Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Tebbit Test

A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are? - Norman Tebbit

This loyalty test for immigrants was proposed by UK Cabinet Minister Norman Tebbit in an interview with the Los Angeles Times back in 1990. Tebbit was not a man for whom there were shades of grey. For him there is pretty much only one acceptable option - an immigrant cheering for their new country. Anything else would be considered disloyalty and reflect an unwillingness to fully integrate oneself. I am not sure though the issue is as simple as Tebbit makes it sound.

Now its not exactly the best test for me as I am hardly an active sports fan. Cruel and unnatural punishments are banned here and am hoping that includes watching Cricket. Lately though, I have been giving his test some thought after learning that the USA will be playing against my former country of residence in the soccer World Cup.

Whilst I know that I will have no difficulty hoping for a USA victory. It isn’t as simple as Tebbit made it sound, supporting one team isn’t a rejection of the other, nor of old values or beliefs. Should the country of my birth win, then I can still be elated by a good performance on their part. Soccer is big there, and it is a long time since they had any real success. Hence I can appreciate the joy victory would bring to many people. Equally because the US is not regarded as a major soccer-playing nation, losing to us will be a significant blow to their psyche and a cause of much depression.

Yet at the same time I can hope for the USA to win, reveling in an understanding of what a victory would mean for the popularity of what is actually very much a minority sport in the United States. My original country pretty much expects to win, viewing it as a relatively easy match. Whereas any USA victories in the competition will be unexpected and as such a source of great delight here. The fact is that America revels in success, and a sport can do much to raise its profile simply by winning. When the US beat the mighty Spain in a soccer match last year, suddenly I found people with no previous interest in the sport were talking about it.

Based on pure logic then it seems that a USA victory will do the greater good and I do tend to be a person guided by argument and reason. However this also makes it difficult for me to fully accept the concept of cheering for the USA as my home country - as legally, it is not. Though, those I communicate with, outside the US, view me as an American, I regard myself as "a person currently legally resident in the USA" which is my official status. I have one more immigration obstacle to overcome, later in the year, to prove that my marriage is genuine so as to be granted (permanent) permanent resident status rather than the (temporary) permanent resident status I still have. Whilst it is a real marriage and I should be approved, it is difficult not to look out the window and think that this could soon all be taken away.

I am also by nature a workaholic. Work defined and drove me previously. Here I have currently been unsuccessful finding work. Now I realize it is not personal. This is a very difficult time for the economy and a lot of people are unemployed. I don't have a work record here, my qualifications and the organizations in my resume are all unknown over here. Hiring me would be a leap in the dark for an employer. However despite knowing that, it still feels like a lack of acceptance. People cannot expect you to enthusiastically cheer for a country that is keeping you at arms length.

The Tebbit test is based on a straightforward assumption which does not reflect the full complexity of life as an immigrant. Immigration is a gradual process of acclimatization. Like all relationships that with a country changes and deepens over time. Supporting the USA in sport is a conscious decision but sport is about emotion not logic. The individual members of the USA team are unknowns .. just names .. and it is difficult to feel passion for people you have no background for. It is not fair to expect me not to feel excitement at a goal scored by people who I have grown up with, and whose careers I have followed over many years, even when they are the opposition.

Having made a decision to live here, the USA are my team and the country has my support, whether in sport or war. However the emotional ties to the country are still developing.

No comments:

Post a Comment