Jewish World Review August 12, 2005/ 7 Av,
The Non-assimilation Problem
In a recent column, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Charles Krauthammer wrote about the absurdity of conducting politically correct screening when looking for terrorists. In that piece he also brought out the disturbing fact that a large percentage of British Muslims have little or no loyalty to Britain. Over 100,000 of them, in fact, thought the London terror attacks were absolutely justified. As his columns usually are, this one was insightful, intelligent, perfectly stated, and right on the money all except for one little thing.
Krauthammer stated that America is much safer from terrorist attacks than is Britain because of historically successful Americanization on the part of new arrivals to our shores. Sorry, Charlie, but that is simply not the case ... not anymore. If, by assimilation, we mean someone who comes to America and embraces its history, holidays, traditions, and values, well, that just isn't happening very much these days.
Assimilation by immigrants into American culture was certainly true for most of our country's history. The successful American assimilation of people coming into the U.S. was one of the things that helped to make our country so great and so unique. In fact it is our motto. E Pluribus Unum literally, from many, one. People left their home countries and came to America to become Americans to honor American values, celebrate American holidays, share in American goals and contribute to America's strength. They learned English. They studied American history. They wore American clothes. They went to baseball games and 4th of July picnics. They carved turkeys at Thanksgiving and knew the story of the pilgrims and the Indians. They assimilated.
They enjoyed the spirit and goodwill of the American Christmas holiday, even if it happened not to be their own family's religious belief. You see, it was (and still is) possible to participate in and enjoy the solid values, warmth, and love which punctuates the Christmas holiday time in America without giving up one's own religious faith. One can appreciate a beautiful Christmas carol sung by carolers on a street corner, applaud the coming together of family, or enjoy the magic of seeing thousands of twinkling lights lining Park Avenue without having to become a Christian. That is the beautiful thing about our country.
If assimilation is happening at all today, unfortunately it has taken on a decidedly anti-American flavor. If an immigrant comes to America and falls in line with the current popular cultural thinking a thinking that emanates from American television, movies, music, mainstream press, and the American university, then basically that person has been de-Americanized. They have been immersed in an elite, egalitarianism which celebrates just about all cultures, all peoples, all spiritual belief and all national customs …as long as they are NOT Western, and most particularly not American.
In the July/ August issue of "Foreign Affairs," national security and immigration expert, Robert S. Leiken wrote a piece in which he has coined the term, "adversarial assimilation," where immigrants integrate into a country's adversarial culture instead of the broader community. His piece was specific to Europe but the "adversarial assimilation" problem might be applied to the U.S. as well.
What happens if most of a society's media is espousing an adversarial position? When so much of the time academia, the entertainment arts, news media, and many of our associations and societies take on the "blame America first" philosophy while at the same time honoring non-American ideals and cultures in the name of "inclusion," or "moral relativism," then the message is clear America is the bad guy. And no one wants to be with the "bad guys," right?
Of course immigrants aren't the only ones exposed to the anti-American mantra of the cultural elite all of us are. How can we expect the foreign born to embrace America, American history, and American values when our own children are not being taught those very things in our public schools anymore? My parents loved America, but I got most of what I know about American history and American patriotism from public school. They don't teach it now.
America needs its immigrants, but they have to be immigrants who want to be Americans in every sense of the word. First, they need to be LEGAL immigrants. Legal immigrants who want to become American citizens are a beautiful thing. People who come over here with the intention of grabbing all the benefits while feeling ambivalence toward America, or worse, hating America, are people we don't need.
Real old-fashioned assimilation in its truest, purist meaning needs to come back into American life if our American traditions and culture are to continue. And that goes for assimilating our own American-born children back into a love of country as well.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.