America A Melting Pot Or A Cultural Graveyard?

It is not uncommon to hear that America is a melting pot of different cultures. However, it will be more appropriate to call it a cultural graveyard. America is too young to develop its own culture what it has, can be called a work ethic based upon instant gratification. Therefore by being assimilated by it you cannot acquire any new culture; you can only lose your original culture. This is exactly what has happened to people of many cultures who become a part of America. This is the reason that it qualifies to be called a cultural Graveyard.

How can we find remains of many of those cultures in America? Those can be found in the form of the different languages’ which people used to speak. Some claim that in the Los Angeles area, which now forms the biggest urban area of America, more languages are spoken than anywhere else in the world. It is true; however, all these people who speak the different languages are destined to lose their language over a period of time. Language forms the foundation of a culture. Therefore, loss of a language can be called a loss of a culture. When people lose their language then they are bound to lose their distinct culture identity.

It is not just hundreds of the Native American languages which have been lost in America, even the European languages, other than English, have been lost. Some of these people tried very hard to preserve their original language. However, in the third generation, they also lost the ability to speak or understand the language. I met many Germans who told me this that their grandparents belonged to the German clubs where only German was spoken. Now, the grand children can neither speak nor understand the German language. I saw many second generation Punjabi children (where parents migrated from Punjab) whose parents claim that they can understand the Punjabi language but cannot speak the language. In the third generation, they are not going to understand or speak Punjabi.

With the loss of the language they are bound to lose their culture. I have seen many third generation Punjabis who have completely lost their Punjabi cultural identity to a point that you cannot even tell that their grandparents might have come from Punjab. Two examples of such people stand out. One time, we were in the Jersey City, which is a part of the South eastern bank of Hudson river (other side of New York City) .There was a shop called “Singh”. We became curious and went into the shop. There were many pictures and figurines of Natraj(dancing Shiva) and the other Hindu deities. We presumed that this shop belonged to a Hindu family from U.P., Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, who is using Singh as last name, which is quite common in those states. However, after talking to the owner it turned out to be that he belonged to a Jat-Sikh family from Punjab. He only remembered that his grandfather came from India and his name was Singh. He had completely lost any touch with the Punjabi community. His mother was a Hispanic, which was very common at that time because the Punjabis who worked in the farms were not allowed to bring their families and generally ended up marrying the Hispanic (Mexican) women who worked in the farm. He associated India with the generally perceived image of India by the westerners who associate India with the dancing Shiva and the other Hindu deities.                                                                                                                                                                               When we lived in Philadelphia area, we went to visit a friend in Maryland. He was also an old student of my medical college in Punjab. He told us that another old student of the college also lived in the town and he had invited us for dinner at his house. When we went to his house his wife greeted us and said that he was making dinner for us. She sat with us and talked to us while he was cooking the dinner. We could not figure out her background. We wondered if she was Hispanic or European. When he finally joined us, we asked him how they met. He said that her grandfather, a Jat Sikh from Punjab, was very concerned that his grand children had completely lost touch with the Punjabi culture. He thought that to revive the Punjabi culture in the family he should go to Punjab and find a match for his granddaughter. He said that his wife, a third generation Punjabi, could not speak or understand Punjabi and she does not know anything about the Indian cooking. That is why he had to cook the dinner.                                                                                                                                                                                       Multiculturalism in America and the other western countries is not genuine. True multiculturalism should be based upon respect for other cultures. The so called western culture, which in reality is the western capitalist consumer culture, is based on arrogance. This means that there is a strong feeling in the west that its culture is the best. This feeling has reached the highest level in the U.S. Many Americans are raised with the notion that America is the best. They feel that the other cultures are inferior to them. With a feeling like this, tolerance and respect for other cultures is not possible. Since America has been unable to evolve its own culture yet and does not want to accept the other cultures, the only future left for any culture there is eventual oblivion. It makes America a grave yard for the cultures. Multiculturalism in America does not mean evolving a rich culture by adopting good elements from different cultures. For all practical purposes, it means having no culture at all.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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