The US has been steadily drifting away from its heritage of being the greatest culturally inclusive and unifying nation in the world’s history – E Pluribus Unum. Our unique ability to assimilate citizens from every corner of the earth and to allow anyone to become an American is a crucial underpinning of American exceptionalism. But the rise of identity politics depends on balkanizing communities, creating mindless voting blocks and keeping them that way – E pluribus, semper pluribus.
When charges of “cultural appropriation” are given credibility and seen as a negative not a positive feature of American society, we are drifting towards an approach to immigrants and immigration more and more like the approaches of Western Europe. Foreign Affairs has a thoughtful take on three different approaches to multiculturalism/assimilation, each well-meaning and all unsuccessful.
There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.
Kenan Malik’s analysis of multiculturalism in Germany, France and the UK is insightful, thorough and balanced. Read the whole thing.
For over 200 years, the US has successfully welcomed the world’s huddled masses and become stronger and richer because of their contributions. But this has succeeded because immigrants came here to become Americans and to fully participate in our country’s unique freedoms and commitment to liberty. Smart immigration reform will depend on continuing this tradition of inclusion and assimilation. Europe has shown us clearly that other models do not work.
“One crime was committed by a person motivated by no cause or political interest and driven only by personal demons. Another crime was committed by two people whose actions were clearly driven by their religious and political beliefs. Under these circumstances, which of these terrible tragedies do you think would be considered an incident that could only be properly understood as something that ought to spur the nation to specific political actions?”
via The Difference Between Newtown and Boston.
Jonathan Tobin outlines the problem with the differences in our national response.
Despite the fact that many ethnic groups have conservative values and leanings – especially in social beliefs – immigrants to the United States skew heavily to identification with Democrats not Republicans.
There may be many reasons: better branding by Democrats as the party of the “non-establishment” or a more racially tinged identification as the party for “non-whites.” Perhaps it is because most other countries’ politics are decidedly more left than American politics (I have a European friend who describes America as a country with two political traditions; the conservatives and the even more conservatives…) In a comment on a story that addressed this phenomenon one reader produced this fascinating and (I think) insightful thought experiment:
Let’s say you were to immigrate to a new country which is essentially divided between two hostile tribes engaged in perpetual low-intensity warfare. We’ll call them Hutus and Tutsis. You have no previous allegiance or affiliation with either tribe.
Let’s also say that one tribe, Tutsis, holds a hegemony on all organs of education and opinion, virtually the entire government bureaucracy and all of popular culture. Many of the most prestigious institutions in the country consist of 95%+ Tutsis. Tutsi organizations like “Harvard University” and “The New York Times” are widely respected by even ardent Hutus.
Now of course there are Hutu organizations and no shortage of powerful Hutu people. But, unlike the reverse, there are virtually no prestigious institutions where Tutsis are excluded. I.e. some prestigious and powerful institutions, like “General Electric” or “Goldman Sachs” may be 2:1 Hutu at most. But any with a 10:1 ratio or more are virtually guaranteed to be far inferior, second-rate and low status institutions or organizations. Examples of these pariahs are “Oral Roberts University”, “Fox News” and “Amway.”
This leads to a strange asymmetry where it is certainly possible to succeed in this society while being Hutu, it almost never hurts to be Tutsi. For example just the other day there was a Tutsi ceremony called “The Academy Awards” that almost exclusively honors Tutsis. Despite this, this ceremony is observed and recognized by Hutus around the country.
A rational, self-interested immigrant to this society would of course choose align himself as a moderate, but reliably loyal Tutsi. Unless you’re a Tutsi extremist, leaning Tutsi will almost never hurt your career or standing except in all but the most malformed, backwards and irrelevant Hutu organizations.
But failure to demonstrate at least general sympathy to the Tutsi side will almost undoubtedly lock you out of many career options and generally draw attention to you in most corners of polite society.
It makes a lot of sense to me. What do you think?
This is a striking CNN piece that shows how hard it is to forge bipartisan policy with the current administration in place. I am a strong proponent of opening immigration and creating legal paths to citizenship in the U.S. Its is one crucial ingredient in what has made our country great.
Washington (CNN) – Some senior Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus used a private White House meeting Friday to urge President Obama not to unveil his own immigration legislation, for fear of blowing up delicate bipartisan talks, Democratic sources tell CNN.
This is significant for several reasons.
First, because the White House has been telling senators and advocates that they are writing their own immigration bill, in legislative language. It is incredibly rare for the White House to write its own bill.
Second – Democrats urging the president not to release a bill illustrates how polarizing the immigration issue remains – especially for Republicans who fear that signing onto any legislation that could be seen as authored by the president could invite primary challenges for Republicans.
If he is more interested in “destroying republicans” than in solving problems, the issues will go no where. Read the whole thing and let’s see where the President comes out today…