Today there is a constant battle between xenophilic and xenophobic forces in America. One is an embrace of other cultures at the expense or submissive repression of our own majority demographics. The other is a rejection of all things non-traditional, minority, foreign. Prejudices are ever present, although on a more subconscious level at the best of times, kept in check by shame if all else fails.
These are not the best of times.
“Bleeding heart liberals” have given the “right-wing nut-jobs” nearly two generations of excuses for bigotry by thinking they can legislate society into equanimity. Going overboard to appease every little minority wish and whim produces an opposite result and literally prevents the process of integration. It just plain fails.
The rightful resentment against political correctness has become a way to excuse our vilification of anyone who is specially protected under the law. Women. Gays. Non-smokers. Blacks. Atheists. Muslims. Now even legislation that does not detract from the rights of the majority is considered an affront to what some think are “American values” and “American Culture” on a gut level.
Why is this creeping out of people not ordinarily participants in hate speech or bigotry? Because extremists have given it perceived intellectual legitimacy. If enough people write enough drivel about how a religion with funny head-wear is out to conquer America, it gives emotions that cannot be quenched a “reason” to not play nice. Bigotry somehow isn’t bigotry if they can prove (to themselves at least) that the basis of such prejudice is factual, and therefore just or even necessary.
Worse yet, a few politicians in Europe have declared “multiculturalism” doesn’t work. It quickly has become the new mantra by Americans looking to be told by someone, somewhere that it’s okay to limit other people’s cultural influence. Ironically, such ethnocentrism ought to dictate against taking on European values in favor of the multiculturalism that made America a superpower.
But even if the politicans in question are not living out some fantasy battle against infiltration by unpure races — if they are actually right that multiculturalism “failed” — the question should be why THEY failed at it, when up to present time America was fine in it’s vast evolutionary diversity. I posit that America has a lesson to learn from their mistakes, as perhaps we are straying from what works and are going down their failed path.
First, we are not France, which is possibly the global epicenter for cultural ethnocentrism. There was a time (still?) saying “sandwich” was a finable offense because it wasn’t a true French word. Now they are causing division by practically keeping Muslims in slums, the only places they can pray in public and not be threatened by the (ultra secular) Law! Frankly, they don’t want foreigners to immigrate or integrate for fear “France” as a culture might end up no longer exactly the way it, in the memory of its people, has always been. I say that if France (or any other country) refuses to evolve from what they think of as their right to a static culture, the fact that their culture needs laws defending or preserving it at all speaks unkindly about who they are as a people.
Now let’s cross the pond again. What about Muslims in America, vying for position with Mexicans as the biggest “threat” to whatever we think “our way of life” means? In actuality, Muslims have integrated throughout the United States for two centuries. But heaven forbid a new immigrant wear a burqa. Maybe there should be a cry against kilts if someone is of Scottish descent? Maybe nuns should not be allowed to wear habits. It’s all a childish game over who gets the cultural remote control, with the majority fearing it will have to make room for “others” with different language, religion, or cuisine to out-breed or outvote them. Some who argue that “In God We Trust” should be kept on our currency because most of us are Christians would shriek at the idea of “In Allah We Trust” if we were predominantly Muslim in 100 years, or “In Goddess We Trust” if we were overrun with Pagans.
But I digress. Multiculrualism may fail when a culture is homogenous and rigid to start with. America was neither of those, so why do we risk culture clash in an otherwise tolerant, pluralistic society?
A different reason: multicultural initiatives don’t work is because GOVERNMENT is doing it. People naturally assimilate and add to cultural richness through diversity. They neither lose their identity nor impose it on others. It becomes part of the nation’s buffet. Non-hindus wear pajamas and “African Americans” in Buffalo’s East Side celebrate “Dyngus Day”. It was inevitable. Even the forced dismantling of segregation — the extreme case in America — was arguably a step back socially because it was rammed down the throats of various communities, some of which did not have a problem to begin with. Busing is an inconvenience to this day, and affirmative action keeps contempt alive through reverse discrimination.
It is a historical truth that civilizations and countries thrive in times of cosmopolitanism and diminish in times of isolationism. There is no great empire that was not made up of many, many peoples. On the other hand, ethnocentrism is a step away from xenophobia, which can even lead to war and other lost opportunities for mankind. If other countries continue to fail at keeping this process natural, fighting for it or against it, that is why they will never be great. If we as Americans let government manage this issue instead of through reasonable acceptance and constant grassroots vigilance against fear, we risk no longer being great as well.