Speaking of our homeland, the USA, on my last two trips back to the USA from Asia, the flight was full of Burmese as a part of the International Organization of Migrations.  All indications do not foresee a decline in such migrations of people from other countries to the USA.

Just by visiting any metropolitan center or medium size town, one could easily realize that the USA is increasingly becoming a country with a foreign born population.  Throughout American history, the foreign born have migrated to the USA in some cases for bettering their life economically and in other cases for asylum from political upheaval and persecution in their land of birth.  According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform,

The 2000 data showed an increase of 210.1 percent in the immigrant population since 1990, which compared with  a 6.5 percent increase in the native-born population (which includes children born to immigrants) over the same period. That meant that immigration accounted directly for 45.4 percent of the overall population increase of the city.

Recent census estimates predict that in the past ten years (2000-2010) the percentile of increase is even higher. Current immigration policies are contributing to such an influx of the immigrant population with certain towns becoming initial hosting centers.   To name a few, Nashville (Tennessee), Louisville (Kentucky), Ft. Wayne (Indiana), Boise (Idaho) and Manchester (New Hampshire), all medium size towns, are serving as the main reception centers for refugee programs.   Moreover, larger metropolitan areas, such as Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas), Houston (Texas), etc., are experiencing an influx of foreign born populations.   Consequently, the USA is increasingly becoming socio-cultural-religious diverse.

Although the USA is increasingly becoming multi-cultural, culture often tricks us to continue in relating to people who we are more similar culturally than those who are culturally different.  To illustrate, in 1957, Alicia Iwanska, a Polish anthropologist, wrote a paper entitled “Some American Values” for the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Chicago.  She described her observations upon an American farming community and then made some generalizations.  She said that for the farmers on the large Western farms the universe was divided into three categories.

  1. Landscape – included the distant mountains, the trees, the scenery, the environment of the farmers. The farmers looked at it, they enjoyed it in a disinterested sort of way. It had no high emotional content for the farmers. Strangely enough included in the landscape were also the American Indians because one could look on them with curiosity yet never actually engage them socially.
  2. Machinery – included the farmer’s machinery. They polished their machinery, the cared for it, and it had high value to them in that they rated it in terms of its productivity. Strangely enough included in the machinery for the farmers were the Mexican migrant workers because their value lay in their productivity.
  3. People – included the farmer’s neighbors, people who were like themselves. They were people that the farmers grew up with and died with.

We can easily make the same value judgments.  We could easily look upon some people as landscape and others as machinery.  Basically, living within our mono-cultural environments, we could let the new wave of migrations pass us by without ever realizing that they are mere landscape and machinery.  So, what of our homeland . . .