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The United States has always taken pride in its ability to assimilate its new immigrants, creating an exciting and diverse fabric for the American ethos. Lately, though, there has been much discussion about the unwillingness of immigrants, legal or not, to assimilate into this country. I began to think about the meaning of assimilating, what it used to define and what has changed. It became clear to me that this is an issue that must be addressed and that may be even more serious than immigration problems themselves.
What does it mean to be absorbed or integrated into the culture?
The Left planted the seeds about 100 years ago for redefining assimilation, and we now live in a society that is fractured and fractious. I believe these are the events that brought us to our situation today.
Let’s begin to look at the start of our assimilation problems in this country. They actually are connected to perceptions that emerged from World Wars I and II. Out of those wars, a belief formed that the root of those conflicts was nationalism. If we look at this analysis carefully, we realize that it is absurd. The source of those conflicts was Germany’s obsession with becoming the world power; its desire to reach that goal included nationalism but was hardly limited to it. More than that, one could argue that the only way the nations could have successfully fought Germany was due to their own nationalism, the desire for the people and their countries to survive, free of German rule. Yet, the myths persisted that nationalism was destructive, evil, and was likened to Nazism, and the best alternative was to live in a global society where we created shared values.
You might notice that this belief originated in Europe, not the US. But for many years the Left in the US has admired European culture; naturally, despising nationalism was included in that package. And what followed here was the emerging belief that the US, because of its patriotism and nationalism, was part of an evil nationalist system. That’s when the idea was promoted that not only was a global system required to keep peace, but diversity was key, too: to assimilate into a nationalistic system was feeding the war gods. Instead, we needed idealized cultures other than our own, and the cult of diversity was born.
Unfortunately, the Left still has not learned that celebrating diversity has many drawbacks. Idealizing cultures other than our own means approving of tribal and primitive beliefs such as female genital mutilation and honor killing. Other countries are trained to hate the US as a colonialist nation. The list of reasons not to assimilate in the US but to remain separate and embrace one’s own culture wholeheartedly has been the bane of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Promoting diversity not only fractures society, but we encourage division by essentially saying that other cultures are better than ours and must be accepted and accommodated. Thus, over the last 20 years, we have seen Mexicans flying the Mexican flag here, while Muslims have been provided with prayer rooms, foot baths, and special foods.
Worse yet, the anti-assimilation culture has eroded the very foundations of America. Efforts to change the meaning of the Constitution, change the three levels of government, and encourage (or at least ignore) violence and protests are becoming the norm. In other words, the very foundations that make America great are being destroyed in favor of confusion, anarchy, hate and ignoring the rule of law.
It has to stop.
We must re-establish a new promise of the American Dream by hailing the advantages of assimilation for all its citizens. We must develop a consistent message that the “melting pot” is not leftover stew, but a fine banquet of opportunity. Assimilation must be re-defined and clarified for our current citizens and for new immigrants to our country. How can we do that?
First, we must take back our schools. Special curriculums can be developed that provide a balanced view of American history. The schools that teach this curriculum will be acknowledged nationally for their efforts. I know that this will be like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, but if we don’t find a way to make this work, school by school, we are lost.
Second, we must stop accommodating people for their cultural “needs”: no foot baths; no prayer rooms; no special foods for anyone. Children who have special diets can brown-bag their lunches. Parents need to take responsibility for the needs of their children, for their families, and for their own lives.
Schools must include a class on government including sections on the Constitution. It should be a requirement in elementary and high school and a curriculum can be provided that will help teachers and students relate to the information.
Students must be able to speak English fluently by the third grade, or within two years of entering school. Adults will not be able to become an American citizen without speaking English fluently.
People are welcome to continue their religious or cultural practices, as long as they don’t violate US law. They cannot impose them on others outside their own families or religious communities.
The key to all these actions is to teach people what assimilation really means. They will learn what it means to live in a free society. They are free to practice their religions and cultures within their homes and communities, that is, privately; they are free to realize the Bill of Rights. They are free to participate in any aspect of society. They will see patriotism in practice.
It is time to bring order back to this country, and recognize that freedom and assimilation do not mean doing or getting anything you want. In this country, we are all accountable to each other, responsible for our well-being, respecting differences, and yet knowing what a gift it is to be able to live in the United States of America. That’s what assimilation means.
What suggestions do you have for improving the practice and understanding of assimilation?