The Back Room

With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.

Idioms for the 4th of July

Fittingly, here are two examples where immigrants are front and center.

Doesn’t grow on trees

“You have to work hard in America, my friend” John said to the naïve immigrant, “after all, money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Take root

The immigrants to our country took root and began to think of themselves as Native Americans.

 

The first example reeks of paternalistic colonialism.  When “John” refers to the “naïve immigrant” as “my friend” in such a patronizing tone I half-expect him to pat the immigrant on the head.  Some may argue there is no tone but it is clear to me the wise American believes himself a teacher, after all, the immigrant is “naïve”.  Funnily enough, while conceding the strange wording of the sentence, my bride responded that she knows quite a few immigrants who actually believe in this idiom.

The second example confuses me, like a joke you can get lost in for years.  To whose “country” do you suppose he is referring?  Or better yet, who is the speaker of this sentence?  The only answer that makes sense is an actual Native American or American Indian.  I do not know of any immigrant who has ever referred to himself as a “Native American”.  And if the argument is made that the speaker is American-born then the sentence is insulting and hypocritical.  The sentence makes my head hurt.  And my heart as well.

I don’t know if it was Makkai’s intention to insult recent immigrants to this country who may be reading his book for actual information, but…. mission accomplished.

Happy 4th of July.

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This entry was posted on July 4, 2015 by in Language and tagged , , , .
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