Controversy for the whole family!

I just had a chat with someone we shall refer to as “the patriot,” which got me thinking about this subject. Most of us hard core ex-pats who truly try to integrate with the host culture often find ourselves in a complex situation. We have come to understand the host so well and many times even married into it. The patriot told me that we must always be patriotic to our native country or turn in our passports. Yet what would happen if the native country and host country collided?

Most “patriots” do not find any problems with foreigners becoming American but may be seen as strange or in a worst case senario a traitor if they became a citizen of another country and turned in their passports for a host country passport. This issue can raise a lot of emotions but the question is why in most cases does it only work one way?

For us in Japan that have integrated as much as the host culture will allow, we often do not agree with certain aspects of our native country and find some things actually better or “good” (even though it’s all relative) in the host country but according to the “patriot” we should always be completely patriotic even if we do not agree with the points we deem “bad” in our native culture.

The majority of travellers to foreign lands do not integrate to the point many of the hard core ex-pats have, and thus their numbers are small and some of their ideas will not agree with the mainstream simply due to statistics.

So I would like to get some feedback on these specific questions:

1. Is it possible to become so integrated with the host country that one turns in their American ( or another country’s)passport and not be seen as “strange” or in worst case senario a “traitor?” Why does this only work one way in the case of Asians coming to America and becoming American not being “strange” but if an American became a citizen of another country there is a certain stigma associated with it? In terms of Algebra, if x plus y equals z, doesn’t it also hold true that y plus x will also equal z?

2. Why does the idea of nationalism hold so strong even though it is commonly accepted that to understand others and integrate is a good thing so long as it’s not to far and ideas do not change too much. I find it impossible to integrate if I do not let go of some formerly held ideas and incorporate new ones. Integration is like mixing black and white paint which turns gray. We cannot integrate black and white and keep them seperate at the same time. That would simply not be integration.

3. If we look at history, nations come and go with the tides of time and different cultures become one. Yet we each live a relatively short life but instead of looking at the immensity of time and the change it brings we cling to our current culture, land, nation with ferocity. If I deconstruct my own, my loyalty would be American, then Ohioan (in some schools), then British, then Irish, then Gaelic, then some small tribe waiting to be overtaken by the Celts. Also, there is some polish in there so we have to deconstruct that and why should I not be loyal to those tribes as well? Throw in Geography for good measure and we were all one land at one point which seperated due to tectonics. So if we consider time, groups of people and land continually change and therefore if we were able to be immortal our loyalty would continually change.

Thus to be loyal to one nation, culture, population, we must forget that these continually change over time. So we focus on the now, and get our beliefs from the current grouping of people and possibly land we were born on. These beliefs will contradict that which other groups find “good” or “correct,” and to be truly loyal we must not try to understand their ideas since it might change some of our currently held beliefs. It’s easy for most of us to deconstruct or loyalties and still retain them yet why can we not be “forward thinking” and anticipate that cultures and nations will inevitably mix over thousands of years (if we don’t destroy ourselves first) and classify ourselves as avant-garde in integrating completely with other cultures to the point that it causes major conflict since our host country and native country have not integrated as of yet.

Therefore, I thought this would be a good debate for the hardcore ex-pat community since most do not travel and even less are able to integrate completely (or as much as possible). Those that do not integrate will be the most likely to call the integrator a traitor if he or she surrendered their passport. However, those that read this blog should be able to spark a much more lively debate then those who have not given integration a shot.

Happy Debating!

4 Comments so far

  1. Ben Harris (unregistered) on January 19th, 2005 @ 4:32 pm

    In Answer to #1, It is (mistakenly) seen as an improvement to go from an asian life to a western one. Going the other way is seen as wrong because people fail to understand why one would want to go from something that is incorrectly assumed to be better to something that is not also incorrectly assumed to be not as good.
    I’m not really sure how to answer #2 because I don’t have a great deal of patriotism for my home country and I can’t quite find the question for #3.

  2. ronaprhys (unregistered) on January 20th, 2005 @ 7:04 am

    hola mateo, como estas mi amigo?

    An attempt to answer your questions is below:

    1 – As posted by Ben, Americans tend to see themselves on top of the world – we’ve had immigration going since the beginning of time, and justified or not, we tend to feel that everyone wants to live here (I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with that, so don’t jump all over me). It has to do with the overall cost of living as compared to your income, healthsystems, stability of the gov’t, and many other factors. This gets reinforced by the ex-pats we meet here who tell us how much better things are here than anywhere else.

    2 – I think you might be confusing an instinct that’s being held over – loyalty to your family and then tribe. As we were evolving, you had a stake in whether or not your family survived and perpetuated their genes, so given a choice, you’d support them at the expense of other members of the species. As we started to get more integrated, that loyalty was transferred to your local tribe, then nation, etc. Additionally, this is reinforced politically throughout one’s lifetime via many national contests, etc. (soccer, olympics, wars, etc.). The idea of integration has always been taught as them integrating with you, not the other way around as it goes against the nationalism view from above.

    3 – Couple of points here – You’re asking people to hold to a view they can’t really comprehend. People can readily comprehend fairly short time-frames. Right now, I’m 33 (I think…), but I have trouble comprehending what 10 years truly is. Why? Because my true adult life of responsibilities and the like is only 14 years long. I know, intellectually, that I need to start saving for a true house and retirement, however, that’s probably over twice as long from now as my current true life is only that long. Secondly, look at level of comfort. Most of the people who look to change their nationality (either by moving or by changing the government) aren’t comfortable (these doesn’t count those in power, this is the common man). That gives them the drive to desire change. Without that impetus, they’ve no reason to look past their current nationalism. Thirdly, if they don’t leave the local area for most of their life, they develop loyalties to the people who live in those areas, which gives them a reluctance to change as they feel they’d ‘betray’ their friends and family.

    As for my personal view on turning in your passport: Depends on why you do it. If it’s because you’ve personally found a life that you enjoy more and want to stay there, have at it. It will make folks look at you askance (see the above reasons), but I can respect that. If you do it to avoid your responsibilities as a citizen, then I’ve got serious issues. But the last sentence of the first paragraph – what happens when they collide? And by collide, I mean go to war.

    This is the riskiest part of the proposition. You’ve found a life you enjoy more or you’ve decided for some idealogical reason that you don’t want to be a member of the country of your birth. Then, the country you’ve decided to join goes to war with your original country. Chances are you’ve got friends and family in the original country. Can you be part of an effort that might kill them? Can you ask them to be part of an effort that might kill you? This is the biggest risk inherent in making your choice. Maybe it’s subconcious, by the patriot you were talking to might have been thinking this as well.

    All things to consider…

  3. s. (unregistered) on January 21st, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

    well, that seems to be an american problem. in most european countries, you don’t have to turn in your passport or give up your original citizenship when you become citizen of an asian or african or american country, or if you get married to a national of a non-european country. you keep your EU-passport AND get a new one from the other country. if this was possible for US-americans, there would be less problems I think. perhaps.

  4. Adamu (unregistered) on February 9th, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate here. It’s not my intention to offend or poke fun or make any other negative comments.

    That said, it sounds like you’re racing ahead of yourself to defend against some attack on your patriotism. Do you want to become Japanese that badly? And don’t you think it’s kind of inappropriate to try and connect such a minor issue to some age-old struggle to broaden people’s minds?

    Part of America’s national identity is the belief that this is the best nation in the world and all the world’s people aspire to be like us. So the rule saying that you cease to be a citizen of the US if you A) Join a foreign army or B) Become a citizen of another country fits right in with that thinking. In that sense, your friend is right: it goes against the American way to abandon your country. America wants to deter just this sort of behavior by denying people dual-citizenship wherever they can. If people start defecting in mass numbers it would diminish their reputation as a beacon of freedom to the world.

    And for the same reason I don’t think you can look down on someone who doesn’t understand why you would want to be Japanese or something like that. In case you haven’t noticed this, it’s extremely rare!

    Not that it’s not an option. There may be very practical or even strictly ideological reasons to change one’s citizenship, even when it means abandoning your home country. I might even consider it myself. But your friend’s argument is extremely valid, since it has the forces of law and history behind it, even if you reject the reasoning behind it.

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