The Pot and the Bowl

Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

We often hear that the United States is a great big melting pot, where immigrants come from all over and get assimilated, so that they can become Americans. As you can see from the style of the image above, this idea has been around for a while.

This “melting pot” idea assumes the cultural differences will get melted right out, and we’ll all turn into generic Americans. Everybody will share the same cultural references, speak English, and leave the Old Country behind.

It’s balderdash, of course. People don’t “melt” that easily, and they can only interact with the world via the cultural references they have. Even several generations after the first, many aspects of a person’s cultural heritage live on in them. I do like the “Equal Rights” spoon Miss Liberty is using to stir us with, though. It would be nice if we saw that spoon a lot more often in public life.

Or maybe we’re like a salad bowl, as a more contemporary image says: all the assorted individuals mix together and interact with each other, but they maintain most of their original flavors and characteristics. (in this illustration, is the English language kind of like the . . . salad dressing?)

I’m not sure that’s an entirely apt metaphor, either, because after a while we do grow more like our nearer neighbors, while older ties and influences may loosen. Assimilation may never be total, but it is an important force.

Fact is, neither is a perfect image, because people aren’t (normally) pieces of food. We’re way more complicated than that. This is a worry and an irritation to those who like to keep things simple, but I have a feeling those folks have enough frustrations already: life is rarely uncomplicated.

If you’re the kind of person who lives in fear, then the “otherness” of people from different cultures can be frightening. If you’re the kind of person who finds variety to be the spice of life, then nothing tastes better–pot OR bowl–than cultural diversity.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the WYPR article America: Melting Pot or Salad Bowl? for the image of Melting Pot Stirred by Liberty, and to the Oswego (NY) City Schools Regents Prep website for the Salad Bowl of Immigration image. 

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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