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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Monica Ali - On immigrants’ complaints

Just finished reading Monica Ali's Brick Lane. Enjoyed it.

Some thing hit a nerve - on immigrants' complaints - p 53

Nazneen said, “My husband says it is discrimination.”

“Ask him this, then. Is it better than our own country, or is it worse? If it is worse, then why here? If it is better, why does he complain?”

I have heard variations of this comment myself here in the US. And my answer is this:

This is absolutely a false dichotomy. Life in the US is indeed better than back home, but it could be enormously better, given this country’s seemingly endless resources. The US holds itself as first among all; its policies affect the whole world whether it’s trade, or human rights, or spreading democracy, or spreading war and death and destruction. And that is why I cannot bring myself to refrain from complaints and criticism. My complaints are not on my own behalf, but on behalf of all those who would help make this country a better yardstick of civilization’s progress. Many of us came to this country because it was a “beacon of hope” as the cliché goes. I remember attending an event at a Kerala Church in NY a very long time back and listening to an elderly immigrant grandparent “karnavar” of sorts, bearing witness aloud, proclaiming his thanks to God for bringing him and his family to this Promised Land. To him, the US was indeed the Biblical Promised Land. My complaints, when I make them, (sometimes in less than diplomatic terms,) is merely an effort to bring this adopted homeland closer to an universal Promised Land!

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