Monday, March 26, 2012

American Land by Bruce Springsteen

I am proud to be a son of immigrants.

My parents came from Taiwan to American in 1978, worked hard, and made a life for themselves. Through their perseverance and determination they created for opportunities for themselves and my brother and I. I believe that the mixture of cultures that created my identity makes me American. This land that my parents came to was a place that dreams came true for them, which gives me hope every day. If my parents could make it in this place coming from Taiwan, there’s nothing I can’t do here.

I think about those dreams my parents had coming to America. They didn’t have a bad life in Taiwan, but they wanted to have a different one. The illusions of what America was were plentiful, but there was something more, as Bruce Springsteen puts it “a fire down below” in “American Land.”

“American Land,” by Bruce Springsteen is the only song I’ve ever heard that the captures pride I have in a being a son of an immigrant. On the surface it seems like a simple “America is the land where everything is perfect,” not unlike, “There Are No Cat In American,” from American Tail.

Bruce is careful to imbed lines about opportunity with realities of immigrant life. Yes, there are “diamonds in the sidewalks,” but the “treasure” is only for “hardworking men.” The song starts as a celebration of hope but the second verse dips deep into the immigrant experience working and sweating through the day. The music keeps on celebrating through this work, because there is pride in the work. Yes, there were crazy dreams that got us to America, but what’s even better is sweating to make a life and feeling that it can become something.

In the third verse, Bruce lays out all the contributions to America immigrants brought, connecting the song to modern times. 
They died building the railroads, they worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're still dying now
Their hands that built the country we're always trying to keep down.
It’s a powerful statement reminding us that we have been trying to keep immigrants down from the moment America became a country and this has never stopped. The reason why Bruce melds Irish folk music with rock music is to remind us that these things that happened in the past are still happening right now.

Bruce doesn’t make excuses for the immigrants. He doesn’t say that they deserve hand-outs. He portrays immigrants through their hard work they did regardless of how badly they were often treated. This is something to celebrate and should be a source of pride because we are all immigrants.  

I'm reminded that I'm the son of an immigrant every time someone asks me where I'm from or whenever something come up about Asian culture and everyone in the room looks to me.  Sometimes it's a little weird, but every time a little smile emerges as I respond to whatever has been said. 

Being reminded that I'm the son of immigrants is a reminder of how proud I am of my parents, how proud I am of my heritage and that dreams can come true through hard work in this beautiful American Land.  

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