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Literature and Immigrants

immigrants - literature
Literature and Immigrants

Having been elected the 45th president of the United States in 2017, Donald Trump sparked further controversy as he imposes a temporary travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Trump’s stereotyped accuse of Islam and Muslims basically not simply runs contrary to very basic American values but also dispenses with the real power of America, which is immigrants.

While political perspective views his ban on Muslims in a black and white lens, literary perspective endows us with much deeper brainstorming, suggesting how the United States owes to immigrants for its greatness.

Everybody who landed in, say, Seattle, Los Angles, or Seattle, USA, from abroad in the 1970s would certainly feel that he or she landed in a real Western country. Nearly all the people at the airport were whites, except the travellers. But, if one landed at the same terminal in the 1980s, he or she soon learned that the world, as reflected at the airport, had changed: the number of whites and coloured people was more or less equal.

Just imagine the same person did land again at the same place in the mid-90s. He or she would be surprised and wondered whether or not he or she had landed in a Western country. He or she would be struck by the fact, that the whites were outnumbered by coloured people.

The world at the international airport has changed a lot, and so had the world in literature. After the deaths of great literary figures in Europe after WWII, such as Sartre and Albert Camus, and after the deaths of Fitzgerald and Hemingway in America, also after WWII, Western literature had become unlikely to accomplish much. Western literature needed fresh blood, new ideas, and different people.

Long ago, before John F. Kennedy was determined to be involved in politics, he wrote Why England Slept, pinpointing the fact that this country was undergoing the process of decline. Even though Kennedy did not talk about literature, English Literature was actually in the process of stagnancy. New blood then came, represented by Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi from India, Kazuo Ishiguro from Japan, Timothy Mo from Hongkong, and V.S Naipaul from Trinidad.

American literature, like Western literature of other countries, too, had reached its peak, so that it was difficult to pinpoint rightly who actually was the great writer after Hemingway, except, probably, Saul Bellow, and, Toni Morrison, who, again, according to James Atlas, was actually simply a rhetorician. New blood was needed, and this blood must also come from outsiders. Derek Walcott from the Caribbean area, Bathara Mukerjee from India, Amy Tan and Shawn Wong from China, then, came on the scene with new freshness.

That there is a great link between the greatness of America and the contribution of immigrants to the country is inevitable. The immigrants’ vast achievement within American literature augments and legitimizes its constant enormity. Trump’s notorious association with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and sexual assault would interpolate energy to certain radical Muslims reckoning that American values are dying and pat.

Therefore, pay attention to literary values when it comes to making his policy is necessary. Reading literature is good at elevating readers’ level of comprehension and preventing them from being stereotypical, unlike reading newspapers or magazines frequently bound to interest, pressure, and stereotype. A study released in November 2015 by 416 Labs, a Toronto-based consulting firm, revealed that the New York Times portrays Islam/Muslims more negatively than alcohol, cancer, and cocaine among other benchmarked words.

Reading literature encourages people to be more prudent. Every time readers read literary pieces, they would find moral and aesthetic aspects. Despite their distinct emphasis on the aspects, writers strive to balance their moral messages to cause no judgmental effect on the readers and control their aesthetic features so that their pieces will not be void of strong messages.

Literary work is capable of rendering people more dynamic due to its cathartic effect on the readers.

Those whose mind is reeling and whose heart is touched after reading novels, short stories or poems are ready to change and accept a new truth rather than those who have been indoctrinated politically to defend something blindly.

American literary values may equip any American president with the notion that being hostile toward the Muslim community is against American values, blundering from idealist republican to global misanthrope.

The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities at Andalas University.

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