15.1.16

BUYING INTO AMERICA.

Victor Davis Hanson recommends that policy-makers manage immigration wisely, rather than suicidally.  That's a good idea, but it's useful to get the history right.
Immigrants characteristically had rejected their native cultures and were eager to adopt a new American identity. So they were not foolish enough to question what had made America attractive to them in the first place: constitutional government, the rule of law, personal freedom, free-market capitalism, and an independent judiciary and press.

Instead, immigrants often enriched that immutable Western core with diverse contributions of food, music, literature, and art.

Through integration and intermarriage immigrants quickly became part of the American dream. The path from Italian to Italian-American to American usually was completed in two generations.
Those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" might have been motivated more by crappy conditions where they lived than by highfaluting political theories.  The Sunday afternoon picnic was not part of Congregational practice in the mid-nineteenth-century.  Mr Hanson is right to invoke integration and intermarriage, however, the withdrawal into identities that accompanies recent multiculturalism cannot turn out well.
There were waves of 19th century immigration in the past. But what is different this time around is that the host America has largely given up on the multiracial melting pot for the multicultural salad bowl.

The result is that millions of new arrivals are not meeting enough with others outside their ethnic group. Assimilation, to the degree it is even seen as a positive, is delayed for generations. One in four American residents currently does not speak English at home–the former common tie that helped bind multiracial America. Careers are enhanced by accent marks and hyphenation. Ethnic identity is now essential not secondary to character.
There was also a time-out from the First World War until after V-J Day to enable the old inhabitants and the new arrivals to adapt.  Put another way, the pause accompanied the previous Great Secular Crisis.

No comments: