The Balkanization of America, Part III: Alone Together - the Failure of Assimilation
by PETER FARMER
October 25, 2012
Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.
As discussed in previous installments, the process of Balkanization is the breaking-down or disintegration of the bonds that constitute a united nation and people, such that a formerly unified whole fragments into parts. Just as shared experiences, aspirations, historical memory, traditions and customs can foster trust and unite a people - the absence of these things can disunite them. What we call civil society is built upon an intricate network of reciprocal relationships and social norms. It is also built upon shared culture and language. Although the rule of law is a critical part of civil society, the law alone is insufficient to create a functioning civic order.
Trust is the real coin of the realm. It is difficult to maintain a free and open civil society in the absence of trust, and it is difficult to establish trust among people who do not know one another. A genuine sense of community is probably impossible among people who are disinclined to know one another and who are unwilling to do the work of building relationships with their neighbors. Conversely, people who know one another and share at least some values, expectations, and experiences in common are more likely to trust one another and form a viable community.
Not so many decades ago, Americans possessed a strong sense of shared identity. The typical man or woman on the street knew - and could explain in simple terms - what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. He or she could summarize the rights common to all Americans, and also the responsibilities and duties of citizenship. Thanks to widespread primary and secondary-school instruction in civics and American history, most adults had at least a fundamental knowledge of our founding documents and traditions. The well-informed citizen knew important passages from the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and from famous speeches and orations. That citizen was also well-versed in U.S. history, and knew the structure and function of the various branches of government.
Although a given American may have been born in another country, or raised in a home where English was not spoken, he was expected to learn the language of his country - and usually did so without complaint. Likewise, his teachers expected him to work hard to master English as soon as possible. Knowing the language was rightly seen as a gateway to economic opportunity and upward social mobility.
The naturalized American sought to reinvent himself by shedding his old ways and habits and adopting the ones of his new land. Certain minorities struggled to attain their deserved status as citizens, but even as they struggled, most aspired to be fully-American.
The foregoing process - whereby a given individual or group acquires American habits and characteristics, while blending those of his native culture into his new society, was/is known as assimilation. Prior to the 1960s, new arrivals to the United States were expected to assimilate as rapidly and as fully as possible. However, since then, up has become down. With startling success, the Marxist cultural left has been able to flip old customs and practices on their heads; where once the failure to assimilate was seen as shameful, today it has become respectable not to assimilate and hip to retain the customs and habits of one's non-American country of origin.
As recently as thirty years ago, traditional liberals and conservatives alike would have opposed this mindset as antithetical to the nation's core values, but the Republican and Democrat Parties alike have now turned their backs on the traditional American identity as a politically-incorrect relic of the past, and an impediment to the new globalism and the emerging status quo.
Many public schools no longer require civics or American history as pre-requisites to graduation, and those that do require them offer such watered-down and/or flawed content as to make the courses useless or even harmful. Likewise, colleges and universities have gutted core curricula in the humanities, purging them of the classics of western civilization in favor of post-modern works explicitly hostile to the traditional values of the United States specifically and western civilization generally. Implicit in the new paradigm is the assumption that anything connected with the old order is flawed as too white, too European, too male and too dated to be of any value. In short, Rigoberta Menchú has replaced William Shakespeare. Where schools once flew the American flag, taught children the Pledge of Allegiance and required the learning of civics, today these things are derided as insufficiency "inclusive" or xenophobic - and are no longer done.
It is bad-enough that the educational establishment has failed in its duty to assimilate new arrivals to this country, but the problem is worse than that; American children are being indoctrinated against their own nation and its most-fundamental values. Generations of young people have been taught that the United States is cruel and unjust - a blight upon the world. Thus deprived of the real history and traditions of their country, these students grow into cynical adults ill-equipped to participate fully in the civic life of the republic. Many simply opt out into a solitary, make-believe world of electronic amusements and other distractions. Thus preoccupied, they effectively remove themselves from the body politic. Effectively no longer citizens, they have become sheep to be sheared by their political and economic masters.
The existence of a large number of unassimilated individuals in the United States, especially among newly-arrived immigrants, serves the agenda of some powerful political and economic special interests. The modern Democratic Party is built upon "identity politics," and the various factions that comprise their coalition, i.e., blacks, Latinos, public-employee unions, LGBTs and feminists, etc. The successful incorporation of these groups and their members into the mainstream of American society dulls the edge of their outrage and activism, and threatens to remove them from the Democratic voter rolls entirely. The party is better-served by keeping these groups lean, hungry and dissatisfied - and on the government dole. The modern Republican Party, wedded to economic globalism and open borders, also benefits from the status quo. The presence of vast numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled, legal and illegal alike, bids down wages in the manufacturing and service sectors of the economy undercuts unions, and also assures a steady supply of landscapers, fast-food workers and the like will be available as needed.
Proponents of big government on both sides of the political aisle also benefit from the current arrangement because unassimilated people are more likely to be disconnected from the support system of the surrounding community. Vulnerable and isolated, these individuals are more-likely to turn to big government as a surrogate for belonging to a viable community and will vote accordingly.
It is an undeniable fact that immigrants enrich American life and culture. However, it is also equally a fact that when we "import" people, we import their values, traditions, expectations and assumptions about the nature of reality. Sometimes, those assumptions are very different and frankly at odds with those traditionally held to be American. A case in point: The government allowed a substantial number of Somali Muslim immigrants to enter the U.S. in large numbers in the 1990s and 2000s. Some of them settled in the Minneapolis, MN area and became cab drivers. A few years ago, there was a court case in which a Somali cab driver was sued for not allowing alcohol or dogs in his cab. His faith forbid these things; should we act surprised that his values and habits reflect this? Why are we inviting into our national home people who have no intention of assimilating into American life? We can expect to see more friction and disagreements of this type in the future as a consequence of our dysfunctional immigration policy and the disrepair of the machinery of assimilation. We can also expect more problems from groups and individuals resistant or opposed to assimilation.
Historically, one of our greatest strengths has been the ability to absorb immigrants and other newcomers to our shores, and help them to become fully American. By providing a well-defined pathway into mainstream society, we have made it possible for uncounted millions of people to reinvent themselves as United States citizens. However, since the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, we have undertaken a historically unprecedented social experiment in multiculturalism, and have imported tens of millions of people from around the globe, some from societies radically dissimilar to ours. Even if the mechanism of assimilation was functioning optimally, this state of affairs would represent an enormous challenge. However, to dismantle the machinery of assimilation and integration at the same time we are admitting a tidal wave of immigrants poses a grave risk to our national unity and cohesion. We are doing nothing less than setting the historical preconditions for Balkanization.
It remains an open question whether the United States can successfully integrate so many people from so many places so rapidly. No nation in history has done so successfully, and emerged intact. The great ancient Greek playwright and tragedian Euripides once wrote, "There is no greater sorrow on earth, than the loss of one's native land." Let us hope that we will not live to test the veracity and wisdom of his words.
Copyright 2012 Peter Farmer
Peter Farmer is a historian and commentator on national security, geopolitics and public policy issues. He has done original research on wartime resistance movements in WWII Europe, and has delivered seminars on such subjects as political violence and terrorism, the evolution of conflict, combat medicine, and related subjects. Mr. Farmer is also a scientist and a medic.