Should immigrants become like us?



A good friend of mine posted this with a number of Canadian flags attached:

“You came here from there because you didn’t like there, and now you want to change here to be like there. We are not racist, or phobic, or anti-whatever-you-are, we simply like here the way it is and most of us came here because it is not like there, wherever there was. You are welcome here, but please stop trying to make here like there. If you want here to be like there you should not have left there to come here, and you are invited to leave here and go back there at your earliest convenience. ”

To this I asked my good friend some questions and made some respectful suggestions: What about your ancestors (like mine) who came to Canada from a foreign country? No one said they had to convert to the dominant religions. Did that mean they wanted this to be like there? Mennonites in fact were allowed to come and did not have to serve in the armed forces. They were allowed to keep their faith, beliefs and practices. Does that mean they did not love Canada too? I really don’t want to insist that all immigrants are just like me. I much prefer people to come as they are with all of their differences. Maybe we can even learn something from them? Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Maybe we can even get along even though we are different from each other.

I think Bob Dylan got it right:


“I don’t want to fake you out

Take or shake or forsake you out

I ain’t lookin’ for you to feel like me

See like me, or be like me

All I really want to do

Is, baby, be friends with you.”

4 thoughts on “Should immigrants become like us?

  1. 10,000 Muslim warriors once sailed from Tunisia and conquered Christian Sicily. On pain of death, they forced the island population to convert their faith or, if they had the means, to pay a TAX and continue their religion of choice.

    Then, some time later, the Normans came to town with red crosses on their bellies, slaughtering all those without crosses on thars. Those who lived were proclaimed free.

    So, we’ve all progressed, we tell ourselves, centuries later.

    Some of us, though, feel offended and the age-old disquiet in our devout souls leads to acuity: we recognize the peril when we spot telltale buckets of Halal yogurt at the Safeways. (Plus, broda, we’re already all forced to use Arabic numerals!) Oh, how these self-righteous pebbles lodge in our shoe! In rebuttal, we hark back to the ancient spires of Palermo. ‘Inspired’, we suggest our own TAX; an expression tax that calls for the absolute surrender of all cultural and religious ostentation, symbolism and tradition, in public view.

    “Nijch so! You’re sooo welcome here, but please act exactly like we do, or…we’ll send you packing… to your homeland someone’s sacking… ‘cuz we find your customs lacking.”

    1. I will quote the Bard Bob Dylan again from another of my favourites:

      To Ramona

      I’ve heard you say many times
      That you’re better ‘n no one
      And no one is better ‘n you
      If you really believe that
      You know you have
      Nothing to win and nothing to lose
      From fixtures and forces and friends
      Your sorrow does stem
      That hype you and type you
      Making you feel
      That you gotta be just like them.

      Why do so many fixture, forces and friends try to make you feel that you gotta be just like them? I think we must resist that. It is the cause of much grief. And not good grief either.

  2. I recently listened to a podcast about biological and cultural evolution. And the way in which it relates to the issue you address – allowing or not allowing immigrants to maintain their culture – is in how it addressed the problem of diversity vs homogeneity more generally. According to the podcaster-Freeman Dyson-biological evolution creates diversity whereas cultural evolution homogenizes. And he says, for the past thousands of years cultural evolution has been the more dominant force changing human life. What Dyson identified for me was the tension between wanting and appreciating diversity, and the ease and comfort we feel when things are homogenous. Allowing people to be different is a good thing, I’m for it, but if one has a larger vision of creating a warm brother-or -sisterhood of humans, homogeneity makes that easier. By the way, as an introvert I’m more about simply being polite to people.

  3. You make good points. Cultural evolution, as you call, is more comfortable. It is easier. If we are alike it is easy. But easy in my opinion is not better. Sometimes we need the difficulty to make us better. Diversity is often very difficult, but I like it much more. I think it makes us better. What could be more boring than a world where we are all alike? Thanks for your thoughts.

Leave a Reply