Wednesday, August 03, 2005

E Pluribus Unum

Reading Arthur Chrenkoff's posting today, I can agree wholeheartedly... almost. He says (emphasis mine):
American conservatives often bemoan the failings of multiculturalism and many problems associated with the way the United States absorbs and deals with migrants. Not being a resident, I can't comment from personal experience and observation how much there is to the conservative critique (and I use this term broadly, seeing that perhaps the two most prominent recent book-length treatments of the topic come from life-long Democrats, Victor Davis Hanson and Samuel Huntington), but whatever the failings of the American model, it's being increasingly held up as an example of a more successful strategy vis-a-vis minorities than that pursued throughout Europe. [...]
Yes, The American model, the melting pot, was effective. He then points to this Guardian column by Jonathon Freedland:

The best explanation might be the one provided by Aatish Taseer, who recently interviewed a series of second-generation Pakistanis in the north of England for Prospect magazine. He found people who took little pride in their Pakistani background, but who struggled to make any connection with their Britishness. When they grew up, "Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness", he writes. "If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere." In this case, says Taseer, an Islamic identity, a sense of kinship not with Britain or Pakistan but with the global brotherhood of Muslims, the Ummah.

Is he right? The experience of one country suggests he might be. The United States has not - yet - had a brush with home-grown Islamist terrorism; 9/11 was the work of Egyptian and Saudi outsiders. Why might that be? Islamist radicals certainly find it harder to enter the US. It's also true that American Muslims tend not to live in the segregated urban enclaves that exist in Britain. It might even be relevant that, in contrast with Britain and France, the US has no former colonial populations - no equivalent of French Algerians or British Pakistanis.

But surely the chief reason is the way America approaches newcomers. It does not allow a vacuum where national identity should be, but fills the void with Americanness. Loyalty is instilled constantly - not only at one-off ceremonies - whether it be saluting the flag at school or singing the national anthem at a ballgame.

Surely the way immigrants were assimilated into American society was effective... 50 years ago. I am afraid that that is no longer the case. The United States has been trending more towards the British model for decades now, and our society will suffer for it. Arthur again:

[...] That's why I think America's motto, Et Pluribus Unum, from many one, is exactly on the money rather than the jingle, which translated into Latin would go, Et Unum Pluribus (since I don't speak Latin, apologies if I murdered it, but you get the point). [...]

If you are not familiar with this subject, shame on you. Cultural assimilation is an essential requirement to the survival of the United States. Maybe we should all be required to take up smoking!
The stench of sweat fills my sinuses as I open the back door leading into the "Jock Hall." Walking through as quickly as possible, the blur of faces I see are either black (lingering by the pop machine) or Caucasian (seemingly glued to the benches). Sprinkled in between are some olive complexioned Oriental and brown skinned East Indian athletes.

The groups do not mingle.

Once I reach the foyer, I look around. It is impossible not to notice the blacks "chillin" outside of the Student Council office. Before, after and during school, you will find them there.

On the mission to find some nutrition, I step into the school's café. The West Indians are "limin" (hanging out) at the table to the immediate right, competing against each another in Dominoes, the popular game of the islands.

The Asians are lined up at tables near the back of the room challenging each other to their favorite game of cards, President.

These groups do not mingle either.

I trudge through the school seeking fresh air.

I remember I need to stop by my locker to pick up a book. I walk by the group of Indian boys standing in front of the library doors. They are communicating to each other in their native tongue. I know from experience that within this tightly spun web of friends a student of a different ethnic background is never seen.

Walking through the Science Hall and up the backstairs, I cringe as the smell of cigarette smoke reaches my nose. It has seeped through the doors from outside and has stained the inside of the school walls.

Ironically, the "Butt Lounge" is the only place in the school where students from different ethnic backgrounds are united. It's a multicultural party as I glance around. Students of all races and cultures join together to deteriorate their health. Sadly, the undying craving for a smoke between classes is the only visual evidence that students of different races have something in common.

Arnold Kling points out in this TSC column that this phenomenon is not restricted to racial, national or ethnic groups, but is also highly visible in politics.
[...] Pundits have coined many names for this cultural segregation. Coverage of the 2000 election gave us Red America vs. Blue America. George Lakoff would describe it as Strict-father America vs. Nurturant-parent America. Michael Barone writes of Hard America vs. Soft America, a divide that Walter Russell Mead would probably label as Jacksonian America vs. Jeffersonian America. In a political context, Democrats and Republicans are more gridlocked and mutually antagonistic than at any time in memory.

The two sides talk past one another. Each side wishes the other would just get out of the way. But somehow, we need to find a way to live with one another. [...]
And religion.

By promoting, enabling and encouraging multiculturalism and diversity at the expense of common American societal values, we have sown the seeds of our own destruction. We must stop watering those seeds.

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