in Ireland. During the same period, a large number of other Europeans fled political persecution. And in the 1870s another wave of refugees left political turmoil of eastern and southern Europe to seek freedom and a future in America. The largest stream of European immigrants came between 1900 and 1920, that is, before, after, and during World War I. At other times, for example, during the Depression and during World War II, smaller numbers of immigrants came to the U. S.
Since the 1960s, more and more people have fled the poverty and wars in Asia and Latin America in the hope of finding a better life in the United States. But all in all, the heritage of immigrants and immigration has brought enormous benefits to America.
The Importance of Religious Beliefs – “One Nation under God”
The immigrants who first came to America from countries all over the world brought a variety of religions. Many came with the express purpose of establishing communities where they could practice their own form of worship without interference or fear of persecution.
Looking at religion in the U. S. we are once more faced with a typically American contradiction. From its very beginnings as a nation, Americans have been extremely careful to separate church and state, religion, and government. The Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, forbids the government to give special favors to any religion or to hinder the free practice of any religion. As a result, there are no church taxes in the United States, nor is there an official state church or a state-supported religion. There are no legal or official religious holidays.
Christmas, for example, is an important religious holiday for Christians. However, Congress cannot proclaim it, or any other religious observance, to be an official or legal holiday. To do so would violate the Constitution. There are no political parties in the United States that have “Christian” in their names. There is no longer even the assumption that America is, or should be, “a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant” (WASP) nation. Yet surveys show that religion continues to be quite important to many Americans, especially when compared with people in other countries.
While 58 percent of Americans feel that religion is “very important” in their own lives, it is hard to say to what extent religious beliefs affect their daily lives. However, a study done by Gallup International in 1996 seems to show that attention to religion, at least, is increasing in the United States. Some 48 percent of those surveyed felt that the influence of religion on American life was greater than it was five years before. Interest in religion is high even among young people, whose religious activity has typically been less regular than that of their parents and grandparents.
A Gallup poll indicates that young Americans are far more religious than their counterparts in most other countries. About 41 percent of America’s young people feel that religion should be “very important” in life, a percentage is far greater than in Australia, Britain, France, Japan, Sweden, and West Germany. Also, about half said they were more interested in “spiritual and religious matters” than they were five years earlier. Throughout American history, there have been periods of religious revivals that come and go. If there is in fact a “return to religion” at present, then it is associated with the more “fundamentalist” denominations.
These church groups are usually more conservative and orthodox in their religious beliefs and practices. Membership in the less conservative, so-called “mainline” Protestant churches in the U. S. has actually fallen in the last ten years by about 8 percent. Furthermore, church attendance by (Roman) Catholics has dropped by about a third during the same period. By contrast, membership in the fundamentalist Christian churches has gone up by 35 percent, and orthodox Jewish congregations have increased by as much as 100 percent. The increase in the fundamentalist Christian groups has attracted much public attention.
One reason is that many of these church groups actively publicize their beliefs and try to influence public life and political processes. Many have their own radio or television stations which they and their members finance. Yet overall the fundamentalist churches still represent a minority of all American church groups and members. Since Americans are free to form and follow any religious belief or religion they wish, there are a great many beliefs, denominations, and churches in the United States. The Roman Catholic Church is the single largest, with about 52 million members.
Although there are approximately 78 million Americans who might call themselves “Protestants,” they are distributed among many different, independent churches. There is no one church or church group that speaks for all Protestants or would be listened to by all. Each group, rather, supports itself. It employs its own ministers, builds its own buildings, and follows its own beliefs. The brief extract, from the list of over 140 churches, more than many words, best illustrates the great variety of religious denominations, independent churches, religious groups, and sects in the U. S. In most western societies, modernization has been accompanied by a marked decline in religious observance. America, in contrast, has remained unusually religious. Church buildings representing an astonishing variety of faiths line residential streets, outnumbering even the gas stations. Sunday morning traffic is typically congested as people drive to Sunday school and church. Most bookstores have an entire section of religious books and report a tremendous volume of sales of books about Christianity and Christian living. Bibles continue to be the nation’s best-selling books.
Religiousness is conspicuous. Billboards, T-shirts, and bumper stickers bear messages such as “Jesus Saves. ” There are even a few Disney land-type tourist parks, such as South Carolina’s “Heritage USA,” devoted entirely to the religious themes. These visible reminders of America’s religious activity are accompanied by impressive statistics:
- More than nine out of ten Americans say they believe in God;
- One-third claim they are born-again Christians;
- More than four out of ten attend church or synagogue at least once a week;
- Two-thirds are members of a local church or synagogue.
Although the Constitution declares the separation of Church and State, religion has always pervaded American political life. The motto of the seal of the United States carries the biblical words, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. ” When the pledge of allegiance to the American flag is recited, the two words “under God” receive emphasis. American currency bears the inscription “In God We Trust. ” Almost all American presidents have claimed affiliation with an established church. During inaugural ceremonies, U. S. presidents take their oath of office on the Bible.
Every session of Congress opens with a prayer. Politicians frequently make reference to God and the Bible in their speeches. Religion is bound to have an influence on politics in a society where so many people value religion.
Chapter II. The Nation of Immigrants
Several years ago, America was taught to be a ‘melting pot,’ a place where immigrants of different cultures or races form an integrated society, but now America is more of a ‘salad bowl’ where instead of forming an incorporated entity the people who make up the salad are unwilling to unite as one.
America started as an immigrant nation and has continued to be so. People all over the world come to America for several reasons. Most people come to America voluntarily, but very few come unwillingly. For whatever reasons they may have for coming they all have to face exposure to American society. When exposed to this ‘new’ society they choose whether to assimilate or not. Assimilation in any society is complex. Since assimilation is not simple, people will have negative experiences when assimilating into American society.
In American society, learning to speak English properly is a crucial factor in assimilation. People who have decided to come to America have found it rather difficult to assimilate into American society.
American Beliefs and Values
What among all of its regional and cultural diversity gives America its national character and enables its citizens to affirm their common identity as Americans? Clearly, having a particular race or creed or lifestyle does not identify one as American. However, there are certain ideals and values, rooted in the country’s history, which many Americans share.
At the center of all that Americans value is freedom. Americans commonly regard their society as the freest and best in the world. They like to think of their country as a welcoming haven for those longing for freedom and opportunity. Americans’ understanding of freedom is shaped by the Founding Fathers’ belief that all people are equal and that the role of government is to protect each person’s basic rights. The U. S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791, assures individual rights, including provisions for freedom of speech, press, and religion.
People who live in this country are known as that of a nation populated by immigrants who exercised free choice in coming to the New World for a better life. But the notion that America offers the freedom to all is an ideal that unifies Americans and links present to the past. Yet this ideal has not always corresponded to reality. The example of such exception is the treatment toward black slaves, which was very rude and cruel until the Civil War solved this problem. Reality continues to demonstrate that some social groups and individuals are not as free as others.
Because of lots of discrimination some Americans have not enjoyed the same rights and opportunities as others. In a real sense, American history is the history of groups and individuals that fight for rights. Americans’ notion of freedom focuses on the individual, and individualism has strong philosophical roots in America. Thomas Jefferson, the philosopher, third president of the nation and author of the Declaration of Independence, believed that a free individual’s identity should be held sacred and that his or her dignity and integrity should not be violated.
America’s nineteenth-century Transcendentalist philosophers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, argued for more individual self-reliance. Transcendentalists encouraged individuals to trust in themselves and their own consciences and to revolt against routine and habitual paths of conduct. Individualism, understood not only as self-reliance but also as economic self-sufficiency, has been a central theme in American history. In the early days, most Americans were farmers whose success depended not on cooperation with others but on their ability to confront the hardships of land and climate on their own.
The idealization of the self-reliant individual translated itself in the industrial age into the celebration of the small businessman who became a financial success on his own. Even in today’s society, where most Americans work for large, complex organizations and few people can claim economic self-sufficiency, individualism persists. Individual proprietorship in business is still extolled as the ideal. Government regulation is often resisted in the spirit of individualism. “Right to work” laws, which discourage union activity, are defended on the grounds that they protect the independence of the individual worker.
Many historians believe that most of the beliefs and values which are characteristically American emerged within the context of the frontier experience. Survival in the wilderness was best achieved by robust individualists. Survival experiences also explain the American tendency to idealize whatever is practical. Most pioneers who went west had not trained themselves in prairie farming, but they trusted they would be able to devise workable solutions to the daily problems and dangers they faced. Inventiveness was necessary for survival. This “can-do” spirit is something Americans are proud of today.
The do-it-yourself spirit is known as volunteerism in the American community and political life. Volunteerism means people helping people through privately-initiated. Volunteers, usually unpaid, are highly motivated workers who organize themselves and others to solve a particular community problem or meet an immediate social need, rather than waiting for someone else — usually the government — to do it. For example: when a high school football team requires money for uniforms, parents and students form an athletic association that organizes car washes and bakes sales to raise money for uniforms.
There are volunteer fund-raising groups in America, that organize money for buying food and clothes for homeless people or to save a symphony orchestra, for example. The willingness to participate in such groups is so widespread that six out of ten Americans are members of a volunteer organization. Volunteerism reflects Americans’ optimistic pride in their ability to work out practical solutions themselves. Historically, Americans have regarded their country as a land of limitless wealth. The first colonists of the New World wrote letters back home, contrasting the riches of America with the scarcity of the lands from which they came.
Fertile land was cheap and available to anyone who wanted to farm. A country where everyone could take what he wanted was indeed alluring. Yet as a settlement on the east coast increased, resources were gradually depleted. Did it matter? No. There were still inexhaustible acres in the limitless West. The abundance of untapped natural resources on the American frontier attracted not only farmers, but also game hunters, fur trappers, gold and silver miners, lumberjacks, and cattle ranchers. The buffalo was hunted to near extinction, millions of acres of forested land were cut and burned, and rivers were polluted.
Still, America is rich in natural resources. But attitudes toward wastefulness are changing. While some Americans still believe in the inexhaustibility of the nation’s resources, others reluctantly recognize that the era of cheap and plentiful resources is over. But now America’s rich Mountain West suffers from a severe water shortage. Westerners are faced with the need to restrict population growth and reconsider uses for water. Limits such as these are difficult to acknowledge because they contradict the psychology of abundance which has become so much a part of the American way of life.
As a nation of immigrants, Americans have from the beginning shared the assumption that the practical solution to a problem is to move elsewhere and make a fresh start. Mobility in America is not a sign of aimlessness but optimism. Pioneers made the arduous journey westward because they believed they could establish a better life for themselves and their children. Now, Americans move from place to place with the same sense of optimism, hoping to secure a better job or enjoy a warmer climate.
Moving about from place to place is such a common and accepted practice that most Americans take it for granted that they may live in four or five cities during their lifetime, perhaps buying a house and then reselling it each time they move. Consequently, when Americans go house-hunting, their foremost concern is usually how profitably they will be able to resell the house. The American habit of mobility has been important in contributing a degree of homogeneity to a society of such extreme cultural diversity and spaciousness.
Cultural differences still exist from region to region, but they are becoming increasingly less distinct as mutual exchange occurs. In this century, national pride has become generally stronger than regional pride. Foreign visitors to America are quick to observe the prevalence of patriotic symbols: flags fly in suburban neighborhoods, bumper stickers announce “I’m proud to be American,” the national anthem is played at every sporting event. National holidays such as Thanksgiving and Independence Day intensify the sense of national identity.
Yet patriotism in America is in some ways distinct from patriotism in other countries. In many nations, patriotism is essentially the love of the land. . In America, however, this specific sense of place, this identification with a particular geographical region as the homeland, is generally not developed to this extent. American patriotism is concentrated instead upon the particular historic event of Tri-Nations creation as a new start and upon the idea of freedom which inspired the nation’s beginnings. The term American Dream, used in widely different contexts from political speeches to Broadway musicals.
The American Dream is popularized in countless rags-to-riches stories and in the portrayal of the good life in advertising and on TV shows. It teaches Americans to believe that contentment can be reached through the virtues of thrift, hard work, family loyalty, and faith in the free enterprise system. However, throughout America’s history, reality has also taught her citizens, particularly minorities, that the American Dream is not open to all. Segregation and discrimination are effective tools that have barred minorities from equal opportunities in all spheres.
Events in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most obviously the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, jolted the country with doubts and insecurities among Americans about their country’s goals. The mainstream Protestant values which had held society together seemed to be collapsing, and no coherent, unifying system of belief emerged as an alternative. The 1980s saw a return to conservative family values and morals, as well as a renewal of national pride. The ultimate significance, however, of this conservative revival is uncertain.
Some critics observe that with the breakdown of consensus on beliefs and values which began around 1970, there has been increasing disparity of opinion about Americans’ values and national goals.
The Process of Americanization in American History
The United States is a society of immigrants. Since its early days, the country has admitted more than 50 million newcomers, a larger number of immigrants than any country in history. Most people came and still come today, for wealth, land, and freedom. Throughout the 1600s and 1700s, permanent settlements were rapidly established all along the east coast.
Most of the early settlers were British. These early immigrants were soon joined by people of other nationalities. German farmers settled in Pennsylvania, Swedes founded the colony of Delaware, and the Dutch settled in New York. Africans, America’s unwilling immigrants, provided slave labor in the southern colonies. Immigrants also came from France, Spain, and Switzerland. When they settled in the New World, many immigrants tried to preserve the traditions, religion, and language of their particular culture. The language and culture of the more numerous English colonists, however, had the overriding influence.
American society was predominantly English — white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). Other immigrants who did not want to feel separate from the dominant WASP culture learned English and adopted English customs. European settlement changed the fate of America’s only non-immigrants, the Native American Indians. Europeans arrived in great numbers and needed land for their survival. They seized Indian lands through war, threats, and treaties, and they cut forests and built big cities. To the Indians, the white men were unwanted trespassers. They did not want the “white man’s civilization. They had their own which had been successful for centuries. The clash of cultures led to many battles. By the end of the nineteenth-century disease and warfare had almost wiped out the Indian population. Those that remained tried to resist the U. S. government’s efforts to confine them to reservations. The Plains Indians’ final defeat in 1890 at the Battle of Wounded Knee symbolized the end of the Indians’ traditional way of life. From the Indians’ perspective, the story of European immigration is a story of struggle and displacement.
Between 1840 and 1860, the United States received the greatest influx of immigrants ever. During this period, 10 million people came to America. By the middle of the century the United States, with over 23 million inhabitants, had a larger population than any single European country. The proportion of newcomers increased rapidly so that by 1860 about 13 of every 100 persons in the U. S. were recent immigrants. In the mid-1800s, thousands of Chinese immigrated to California, where most of them worked on the railroad. Up until 1880, the overwhelming majority of immigrants, however, came from northern or western Europe.
Many left Europe to escape poor harvests, famines or political unrest. Between 1845 and 1860, serious blight on the potato crop in Ireland sent hundreds of thousands of Irish people to the U. S. to escape starvation. Only in 1847 118,120 Irish people settled in the U. S. German immigration was especially heavy. During the peak years of German immigration, from 1852 to 1854, over 500,000 Germans came to live in the U. S. The northern and western Europeans who arrived between 1840 and 1880 are often referred to as the “old immigration. ” A new wave of immigration began in the late 1800s.
Northern and Western Europe were no longer providing the majority of the immigrants. The new immigrants were Latin, Slavic, and Jewish peoples from southern and eastern Europe. Among these new arrivals were Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Rumanians, and Greeks, all people whose languages, customs, and appearance set them apart conspicuously from the earlier immigrants of Celtic or Teutonic origin. This new wave of immigration was so great that in the peak years of unlimited immigration between 1900 and 1920 the number of immigrants sometimes rose to as many as a million a year.
The flood of immigration affected American cities. Immigrants were crowding into the largest cities, particularly New York and Chicago, often forming ethnic neighborhoods — “Little Italies” or “Chinatowns”—where they preserved their language and customs. These ethnic enclaves grew at an astonishing rate. In 1890 New York was a city of foreigners: eight out of ten of its residents were foreign-born. In 1893 Chicago had the largest Czech population in the world and almost as many Poles as Warsaw. The assimilation of these new southern and eastern peoples was a source of conflict.
Many Americans treated them with prejudice and hostility, claiming racial superiority of the Nordic peoples of the old immigration over the Slavic and Latin peoples of the new immigration. Religious prejudice against Catholics and Jews was another factor underlying much of the resentment towards immigrants. Much old stock Americans observed with alarm that the ethnic composition of the country was changing and feared that America was losing its established character and identity. Growing industrialization in the late nineteenth century led industries to favor an “open door” immigration policy to expand the labor force.
Many American workers resented new immigrant laborers who were willing to work for lower wages. Americans feared the immigrants were taking away their jobs. The government responded to the prejudices of an older wave of immigrants. In the 1920s Congress passed quota restrictions that favored immigration from northern and western Europe and drastically limited the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Chinese immigration to the Pacific coast had already been halted in 1882. The descendants of these turn-of-the-century arrivals were gradually assimilated into American society.
The first generation typically faced obstacles to assimilation on both sides: society’s discrimination and their own reluctance to give up their language and culture. Their children, however, we’re better able to identify themselves as Americans. By the second generation, these families spoke mostly English and they practiced fewer ethnic traditions. Members of the third generation, usually no longer able to speak the language of their grandparents, often became nostalgic about family heritage, desiring to regain the ethnic identity before it was lost.
By the fourth or fifth generation, intermarriage between ethnic groups usually worked against any yearnings towards reestablishing the ethnic identity. Although immigration dropped after the 1920s, the numbers have again risen dramatically, so that recent statistics indicate an increase to perhaps 600,000 or even 700,000 per year, when refugees are included. America is again faced with an assimilation problem. The majority of the newest immigrants come from Mexico, Latin America, or Asia. Among these newcomers, the Asians seem most willing to assimilate.
Many are Cambodian and Vietnam refugees who fled the destruction and upheaval of the Vietnam War. Cambodians and Vietnamese have usually shown a drive to succeed as Americans. They encourage their children to speak English without an accent and play American games. Cubans, many of whom were wealthy property owners before Castro’s regime, often show a similar drive to fit in and become prosperous. Mexican-Americans, now comprising about one-fifth of California’s total population, are not so easily assimilated. They generally have a strong sense of their own culture and often marry among themselves.
Under the 1980 Refugee Act, the United States has admitted some 50,000 refugees per year who, as defined by this act, are fleeing their country because of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Some Americans, most notably activists in the church sanctuary movement, would like to broaden the concept of “refugee” to include economic refugees, persons suffering from severe poverty. American society, they point out, has always given people the opportunity to help themselves.
The argument against recognizing and admitting economic refugees is that the nation’s resources could not accommodate a sudden influx of the world’s poor and provide them with jobs and assistance. In the years between 1980 and 1985, about 600,000 immigrants were legally admitted each year. In addition, hundreds of thousands of persons entered the country illegally, most of them fleeing poverty or war in Mexico or Latin America. Many illegal aliens supply cheap labor as farm workers at harvest time or work at menial tasks which Americans shun.
Up to 1986 the law forbade illegal immigrants to work in the United States but did not penalize employers for hiring them. These circumstances encouraged many people to risk illegal employment in the U. S. However, an immigration law passed on October 17, 1986, attempted to stamp out the incentive for aliens to enter the country illegally by imposing strict penalties on businesses hiring illegal aliens. In addition, this law provided the opportunity for aliens who had lived and worked in the U. S. since 1981 to apply for status as permanent residents.
As many as half the nation’s estimated 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants became able to apply for legal status. In the 1980s immigration, both legal and illegal, had a substantial impact on U. S. population growth. When both legal and illegal entries were counted, close to one half of all growth was attributable to immigration. America’s future ethnic composition and population growth will clearly be affected by the immigration and population policies the government pursues.
Different Views on “Americanization”
In the 1800s and the early 1900s, some people gave America the name, the melting pot.
People imagined this because thousands and thousands of immigrants coming from around the world were coming into the United States in the hope of a better life. So most people imagined that all these different cultures were poured into a giant pot called America, heated to a low boil, and molded into one kind of person. If one steps back and thinks about this theory, it isn’t entirely true. In fact, it’s not really true at all. If one takes a closer look at America today, one sees millions of people labeled Americans but not by how they act, what religions they practice, and what kind of foods they eat but where they are born.
Now all Americans must be able to speak English, or at least bad English, and they must also follow the laws set forth by our four fathers, but no two Americans are alike. Take San Francisco for example. Twenty years ago, it was the center for the hippie movement, but just down the street from Haight and Ashbury there is a place called China Town, place placed filled with Chinese Americans, shops and temples that could be easily mistaken for buildings only found in China. In Ohio, one could meet a Caucasian farmer, an African American businessman or even a reporter who has a strong German background all on the same day.
So many different people live together in one piece of land. The term melting pot refers to the idea that societies formed by immigrant cultures, religions will produce new hybrid social and cultural forms. The notion comes from the pot in which metals are melted at great heat, melding together into the new compounds, with great strength and other combined advantages. In comparison with assimilation, it implies the ability of new or subordinate groups to affect the values of the dominant group.
Although the term melting pot may be applied to many countries in the world, such as Brazil, Bangladesh or even France, mostly referring to an increased level of mixed race and culture, it is predominantly used with reference to the USA and creation of the American nation, as a distinct “new breed of people” amalgamated from many various groups of immigrants. So it is closely linked to the process of Americanisation. The founders of this great nation wanted to build a new world where people converge not only to start a new life but to be part of a common way of living.
There is supposed to be a unique National Identity that is adopted, the sooner the better, by all immigrants. This ideal, however, is not simple to implement as people are not impersonal laborers: they carry their own cultural baggage with them. The “melting pot” metaphor comes from the 1908 play, The Melting Pot, by Israel Zangwill (1864-1926). It refers to the American assimilation experience of immigrants in the US by the expression “the Great Alchemist melts and fuses all nations and races. The ingredients in the pot which represent people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs are processed until their previous identities are melted away and blended into a uniform product. In American literature, early use of the concept of immigrants “melting” into the receiving culture may be found in the writings of John Hector de Crevecoeur (1735-1813): “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. ” In 1782 J. Hector de Crevecoeur, a French settler in New York envisioned the United States not only as a land of opportunity but as a society where individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one-day cause changes in the world. The new nation welcomed virtually all immigrants from Europe in the belief that the United States would become, at least for whites, the “melting pot” of the world. This idea was adopted by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner (1893) who updated it with the frontier thesis. Turner believed that the challenge of frontier life was the country’s most crucial force, allowing Europeans to be “Americanised” by the wilderness. A major influx of immigrants occurred mainly after the 1830s, when large numbers of British, Irish, and Germans began entering, to be joined after the Civil War by streams of Scandinavians and then groups from eastern and southern Europe as well as small numbers from the Middle East, China, and Japan. Before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the American public generally took it for granted that the constant flow of newcomers from abroad, mainly Europe, brought strength and prosperity to the country.
The metaphor of the “melting pot” symbolized the mystical potency of the great democracy, whereby people from every corner of the earth were fused into a harmonious and admirable blend. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), a separatist on many issues related to races, said this to new immigrants: “And while you bring all countries with you, you come with the purpose of leaving all other countries behind you — bringing what is best of their spirit, but not looking over your shoulders and seeking to perpetuate what you intended to leave behind in them. ” (Obviously, American pragmatism can be quite patronizing. )
One of the early critiques of the melting pot idea was Louis Adamic, novelist, and journalist who wrote about the experience of American immigrants in the early 1900s and about what he called the failure of the American melting pot in Laughing in the Jungle (1932). Both the frontier thesis and the melting pot concept have been criticized as idealistic and racist as they completely excluded non-European immigrants, often also East and South Europeans. The melting pot reality was limited only to intermixing between Europeans with a strong emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon culture while the input of minority cultures was the only minor.
Many current proponents of the melting pot are inspired by the “English only” movement with exclusive emphasis on Western heritage and argument against pluralism and accommodation and related policies, such as bilingual education. Ideally, the concept of the melting pot should also entail mixing of various “races”, not only “cultures”. While promoting the mixing of cultures the ultimate result of the American variant of melting pot happened to be the culture of white Anglo Saxon men with minimum impact of other minority cultures. Moreover, the assumption that culture is a fixed construct is flawed.
Group’s beliefs are determined by conditions and so the culture is a continuous process of change and its boundaries are always porous. The melting pot would assume learning about other cultures in order to enhance understanding, mixing, and mutual enrichment; in practice, it often tends to ignore similarities of different “races” as it does not allow to include them. Today, not only the US demographics are changing in profound and unprecedented ways, but so are the very notions of assimilation and the melting pot too. “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One) remains the national motto, but what does that mean in the present reality?
There is a sense that, especially as immigrant populations reach a critical mass in many communities, it is no longer the melting pot that is transforming them, but they are transforming American society. American “culture” remains a powerful force that influences people both domestically and around the world. But several factors have combined in recent years to allow immigrants to resist if they choose, the assimilation that had once been considered irresistible. Some sociologists argue that the melting pot often means little more than “Anglo conformity” and that assimilation is not always a positive experience.
With today’s emphasis on industrial competitiveness and acceptance of cultural diversity, it has become easier for immigrants to avoid the melting pot entirely. The metaphor itself is falling out of fashion and is increasingly replaced by such terms as the “mosaic” and, less poetically, the “salad bowl,” metaphors that convey more of a sense of fragmentation in describing this nation of immigrants. From the point of view of “the salad bowl” concept America is very much like a salad bowl where individual ethnic groups blend together, yet maintain their cultural uniqueness.
They may work together during the day at similar jobs and in identical companies, but at night they may return to their ethnic communities where the flavor of their individual culture dominates their way of life. In a bowl of freshly tossed salad, all the ingredients are mixed together. Yet they never lose their shape, form, or identity. Together, however, the ingredients make up a unity. In a sense, all the ingredients of a salad contribute to the finished product. They may be covered with the same dressing, but the green vegetables, tomatoes, lettuce, and eggs can all be seen for what they are.
This is why perhaps there is so much diversity within America. Each ethnic group has its own special interests, language, food, customs, and traditions to protect and defend. This idea of the salad bowl is referred to by sociologists as cultural pluralism. It simply means that American society is a collection of many cultures living side by side within one country. The “tossed salad” metaphor is meant to signify that the various ethnic groups are staying relatively separate (while still contributing to the whole), rather than blending into one thick creamy soup.
But in our view, neither metaphor really does justice to the situation. What is happening to each minority depends on each minority. For example, some groups like the Polish seem to have “melted” pretty well into American culture. Polish foods and customs are often considered American food and customs now. Nobody talks about being Polish-American. The Irish have blended in slightly less. People still refer to themselves proudly as Irish-American. There is even a distinctive Irish-American holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Japanese probably have blended in about the same amount.
They are aware of themselves as a distinct heritage. On the other hand, the rate of Japanese-Caucasian miscegenation is so great that some people say that Japanese-Americans will disappear as a distinct ethnic group within a generation or so. Some groups haven’t had time to blend in, since they have been here only one generation or so. The Vietnamese and possibly the Koreans are in that situation. Other groups have been prevented from blending in, sometimes by active discrimination, sometimes for other reasons. Blacks and Hispanics still have distinct ethnic identities, despite hundreds of years of history in the US.
Part of the reason is the economic barriers raised to economic achievement in this country. A lot of those barriers are not racist; Vietnamese people face many of the same barriers, for instance. But the Vietnamese have some cultural assets that some other groups lack, particularly a high value placed on education. And nobody ever looked at Vietnamese people and thought “Slaves,” or “Property. ” Even if those labels are not applied nowadays, they are still hurting people, even now. The Vietnamese also have some real disadvantages, including the trauma of war, indoctrination, and refugeeism.
People would like to think that “Blending in” or assimilating is a happy outcome, like daisies blooming or a rainbow coming out after a storm. But really, it basically means becoming financially secure. If you can’t become financially secure, you can’t assimilate. After you are financially secure, ethnic identity generally becomes just a matter of pride, and of holidays. America was also called an ethnic stew. It means that American society looks like a Hungarian national dish, goulash, which consists of different pieces of meat.
But we think that America is too various to be called an ethnic stew. So, the picture is complex, and not easily summarized in a simplistic metaphor like “melting bowl” or “tossed salad. ” People aren’t vegetables (or cheese, chicken broth, or herbs and spices). The current message to immigrants might as well be: “Come as you are, and stay as you are. ” There is a fine line between tolerance and lacking a common vision. National unity and strength are at risk when people begin to disconnect from the fabric and think of themselves as separate threads.
Chapter III. The Mosaic of American Culture
Culture is a behavior that consists of several critical elements, such as language, religion, race and ethnicity, clothing, and politics. Culture is what one does in his/her daily life. In order to understand others, we must first keep in mind that every culture carries its own set of values and assumptions. Culture is an evolving, ever-changing civilization, which includes several different groups of people. For immigrants, America is a land of opportunity; for others, it is just the best country in the world because of its economic success and its democratic political system.
Americans usually value independence a lot, believe in equal opportunity, and have a direct communication style. In exploring the future American society, specifically regarding relationships among various communities of racial, ethnic, and others, we are groping for an image. Some hold on to the notion of a melting pot, in which all groups would be assimilated into one homogeneous American amalgam. As we see it, the image of a mosaic, if properly understood, serves better than a melting pot.
The immigrant population within the United States is not being blended together in one pot, but rather they are transforming American society into a truly multicultural mixture where every person acts as a piece in a Mosaic. When looked in closely you will see people with different cultures, but when looked from a far distance you will see a specific culture. Immigrants from each country brought some traditions of their native country. So let’s explore some of the brightest American holidays, which were borrowed from other countries and widely celebrated in the USA nowadays.
One of the most famous holidays of the USA Halloween was adopted from Ireland. The celebration of All Saint’s Day or just Halloween takes place on October 31st. The tradition of Halloween began in the fifth century B. C. This day the Irish Celts celebrated their New Year at that time because they organized their year according to the agricultural calendar and marked the transition from one year to the next on October 31. In the year 835 A. D. the Roman Catholic Church made November 1st, church holiday to honor all the saints. The day is called All Saint’s Day. Since that time many years have passed. Some traditions are gone, new traditions appeared. The most known custom is the tradition of dressing. The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthy world, people thought that they would meet ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for spirits.
On Halloween, people placed bowls of food to appease the ghosts and prevent their entering their homes. But nowadays Americans dress in costumes just for fun. The fire has always played an important part of Halloween. In the old days, people lit bonfires to ward away evil spirits and in some places, they used to jump over the fire to bring good luck. Today, Americans light candles in pumpkin and then put them outside our homes to ward away evil spirits. Homes, stores, and classrooms are decorated in traditional Halloween colors, orange, and black. Witches, black cats, ghosts, skeletons are usual decorations.
Also, it is the holiday of eating apples and fortunetelling. For example, a coin, a ring, and a thimble were baked into the cake. It was believed that the person who found the coin would become rich. The one who found the ring would marry soon. And the person who found the thimble would never get married. Today people practice card reading and palmistry. The main Halloween activity for children is trick-or-treating. Children dress in costumes of witches, ghosts, skeletons, or popular TV and storybook characters and go from door to door saying «trick or treat».
The neighbors give them such treats as candy, fruit, or pennies so that children do not play tricks on them. People once believed that there were many ghosts and witches on the Earth and that they met on October 31to worship the devil. Today, people do not believe in ghosts and witches but they like to tell stories about them on Halloween. Settlers from Ireland and Italy had grand celebrations for the patron saints they worshiped, Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph respectively. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17. The holiday was first celebrated in 1809 with parades, festivals, and picnics.
The Irish were proud of their holiday and boasted it throughout the community. In the 1840s, Italian settlers began to celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. The Italians had magnificent vigils and built extravagant alters to Saint Joseph. They promised if they reached their destination safely they would annually build an altar in praise to him. The celebration of Saint Joseph occurs two days after the celebration of Saint Patrick. The celebrations became a competition and the festivals became larger, until, finally, they became a reason to lengthen the carnival, the celebratory period before lent.
The Catholic religion has many ceremonies and traditions that are practiced within the churches. An extremely important religious festival in New Orleans was the Carnival. The Carnival has been celebrated since the foundation of the city. Originally called by the French, Carnelevament, literally “putting up the meat’; the festival was shortened to “Carnival’; by the American settlers. Integrated into the theme of Carnival is the celebration of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) which marks the end of Carnival season. Carnival lasts from the Twelfth Night until Mardi Gras.
Carnival was celebrated loudly by the entire population of New Orleans. During the 18th century, Mardi Gras in New Orleans was the occasion for masked balls and parades. In the beginning, the balls and parades were confined to Shrove Tuesday, as the festival grew, parades, balls, and general parties lengthened to fill the weeks. Parades generally begin the week before lent. There are several parades around town throughout the week, but there are more and more on Saturday and Sunday before Lent. Today, Carnival is celebrated by people all over the country who travel to New Orleans for the event.
America houses many different cultures, nationalities, ideas, and religions. There are Christians, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Spiritualists, Islamic, plus many more. America is unique in that all these religions are represented in a nation that is only 200 years old. And America has upheld, throughout history, that the freedom and equality of religion are extremely important in order for this nation to function as a free nation. The foundations of America were set as a result of England’s persecution, more specifically, England’s religious persecution.
The colonists wanted to create a nation that allowed people to be free. They desired to speak what they wanted to speak, do what they wanted to do, and practice what they wanted to practice without the government watching their every move. Thus religious freedom came. The art of cooking food also belongs to the culture. The French are famous for their sauces, the Italians praised for pasta, the Germans celebrated for their sausages, but is there anything unique to eat in the United States? When you get right down to it, there’s nothing quite as un-American as American food.
Because the United States is made up mostly of immigrants, there is an amazing variety of food, from clam chowder in Boston to chile con carne came in Huston. The United States is a vast country influenced by many cultures and climates, and the traditional food of one area is often totally unlike that of another. New Mexico and Massachusetts are good examples of states that have very different traditional foods. To understand and appreciate the food in any one region, it often helps to know the area’s history.
For example, New Mexico was once the home of the Pueblo Indians who lived in villages and grew native crops such as corn, beans, pumpkin. Later, Spanish settlers arrived in this area. These two groups exchanged ideas and customs. This intermingling of cultures is evident in the food of New Mexico. Take a trip to Massachusetts. Influenced by the cold climate and the English-speaking people, who settled there, the New England kitchen gives off the aromas of soups and stews and of meat that is roasted for hours in the oven. Each region of the United States is unique. Louisiana has a French influence.
Many Germans populate in the Midwest. In traveling around America, a tourist has the opportunity not only to visit a variety of places and see diverse of landscapes but to taste a variety of foods as well. Some may be different. Others will taste just like home. As American culture evolved, American artists began to create their own art forms. The styles of American art are as diverse as people. Just as there is no single ethnic group, there is also no single American style. American artists have been inspired by a variety of influences, including folk primitivism and European sophistication.
Painters, sculptors, musicians, and innovators in other fields have won fame both at home and abroad. So the culture of America is the rich mosaic of cultures of different nations. On one hand, each culture is independent, but on another hand, a variety of cultures, like the little pieces of mosaic forms one colorful picture. It can’t be called a melting pot, because people don’t lose their culture. American culture is rather a salad bowl, because people of different nations, like the ingredients of a salad, form a palette of the USA culture.
Chapter IV. The Influence of Immigration on American English
The new circumstances under which we are placed, call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. ” (Thomas Jefferson) The English language first came to America with the colonists in the 17th century. The early settlers did not arrive with just one English language; there undoubtedly were several different dialects represented and they obviously had to cope with a general lack of uniformity of speech.
It is also obvious that the changes that produced the two varieties of English happened on both sides of the colonialization. British English changed after the emigrants left their homeland and American English after the colonists settled on the continent. In those days it was very difficult for an immigrant in America to be in cont