# 346: “The Enduring Vision”

Boyer, Clark et al. (2004). The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, 381.

Story behind the Passage

I never thought I would blog about this book. But here I am, showing a passage from this “Bible” of American Studies. I am sure, other fields use the book as well but I at least got it in my first semester of studying American Studies. It is a thick and heavy book and I think, the first time I really read it closely was for my final exams. After this, I did return to it once in a while when I wanted to find out something about U.S. history. The last time I looked at it was a few months ago when I wanted to read up on Native American spiritual practices. Today, I had to think of the title especially before turning to this particular chapter. The Enduring Vision is something that I still associate with the U.S. and I am thinking a lot about the country right now.

The last time when I visited was in 2019. I made the trip to my second home Vegas. And it really felt like a “return.” I had missed the country. Whenever I fly out, I start missing it. And the longer I am back in Germany, the more I forget how much I miss it. There were many times when I was facing the choice of staying there. Sometimes things just take a bit longer to unfold… As I just started thinking again about all the people I know who “jumped” and started a new life across the pond, I also came to think about those who emigrated back in the days when going to the New World was not that easy, not that quick, and a lot more uncertain.

Uncertainty is something that Germans in particular do not like. Still, many famous Germans made their way to the U.S. Well, before they left, they had not been famous. They only unfolded their potential in their new country of residence. In the previous passages in this sub-chapter entitled “Newcomers and Natives,” people like Levi Strauss and Steinway are mentioned; the jeans pope and the piano maker. They all followed a vague vision of “making it” in this Land of Opportunities. And the funny thing is, despite all the bad news we hear about the U.S. and all the crisis discourse that is going on everywhere, I still think this is true. Not for everybody but for the people who somehow feel this calling that this is the country where they feel most alive.

My Learnings

“Moreover, economic self-sufficiency conspired with the strong bonds of their language to encourage a clannish psychology a clannish psychology.” It might sound funny but I never really thought about the economic aspect of emigration that much. I mean, I cerainly know that, historically, this was the number one driver why people left their home countries and this has not changed much until the present day. Still, I personally always associated more or less romantic reasons with living abroad. What I mean by “romantic” are things like cultural affinity, special locations, even such stupid things as landscape and the wheather. In sum, these aspects might go under “quality of life.” But without money in your pockets, this quality of life is worth nothing.

The fact that Germans always counted as industrious and successful is quite dominant in this description. After all, this is the stereotype that Germans are still known for around the world. I did not know that this is commonly perceived of as the reason for their “clannishness” but the aspect of unity in diversity makes it clear that this was a practical move as well. We know this from most immigration waves and it is not a thing of the past. Even if people hate each other back home and if there are so many different ethnic or religious factions, as soon as they find themselves in a new place, their cultural bonding gets stronger and they start excluding others. It is like a protection shield reducing the supposed level of uncertainty and risk in a foreign culture and living environment.

Whenever I went abroad, I always tried to make sure that I stayed away from Germans. One reason for this was always language-related because I did not want to speak German while learning a foreign language. The other reason is my anti-“clannishness.” I like exploring different people and different cultures and that is not doable to this extent if you are staying in your own crowd — physically and mentally. You just cannot immerse yourself fully if part of your daily life is taking place among people of your home country. But who knows, maybe that is different if you go somewhere to stay. And maybe it also depends on your age. Whenever I think of Germans in the U.S., I do not think of the Amish first or some gold diggers — I think of German seniors in Florida, driving around in golf carts and living in gated communities.

What links many of the retired Germans in Florida to emigrants in the old days again is: money. Yes, there are some who went to the U.S. after they had made a fortune in Germany. But many had a successful career in the U.S. And that takes us back to the aspect of “economic self-sufficiency.” It might be the dreamer in me or the poet or both but if you are constantly occupied with intellectual issues, you do tend to forget how much money liberates people. Not just yourself — money is a big help for others as well. If you do not have it, at least not a decent amount, you will never truly feel free, no matter how far you separate yourself from modern civilization. Obviously, Germans knew how to do this in the past. I wonder if it still holds true today. I will find out.

Reflection Questions

1) If you were to emigrate — where would you go? Why this country/place?

2) Do you feel you represent “typical” cultural characteristics of your country? Which ones?

3) Do you agree that the U.S. is still the “Land of Opportunities”? Why/not?