America, as we know, is a country of immigrants and a melting pot of cultures from every corner of the globe, each with a story. Even though an immigrant comes to this country for a fresh start while committing themselves to being American in every sense, they tend to hold onto the culture of the place they were driven from, as it is a defining part of who they are. For as long as I can remember, I have always been plagued by this looming feeling of disconnect, or rather, a lack of cultural belonging. While I am an Irish-American and a dual citizen of both countries, I feel as though I really do not fully belong to either place. While I do not have a single cultural outlook on life, I am fortunate enough to have the combined sense of what it means to be both Irish and American, which in return has made me a far more worldly individual.
I often find myself back in Ireland where, despite the fact that I feel as Irish as anyone else, I will always be “the yank,” since I was the only one in my family to be born in America. Similarly, I often find myself at odds with my American friends in the sense that they won’t understand my jokes or sense of humor, or my efforts to just have “the craic.”
Further complicating my dilemma, I’m an avid supporter of Irish Rugby, Manchester United and several other distinctly non-American pastimes, hence I have absolutely no clue what American football is and who plays for any team. Apart from the cultural ambiguity myself and countless other second generation immigrants face, I often feel as though I’m reminded too much of how lucky I am to have been born in this country. My mother, in particular, always reminds me of how life was like when she was growing up in Northern Ireland, where things were completely opposite to the way I know life in this country. She grew up during a time in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles,” where sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, or Irish Nationalists and loyalists to the British crown, fought in a conflict for their respective political motives. The reason she left Ireland, apart from the fact that there was, according to The Telegraph, a severe lack of employment in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland during the 1980s, is that Catholics, at the time, were struggling to escape their status as second class citizens who refused to submit to a foreign crown.
Conversely, I grew up largely in the shadow of my mother’s experiences as someone who was born and raised in Murray Hill in Manhattan, N.Y., whose only real concern was whether or not the four train was delayed that day. She risked quite a lot to immigrate to this country and start a new life in New York, where she had always dreamed of living to get away from the dreariness and political turmoil at home in County Armagh.
In many ways, I have held myself to a much higher standard than many Americans I know simply because of the fact that if my mother was capable of emigrating to the United States at my age, I know that I have it in me to achieve greatness. Being the son of an immigrant, it also begs the question as to what life could have been like had my mother never left Ireland and decided to raise me there. This is a question that many second generation immigrants like myself find themselves wondering at one stage or another. While I could very well have been brought up in Ireland, it would have deprived me of the intrinsically unique perspective of a dual national, who sees the world from two distinct lenses and two different cultural contexts. Dual citizens and second generation immigrants alike are crucial to this country, in that we bring the best of both cultures with us and remind Americans of the multicultural foundation upon which this country was built. While I am not affected by the recent decision regarding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) made by the Trump administration, I can see that the president needs to be reminded of the importance of what immigrants and their children bring to this country; a reminder of what it means to be an American. Despite the cultural division I face with being a second generation immigrant and a dual national, I have learned to embrace it, as it has made me into a more culturally aware global citizen.
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