Prior to coming to the United States for university, I regarded the American Dream as a far-fetched ideal that had little to do with my personal life. Taking part in Ellis Island role-play simulations in middle school and reading about Willy Loman’s despairs in Death of a Salesman made me aware of the disillusionment associated with the so-called land of opportunity. While I was able to appreciate the sentiments and discussions that revolved around this ideology that has shaped much of the U.S., I saw it as a distant concept as a non-immigrant foreign student expecting to leave the country after my student visa expires. But over the past two and a half years, I, too, have developed my own American Dream. Lively discussions across campus about social mobility and success have ignited a desire to work hard to improve my circumstances, who I am and who I strive to become.
My parents packed all their luggage in one just bag when they came to the United States from China. That’s a story my family loves to tell over and over again — the layers of coats my mother wore so she could bring over all her clothes, the prized kitchen knife my father snuck past security, the Scott McKenzie song playing on the airplane when they first landed. But I never quite thought about what my parents couldn’t pack — the scallion pancakes from the shack downstairs in their province, my mother’s pink bike she rode for three days on a road trip, the Napa cabbage blooming behind their old home. All their brothers, sisters, cousins. Those were all faint elements I knew existed, but never saw for myself.
A Cornell professor lamented on Wednesday that the United States is abandoning its humanitarian tradition by limiting the number of refugees it resettles in the country during the first “Chats in the Stacks” book talk of the semester.
Developed nations have always been reluctant to welcome anyone but the most skilled of laborers into their fold, regarding people beyond their borders as admissible insofar as they have something to offer economically.
I only recently turned around and noticed the contrast between myself and the Iran I was thrown against. Somehow, when I was younger my legs were longer, or the middle space between the two circles of the venn diagram was smaller, and I managed to barely stretch across the pervasive gap. Now, I struggle to engage intellectually and socially with Iran — the actual one, not my own construction — because I’m left grasping at language and culture from which I’ve fallen behind.
If not for the strong desire to assimilate into American culture, the film world would have struggled to launch itself. Immigrants came to America and found it easier to adopt these values instead of embracing their own culture. However, the content of film was just as important. With this, there was an ability to make, edit and distribute movies. There was a drive in the technological world, thanks to Thomas Edison and Eadweard Muybridge.