Asian-Americans, the "Mosque" Furor, and Immigrant Idealism

Previously here and here. I'm quickly cycling out these dispatches about the meaning of outsider status, insider-acceptance, security, diversity, resilience, etc because they bear on two big questions of the moment: what we're learning about America through the "mosque"/Koran flaps, and what we've learned about America and the world in the past nine years.

This message, from a Korean-American, is sent in support of the original dispatch from a young Chinese-American student who was puzzled and shocked by the anti-Muslim mood:

"Perhaps my stomach curdles because through this debate, I've seen a shadow of that type of hysterics I've always associated with history. I suppose it's still around, and seeing it gives me a great shock. "

Your Chinese-American e-mailer described my feelings pretty well with these statements. I'm a first generation immigrant to this country as well - I was born in Korea and came over for school. I think the shared first generation immigrant experience may be a reason for the similarity of our reactions to the Park51 controversy.

Having had a privileged life thus far as an educated immigrant, the America I know is open to strangers (at least to my "kind"), generous, and free. It's a competitive place but where meritocratic principles are honored. In a word, it's a "fair" society. It's not like Korea or China, Mexico, or America of another age. It's the young, cool, confident, can-do America that I immigrated to. So, when I see echoes of "history" in a nation that is beyond history, I'm gripped by the same shock. Can we regress, even in America?

No one has more honest to goodness faith in American exceptionalism than the immigrant who just got here with big dreams. So we shock easier, I guess.