Living in new countries is an exciting, and sometimes unnerving, experience. Among the many amazing, and hospitable, people I’ve also experienced subtle forms of racism. I’ve been asked if we speak English in Australia. I’ve had people hang up on the phone because they don’t understand me and I’ve been ignored in stores. This subtle hostility is wearing and makes you think twice before speaking. I can only imagine how hard it is for people with more of a handicap than an accent not to lose their voice in a new land. Not speaking the native language is debilitating and demoralizing.

After the discovery of the Higgs Boson last week, I had a passionate sense of the unity of all people and all things and I wanted to write about immigration from this perspective. Three aspects of the Higgs Boson stand out for me;

  1. The power of diversity. If I understand it correctly, without the Higgs, all matter would be homogenous blobs of sameness. Pre Higgs, the universe was completely homogenous and fully symmetrical. Post Higgs, one pico second after the Big Bang, things got interesting. Thanks to the Higgs, we all walk and talk, think and wink, in our own diverse way. The Higgs Boson was the original anti conformist.
  2. The power of weak interactions. Again, my understanding is sketchy. It’s the weak electromagnetic connections that make solar power possible, and the weak interactions were central to the Higgs Field. I write more about weak interactions here. For now, just to emphasize the power of weak interactions; with acquaintances, with strangers, and with those who are completely new and unfamiliar. The Higgs Boson was the original United Nations.
  3. The power of the unknown. Here, my understanding is nil. However I have heard reputable scientists suggest that the discovery of the Higgs Boson points to the possibility of parallel universes. This puts a slight accent variance into a whole new perspective. We struggle with minor diversity in a universe of massive diversity and unknown variety.

Now, moving from Higgs and multiple universes back to earth. A few days ago I was at the ticket booth, buying tickets to ride the ferry to Mackinac Island (just north of where we live). The guy noticed my accent and asked if I was from Australia. He then proceeded to tell me how impressed he was with the Aussie Prime Minister for saying that immigrants should learn our language and adapt to our culture. Partly because the ferry was about to leave and partly because I don’t think quickly enough I smiled and walked away. I later wished that I had said, “And which Native American language should I speak on Mackinac Island?”

There is definitely something to be said for learning native language. However the sense of superiority that people SHOULD fit in with us is sickening. It should be a give and take process. Every culture should be open to learning from new arrivals, just as new arrivals will learn from their new culture. The essential point is that we are ALL immigrants. A poster in the Ecuador offices of immigration has these very words, SOMOS TODOS IMMIGRANTES, we are all immigrants. It should be plastered on every government office and airport in the world.

It’s also the mantra of Harvard professor and chair of African American studies, Henry Louis Gates jnr. You might remember back in 2010 Gates was locked out of his Cambridge home and was spotted by police trying to force entry. It led to a scuffle that made national headlines. President Obama got involved, criticized the police, and in the end Obama, Gates and the police officer all shared a beer. But the connection I enjoyed most in this story was that Gates, an expert in Genealogies, pointed out that he and the police officer shared a common ancestor, an Irish King.

As Gates said, we are all immigrants and there is very little that separates our ancestry. If you go back far enough, you find the connections. If you go all the way back, we ALL descend from the Higgs Boson. As an Aussie, I have a strong appreciation that we are all immigrants. There is an old joke about the Englishman wanting to migrate to Australia. In his immigration interview he was asked if he had a criminal record. He answered, “What! You still need one to get in?”

This idea that we are all immigrants puts a whole new complexion on current issues such as racial profiling. The conflict in America is obvious with California looking to pass an Anti Arizona immigration bill to avoid the danger of racial profiling. Even the police in Arizona don’t want to be put in the position of having to assess the immigration status of every speeding motorist.

America needs to take a reality check on where we came from, who we are, how diverse we are, and how beautiful diversity is.

Maybe we don’t need longer and higher fences around the border; but rather a statue; a statue that welcomes and celebrates diversity.

This statue would welcome not just new languages, food, and cultures, but it would embrace the hopes and dreams of new arrivals, allowing these visions to shape the national identity.

Maybe what we need is a statue that stands at the borders and welcomes people for their vision and for their passion.

But, wait.  We already have that.  Her name is Liberty.

As FDR said,

Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.

May the Higgs be with us all as we deepen our oneness and expand our welcome.

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  3. Interesting take on Higgs Boson.
    It may be known to the more informed readers that “Boson” refers to the wellknown physcist (late) Dr. Bose from India. He was a contemporary of Einstein. In fact, Dr. Bose and Einstein worked together on many an issue in their time. And, now, this so-called “GodParticle” is ‘exposed’, so to say, standing on the shoulders of these giants. Of course, everybody is happy to acknowledge so.
    Yet, sorry to say, “Higgs” is not “Our Common Ancestor”.
    It is just one amongst billions.
    Science is going to find thus in due course of time. On close scrutiny of this particular current topic, it is found that lot more is left unsaid than said. Please remember, at one time science thought the smallest unit of existence was an atom. It was wrong. Electrons, neutrons and protons were found thereafter. Then, yet smaller “stuff” was discovered. Previously, these smaller particles, smaller than the smallest science knew of earlier, were said to be moving in one particular set way. It is now known that some of these little fellows take a quantum, tangent leap any which way, on a whim as if, just like little children.
    Science is yet in its childhood. 
    What does it mean for science; and, more importantly, for us? Simply this: there’s more to it (life) than Higgs Boson. There shall much “banging”, yet further and farther, between Hggs, Boson, and, so on.
    The free mystics and yogis in India have known, in Self-Realization - (Search “within” for “What Is”) – that our “life” essence is just simply the very same and identical to that of All That Is.
    Simply put, we all are but one and the same every which way.
    Colour, creed, culture etc. are but an “illusion” – Maya. The Inner Reality of “manifest” reality; that is, what our eyes “see” here in “created” world, is Unreal. This should be our lesson from Higgs Boson.
    Yet, in India, Higgs Boson is old news. In fact, it’s no news.
    We have had the “good news” since the beginning of time, in India. 
    Now a days, one can easily find “Ved-Anta” (End of Knowledge) writings of ancient India anywhere; especially on the internet. One would be wise to read Upanishads, the Original “Pop” of Higgs Boson.
    The intention here is not to put down the new frontiers opened up by this newest discovery of science. The intake of this particular phenonmenon, especially about required rethinking about racial and other such related issues, is not only valid but of great value. Tha said, it is not Higgs Boson that should make us think of “Oneness” of “That” Which Is. We must seek and find out, just as ancient free mystics and yogis of India did: that there is “something” already “herein” that should make an intelligent person to realize that it is stupid to make any distinction between “us” and “them” – racially, regionally or religiously. 
    Nature did not do so when we were created, why should we? 
    Whether we gain this gnosis through Higgs Boson, or, from Enlightened Ones of times past, it simply does not matter. So long as we do not remain morons; as many of us were before Higgs hit us with Boson!        
     
         
         
           

      
     
     
      

  4. Joan says:

    I loved this article, but am shocked that someone would discriminate against an Aussie!  The accent is charming and the Aussie immigrant is an asset to our culture.

  5. Chris H says:

    Interesting post!  Lived in Denmark a long good stretch.  Very conformist society and difficult for a foreigner to ever really feel at home.  Love the Danes, though – overwhelmingly lovely hosts.  I learned there that people can be profoundly xenophobic and really believe their culture is the best and still be warm, gentle and sharing (not something I would say about My Fellow Americans.)

  6. Leela says:

    I think all this isolation comes from the way we have been taught to think. I was living in Sydney some years back with my sons. We are from the Maldives,  dark skinned and seen as BLACK in Australia. Funny thing is in our society we are seen as Brown and we see the Africans as more darker than us. We see no difference in the colour of the Whites but a lot of difference in the skin shades of the Asians. By the way in Australia they divide Asia into Asians and Indians. I always asked my history lecturers where that left me as I am not Indian but in the Indian Ocean! :)
    One day my eldest son who was five at that time and going to Kindergarten, came back home from school and told me that one particular had been asking him if he had been rolling in the mud. I was furious! I had so many things going in my mind like how did the school allow this? Why? How dare? I have this habit of making my son talk about issues and so without showing him my raging head I asked what his reply to that was? He said “I laughed and said hey silly this is my skin colour!” He looked happy. That conversation with his friend did not make his thinking any different. I then realised how simple these minds work and how we cloud their thinking along the way. I thanked him and told him that he had brought new meaning to the way I look at things! :)
     

  7. ian says:

    Thats awesome Leela. I love it. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Lindy says:

    Nicely written. Good insight and philosophy. I’m curious on how you think countries such as France and Norway should handle an influx of immigrants who don’t attempt to assimilate and end up being a burden on their society? It seems to be causing a lot of animosity between citizens. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I think you may be exposed to bigotry rather than racism. I’m African American, so I know what you are getting at. Bigotry is just as damaging as racism, but they are different.