Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Heat Up the Melting Pot

In a post I wrote two days ago concerning Dispersed Terrorism, I mentioned the porosity of our borders. I had intended my next posting on the subject to address acculturation versus multiculturality. Over the weekend I found several pieces that also addressed this issue that made very good points, and should be read in their entirety.

When I was growing up and attending public schools, I was taught that the United States was a great melting pot. That people from all over the world and of every background held a dream, that being to come to America and become an American. I was taught that the greatness of our country stemmed from that very fact, that we welcomed immigrants, and that they were assimilated into the American culture, and the contributions of all made us great. As I was taught, so I believe.

I have not yet been to visit the Statue of Liberty, so cannot attest to the words inscribed there. However, they came from the poem written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887). Here is the text of that poem:

The New Colossus Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch whose flame
Is imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips.

"Give me your tired your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

At the point in our nation's history that this inscription was placed, events happened at a much slower pace than today. Travel to the United States took days, weeks, or more. Assimilation happened over a period of years, lives and generations. But assimilation DID occur. Peoples arriving here persisted in their efforts to become Americans. They studied English. They worked to support their families. They answered the call for military service when the Government asked. They participated in the political process. They anticipated a better future for their children. This process worked. The result was not a homogenous culture covering our country, like a thin soup or gruel, but was more like a hearty stew, with chunks of meats and vegetables suspended in a thick gravy. Very tasty and nutritious, but you could still distinguish individual ingredients among the distinctive American flavor. There were enclaves of decidedly ethnic and religious groups throughout the country - Italians, Germans, Jews, Irish, Chinese, and many, many others. But in the final analysis, they were still Americans, as a chunk of carrot, potato, or meat was still part of the stew. Sure, we experienced problems as the melting pot bubbled... we still to this day are attempting to come to grips with the results of our odious experience with slavery, followed by many decades of segregation and prejudice. There were regrettable periods of persecution of certain ethnic and religious groups (Mormon experiences are mentioned in the cite below). Given that, our system still worked, we were Americans first.

So, what happened?

We are now a nation divided. Any given ethnic, religious or philosophical group can and will band together and stake out their own territory, physical or intellectual or both, and practice their own brand of whatever their common interests are, to the exclusion and at the expense of all others. They reject the tradition and necessity of becoming American. Indeed, they are encouraged to reject that tradition, and to hold fast to the language and culture of their points of origin. Our Constitution, designed as a template for the smooth operation of our country, enumerating duties and responsibilities while protecting the rights of individuals, has come to be a vehicle for enabling, even exaggerating, individual and by extension, group differences. We all, as a nation, suffer the consequences.

Orson Scott Card wrote a column titled The Riots of the Faithful, wherein he talks about the dichotomy between the Muslims and other religions, addresses one of these separations, that being between the culture of the newsmedia and the balance of the nation (emphasis mine):

The press isn't running for office. To say that the media culture is unpatriotic isn't a political ploy, it's an obvious observation. Oh, if my words actually mattered to them, they'd howl and scream about my illegitimate attack. But in private, they are perfectly happy to mock patriotism in all its forms. They're only patriotic when somebody says they aren't.

They are loyal to a community -- but it's not America.

It's Smartland. The nation of the newsmedia people. That's where they live. Not in America. These newspeople generally don't even know anybody, apart from "sources," who serves America in the military. Smartland consists of a very different crowd.


They're fanatical Smartland patriots. So fanatical they don't hesitate long enough to get their facts right before running a story that seriously weakens America's position in a deadly war that has already blown up the two tallest buildings in the capital city of Smartland. Because they haven't recognized yet that Smartland only exists as a parasite, sucking the blood out of the Heartland that they have such contempt for.

The Smartland and the Heartland, two communities opposing each other. (The main theme of his column deals with the differences and opposition between Muslims and other religious groups. As always, you should read the whole column. As an aside here, the Baron at Gates of Vienna take issue with one aspect of Mr. Card's column, wondering if any Muslim can be true to their religion without being a de facto enemy of the United States. He presents good arguments, read them.)

The Elites versus the Commoners, Muslims versus Christians versus Jews versus atheists versus [insert any group here], Hispanics versus Caucasians versus Blacks versus Orientals. Suddenly the stew is not quite so tasty. The meat is chewy gristle, the carrots and potatoes hard lumps, and the gravy no longer binds the disparate ingredients into a whole.

I repeat, what happened? Why are different groups no longer being assimilated into American culture? Partly the answer lies in time and control. Today an immigrant may reach any part of our nation within hours, joining with others of the same ethnic, religious, nationalistic or political background that themselves arrived just days previous. Ingredients are being added into the melting pot faster than they can be assimilated. According to this older item (2001) there were 31 million foreign-born people in the United States. A breakdown of categories (i.e. Naturalized, Lawful Permanent Residents or Green Cards, Temporary Visitors, here under Asylum, or Illegal) is not given, however this breakdown for yearly figures is shown:

Every year, 800,000 foreign-born people enter the country legally with permits issued to them by the State Department.
About 300,000 others enter illegally.
Some 8.5 million people living in the United States, about 1 percent of the U.S. population, are illegal immigrants.
More than half of those illegal residents entered the country legally on temporary permits, but then stayed after their permits expired.

The U.S. Government attempts to control the flow of legal immigrants through the use of quotas. The failure of society to actively assimilate these immigrant has, in my opinion, rendered this quota system inadequate. We cannot or will not handle the flow. Illegal immigration has forced the issue outside of the normal system, with pressures now being felt on services and resources meant to serve the citizen population at large. By failing to exercise controls (closed borders) on the number of illegal immigrants, with judicial and legislative demands to provide these services and resources to any immigrant, regardless of legality, our government has placed an extra burden on our society. As an example, witness the large number of localities with legal requirements to provide information in multiple languages. We are, rightly and historically, an English-speaking nation. The American culture requires that these immigrants assimilate.

Robert Mandel, a high school teacher, has something to say about this phenomenon (emphasis mine):

the delicious irony

Getting back to the deadly hyphen, this is the foundation of multiculturalism. It is deadly and divisive and it's a game I don't play. I don't have African- or Mexican-, or Fill in the Blank- Americans in my classes. I don't have black, white, brown, yellow, pink, or blue students. I have kids. Some are smarter, some are funnier, some are taller, some are thinner, some are more athletic, some are harder working. The day I see my kids and see their skin color, then I no longer deserve to be in a classroom. The day I treat them differently based on their ethnicity is the day I should be fired.

I am an American. My students are Americans. We could move to China, France, or Nigeria yet we'd never be Chinese, French, nor Nigerian. Yet, immigrants from there and every other country in the world come here and are granted the most special and unique of titles: American.

It comes courtesy of the blood and sacrfice of millions, and it comes without reseravation ot qualification. And most of all, it had always better come without the deadly hyphen, for that more than anything else, will serve to destroy this great land, to sever its people, both new and old, from its past.

Mr. Mandel offers one reason for the lack of cultural assimilation. Public schools today teach multiculturalism to the next generation. Mr. Card also offers a reason - the newsmedia elite glorify multiculturalism and diversity, at the expense of American culture. He also says that:
5. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The greatest asset that Osama and his tribe have going for them is not the tantrumlike behavior of their supporters. It's the fact that the West is deeply divided, as a new religious movement -- politically correct puritanism -- is perilously close to seizing control of the governments of most of the major nations of the West.

He is correct; America cannot stand - divided. What can be done to reverse this divisive process? Multiculturalism and diversity cannot be allowed to override the overall American culture. On the other hand, it should not be eliminated altogether. I come from a long line of immigrants, from England, Scotland, Norway, and Switzerland (these I know about, others are unknown). I honor and value the heritage that I have. But first and foremost, I am an American.

First, the newsmedia must espouse the values of American culture. I place this first because the newsmedia sets the agenda for the American conversation. They are the single most influential aspect of forming American opinion, and all else flows from that opinion. To this end there must be aggressive correction of factual errors in reporting, and vigorous rebuttal of slanted, biased opinion. American opinion must be guided to more closely resemble an overall American ideal rather than that of an elite newsmedia. The Blogosphere and other alternative sources could be influential in this area by applying pressure to the established newsmedia to rethink their own agendas.

Secondly, our nation's elected leaders, from county commissioners and city aldermen through the U.S. Congress and the President, must support these American values vigorously. As American opinion changes, these changes will be reflected in our elected leaders. These leaders must provide incentive to the process of reaffirming the American culture. Our schools must return to teaching the values of the American culture. Teachers as leaders are even more important than elected officials, as the values they impart to children form the base upon which American ideals rest.

In addition to the above, illegal immigration must be controlled. Our borders must be closed so that our society is not flooded beyond its ability to assimilate all of the immigrants, and to prevent threats to our safety. Established immigration procedures allow authorities the chance to screen applicants for connections with terrorist organizations.

Given all of the above, I still firmly believe that we should welcome as many immigrants as we possibly can. They are the resource that insures American greatness. And we need to turn up the heat under the melting pot.

Update: (06/01/05 12:45PM CDT) Andi at Andi's World has posted this question:
How many terrorists are walking among us because of our unwillingness to tackle the tough issues surrounding immigration?

She asks the question in reference to this news item from World Net Daily:

A smuggling ring specializing in bringing Iranians into the U.S. over the Mexico border has been broken up in an FBI sting operation.

A 39-year-old Iranian with permanent legal residency status who is suspected of having smuggled 60 other Iranians into the U.S. was arrested Thursday in Mesa, Ariz., according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Our borders ARE going to be closed. The only question is will they be closed before, or AFTER lives are lost to actions by terrorists crossing illegally? Continued failure to close the borders will cause further setbacks in the immigrant assimilation process because of heightened suspicion and fear of immigrants in general.

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