American by Choice
We must all learn what it means to be an American.
by Peter W. Schramm
THIS WEEK, I am being honored by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as an "Outstanding American by Choice." This strikes me as an interesting name for an award. It is meant, of course, to recognize selected citizens who were not born in America. But the idea of being an American by choice points to an important, and perhaps unintended truth: being American is not simply reducible to the happy accident of birth. Americans, both natural and naturalized, must be trained--they must be made--and much of my time these days is devoted to making Americans out of people who just happened to have been born here.
這個星期, 我從移民局接受了一個叫" Outstanding American by Choice"的獎. 這獎的名稱非常有意義。它當然是被用來表揚傑出的,歸化的美國公民。但自願成為一個美國人(being an American by choice)的想法卻點出了一個重要的事實: 當一個美國人並不只是一個快樂的偶然。美國人, 不管是自然的或是歸化的, 必須被訓練-- 他們必須被塑造(made)-- 並且這些日子我的大部分時間都致力於把那些"偶然出生這裡的人"塑造成"美國人"。
Over fifty years ago, when I was just shy of my tenth birthday, my family fled Hungary during the failed revolution against the Russian Communists. Our family's story was like so many of the refugees from communism, complete with relatives arrested, property seized, and a nighttime dash to freedom. The decision to escape was an easy one to make (although not so easy to execute), but the question I had--the one I distinctly recall asking my father--was "where are we going." We could have stayed in Europe--and indeed, the Germans would have welcomed us as Volk deutsche because of our German surname--but this was not my father's plan. "We are going to America," he said. "Why America?" I prodded. "Because, son. We were born Americans, but in the wrong place."
五十年前, 當我還未過我的十歲生日, 在抗俄(共產主義)革命剛失敗後, 我家逃出了匈牙利。我家的故事就像是許多其他共產主義難民一樣, 包括 --- 親戚被拘捕, 財產被沒收, 和夜間快速奔向自由。在當時逃脫是一項容易做(雖然不那麼容易執行) 的決定. 但我明確的記得我問了我父親一個問題-- "我們要去哪裡?". 的確, 我們能留在歐洲 --- 因為當時德國人會由於我們的德國姓氏而將我們當德國人(Volk deutsche) 般的歡迎我們 --- 但那並不是我的父親的計劃。 "我們要去美國," 他說。 "爲什麼是美國?" 我問。 "因為, 兒子啊, 我們生為美國人, 但在錯誤地方."
Born Americans, but in the wrong place? I've spent the better part of the last fifty years working to more fully understand these words. Mind you, everyone understood America to be a free and good place where one might prosper unmolested. But in saying that we were "born Americans, but in the wrong place," Dad, in his way, was saying that he understood America to be both a place and an idea at the same time. Fundamentally, it is a place that would embrace us if we could prove that we shared in the idea. We meant to prove it.
生錯地方的美國人? 我用了過去五十年大部分的時間想要更加瞭解這句話的含意。說實在的, 大家都知道美國是你可以不受干擾而追求繁榮與自由的一個好地方。 但當他說, 我們是"生為美國人,但在錯誤地方"時, 我父親, 用他的方式, 說明了他瞭解"美國"除了是個地方, 也是一個概念。根本上, 美國是一個如果我們能證明我們分享了同樣的價值觀, 就會擁抱我們的地方。我們一心一意要證明它。
Because America is more than just a place, being an American citizen is different than being the citizen of any other country on earth. We Americans do not look to the ties of common blood and history for connection as people the way the citizens of other countries do. Rather, our common bond is a shared principle. This is what Lincoln meant when he referred to the "electric cord" in the Declaration of Independence that links all of us together, as though we were "blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration."
由於美國不只是個地方, 當一個美國公民跟當其他國家的公民不同。不像其他國家, 我們美國人不以血緣或歷史為作為公民的連接。相反的, 我們共同的鏈結(bond)是一項共有的原則。這原則就是林肯在獨立宣言提到中的那條, 將我們跟簽署宣言的先賢們緊密連結,成為"血中血,肉中肉"的"電線".
Because ours is a bond of principle and not of blood, true American citizens are made and not born. This is why, odd as it may seem, we must all learn--those who are born here, and those who come here by choice--what it means to be an American. Regrettably, we are doing a poor job of passing this knowledge on to future generations. Looking to just one practical indicator, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that 73 percent of twelfth-graders scored below the proficient level in civics, as did 78 percent of eighth-graders, and 76 percent of fourth-graders. To put this into perspective, 72 percent of eighth graders could not explain the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence. This ignorance is tragic not merely because it indicates a deficiency in our educational system, but because with it comes a loss of our national identity. And so, I find it somewhat ironic and yet very fitting that fifty years after coming to this great country, I spend my days at an institution where my job is to teach college students and high school teachers what it means to be an American.
由於我們的鏈結(bond)是原則而不是血液, 真正的美國公民是被塑造而不是被生出。 這就是為什麼,也許聽來奇怪, 我們, 不管是出生在這裡, 或那些根據自己選擇來到這裡的人, 都必須學會當美國人的真正意義。 很遺憾地, 我們就傳遞這知識給未來世代的這點做的很糟。舉例來看, 由"教育進展的全國評估"的最近測驗顯示, 12年級生有百分之73 的公民科目不及格,八年級學生的百分之78, 四年級學生有百分之76。 換句話說, 78% 的八年級學生不能解釋獨立宣言的歷史目的。 這些無知是個悲劇, 不僅僅因為它顯示了我們教育系統的失效, 更因為它犧牲掉的是我們的國民身分認同。正因如此, 我發現在我來到這個偉大的國家五十年後, 花大部分的時間精力來教育我們大學生和高中老師"什麼是當美國人的意義", 是一件雖諷刺, 但卻適當不過的工作了。
In recent weeks, there has been much talk about immigration, but very little informed discussion about what it means to be an American--about what is necessary to make Americans. Yes, there needs to be a sensible policy for accepting new citizens, and for ensuring that those who come here do so legally. But what happens once they are here? I hear frequent conversations about failures in integration and assimilation, even among recent legal immigrants. This is not new. What is new is that America's own natural citizens increasingly have forgotten what it means to be American. Some do not know the basics principles of this country, and still others have embraced the ideology of multiculturalism and self-loathing to such a degree that they can no longer recognize, let alone proclaim, that ours is a great nation built on lasting principles. If we no longer understand or believe in that which makes us Americans, then there is nothing substantive to assimilate into. We become many and diverse people who share a common place, rather than E Pluribus Unum.
最近幾星期, 有很多人談論移民, 但卻很少有意義的, 關於什麼是美國人(如何塑造美國人)的討論。 是的, 我們需要一項合理的政策來接受新移民, 並且那政策保證那些來這裡的人士是透過合法管道的。 但問題是一但他們到達這裡, 然後呢? 我聽見許多關於同化和吸收, 包括合法移民在內, 的失敗的例子。那並不是新鮮事。新鮮的是, 美國自己的自然公民越來越忘記了美國到底意味著什麼。有些人不知道這個國家的基本原則, 還有很多人接受了多元文化思想體系,並且開始厭惡自已的價值體系, 以致於他們再也認不出一個是實 --- 那就是. 美國是一個建立在恆久原則的偉大國家。如果我們不再瞭解或相信美國人之所以為美國人的價值, 那麼同化整合又有什麼實質意義呢? 我們終將成為許多分享一個地方的,不同的人民罷了, 而不是E Pluribus Unum "From many, (comes) One."。
We cannot forget who we are. We are Americans. This is a great nation. We Americans insist on holding to the connection between freedom and justice, courage and moderation. We think that equality and liberty have ethical and political implications, and, as we have shown time-and-again throughout our history, we are willing to fight and to die to make men free. We need to impart these principles to succeeding generations.
我們不可以忘記我們是誰。我們是美國人。這是一個偉大的國家。我們美國人堅持且重視自由和正義、勇氣和中道間的關聯性。我們認為, 平等和自由有其道德和政治涵義, 並且, 如同我們在我們的歷史過程中一再顯示的, 我們願意為了人類的自由而戰鬥到死。我們需要傳遞這些原則給未來的世代。
We Americans correctly demand respect for our rights but, in getting that respect, we must continue to demonstrate that we continue to deserve it. We have to exercise our intelligence and develop our civic understanding so that we may preserve our liberty and pass it on, undiminished to the next generation. If government "of the people, by the people and for the people" is to endure, its endurance can only come from the devotion of Americans--born here and away--who have been so made.
我們美國人合理地要求別人對我們權利的尊重, 但,要得到那尊敬, 我們必須繼續顯示出我們仍然與它名符其實。 我們必須運用我們的智力來繼續發展我們的公民理解, 以便我們能保存我們的自由和將它未衰減地傳遞給下一代。如果"民有民治民享"的政府要能持久, 它的持久只會來自被塑造出來的美國人(不管這裡出生,或外地出生)的獻身。
Peter W. Schramm is an American who happened to have been born in the wrong place. He is also the executive director of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, and the chair of the Masters in American History and Government program at Ashland University.
彼得・W. Schramm 是偶然是出生在錯誤地方的美國人。他並且是約翰・M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs的行政主任, 和Ashland 大學美國歷史和政府研究所的主席。