North America. The continent with three countries of which only two count – this is the common understanding. Actually, only one country counts, the United States. Canada is an appendix, no matter how much Canadians resist the truth and are offended by it. Let’s not get into the whats and the whys now, suffice it to say they’re not exactly loyal to the queen anymore – just on paper.
As an immigrant, it depends very much when you arrived here, and what were your reasons for leaving in the first place, and where you came from. If you like small places and small corners, please be aware that North America has big roads and big corners. You can easily get lost if you don’t have a vision. Suppose you come with a vision – or you acquire one in the process of integration. You’ve better chances if you stop in the States; in Canada they’re not visionaries. Or maybe they are, here and there, but not quite (those who truly are, end up in the States, yes). And despite their declared tolerance to cultures (again, on paper), indigenous people particularly dislike immigrant visionaries. “Indigenous” doesn’t mean the First Nations tribes – those are too remote, too non-involved, and completely lost in the WASP type of culture which dominates “North America”. In this context, indigenous are all the immigrants who settled here at least one generation before that which tries to integrate itself in turn. That’s one problem.
If you have unresolved business from you come from, North America is not the place for you. Unresolved business can mean properties, aging parents, childhood lovers, you name it. Sooner or later, you either drop that business altogether, or you’ll have to cross the ocean to and fro to solve it, which makes it unnecessarily expensive and tedious – don’t believe those who say we live in the world of affordable fast travel, at some point, it’s about your body growing old and not dealing well with planes and that overseas shit. In North America, people are starting over – or so they say. Some sincerely try. You can’t start over if you didn’t let everything else die first. It’s hard but it’s a must. And then you need a new identity, which is why America, i.e. the States, work. In Canada, multiculturalism is encouraged – that means you don’t have to leave it behind. It’s a means to justify “nice” power as opposed to “corporate” power. Is it any wonder this country doesn’t have a sense of direction? You may not understand your neighbour but you’ll have to be considerate if s/he fights in the middle of the night and doesn’t let you sleep, or leaves garbage around. That’s because your neighbour doesn’t give a damn about politeness and “civilization”. In multiculturalism, some cultures are more equal than others, just like animals in communism. Well, after all it is an “ism”. And it has its price. That’s another problem.
It’s also a matter of money and social status, of course. Wherever in the world you are, if you’re on the top of the power ladder, you’ll be the one making all the rules. That’s because it’s always been like that and, more importantly, because God is dead – have you heard? Not much since, about a hundred years. Still, it makes some difference. So if you’re on top, why would you leave, right? Right. It’s the paupers who immigrate. But then again, there are paupers and paupers. The very interesting ones are those who would do anything to get to the top – the likes of middle-class gentlemen from England or Holland who amassed fortunes in the New World, or shrewd Eastern Europeans who’d lived through communism and are the best supporters of lefties in North America. Why? It’s called trauma. They think it’ll heal once finances are in order. It’s OK to get “other people’s money” and give it to the poor, as long as it’s not their shirt they need to give – or what’s in their pockets.
And then there’s love – that reoccurring funny theme of life. You accompany someone who wanted to leave, you stay, you try to make it work and reconcile shit. It’s a process, they say. What doesn’t kill you, makes you “stronger” – that’s another way to say “numb to shit”, ’cause you guessed, you can’t really reconcile it. And you find joy in the gratitude for those things which did work, for your un-celebrated successes, for those small corners you managed to sweep clean, for every breadth you take and every move you make, even if they watch you. Do not be fooled, there’s still someone around the corner, the devil is still alive and kicking. The very , very good news is that God is too. Trust me on that.
(Photo by author, Istanbul, October 1997)