The Price Of Migration

My parents left Europe in the early years of the 20th century abandoning their homes in Poland and Russia in order to become part of the American dream. There is a price for those who migrate from one land to another. Millions of people from Turkey have made the long, complex trip from the plains of their land to the industrial society of Germany. They were greeted by Germans in the 1950s who had a labor shortage and needed workers to do the dirty work of an industrial society. There are now at leasrt five million of Turkish descent in Germany.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is on a visit to Germany as part of his nation’s effort to enter the European Union. He is also upset at growing demands from German nationalists that immigrants become German. Erdogan retorted by saying, “any policy which seeks to revoke the language and culture of migrants violates international law.” Sorry, Recep, there is no such law. He was upset that Chancellor Merkel made a speech expressing concerns about failure on the part of Turkish immigrants to learn German and become integrated within German society.

All immigrants to a new nation confront the issue of learning a new language and a new culture. Frankly, unless they do so their economic and social opportunities are less than those available to native speaking people. It is hard to imagine one succeeding to high level positions in the economy or schools or government unless in command of the native language and culture.

The mistake Erdogan is making is equating learning German and becoming part of German society with abandoning Turkish and Turkish culture. Many immigrants such as myself retain aspects of our parents’ culture while becoming integrarted within American culture. Believe it or not, but one can enjoy two cultures at the same time.