Immigration, part 2: American culture

Posted: Jan 13, 2004 12:00 AM

With the firestorm of debate over President Bush's immigration plan we've heard very little public airing of a factor that concerns many opponents of relaxed immigration policies: the changes to our culture they are certain to bring about.

Most are afraid to express publicly their anxiety over such changes. Why? Because opposition to these policies for many other legitimate reasons is enough to invite unfounded accusations of nativism. But if you outright admit your affinity for the unique American culture and your fear that unduly relaxed immigration policies (coupled with inattention to assimilation) might dilute it, you are sure to brand yourself as a full-blown racist.

America is the one place where it is taboo to be proud of your culture, which is ironic given America's record as the freest, most prosperous and most benevolent society in world history.

But we are not supposed to be patriotic, if patriotism means honoring and preferring our culture and way of life above others in the world. The theology of multiculturalism requires that you renounce allegiance to any particular culture as superior to any other. All cultures are supposed to be equally respected. The Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem are out. The United Nations, the World Court and oppressive global climate initiatives are in.

But beneath the slick packaging of "multiculturalism" and "diversity" we find that what they really stand for is the denunciation of Western civilization and America. All civilizations are equally wonderful in the world cultural mosaic -- except those arising out of Western civilization, especially America.

If the multiculturalists had their druthers, what remains of a unique American culture would probably be eradicated, since it is viewed as bigoted and evil.

Didn't we used to boast about our motto "e pluribus unum" -- out of many, one? Didn't we strive for a cultural melting pot? Didn't we have a civil rights struggle over such issues as eliminating segregation? Didn't the United States Supreme Court, in one of the most celebrated cases in our history, pronounce that "separate is inherently unequal"?

Yet today, under the relentless assault of "multiculturalism" we are reverting to our sad past by abandoning our commitment to integration and gravitating (in some areas) back to segregation.

We've turned ourselves upside down on the issue of race, as we have on so many other issues. What we rejected a few short decades ago as "unequal" and "racist," the practitioners of racial politics now seem to be endorsing as beneficial and desirable. And what we heralded during Martin Luther King Jr.'s heyday as the laudable goal of judging all people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, has now been replaced with the misguided and minority-demeaning policies of affirmative action. Under the modern politics of diversity we have demonized our aspirations toward colorblindness and glorified those toward race-consciousness.

What many opponents of loose immigration policies fear is not the influx of foreigners in American society, nor the immigrants themselves, who can't be blamed for wanting a better life and who would likely welcome assimilation into our culture. Rather, it is the deliberate destruction of the unique American culture and American civilization by "multiculturalists."

This isn't about race or ethnicity. Americans have always" been of different races and ethnicities, and proudly so. It's about assimilation and acculturation. Many, but certainly not all, of the people who support a radical softening on immigration laws are the same ones who discourage a distinct American culture. They often oppose those values and traditions that many believe are responsible for making America great.

It's difficult enough to absorb millions into your culture when you are trying hard to assimilate them and make them fit in smoothly and comfortably. It's nearly impossible when a huge portion of society (through no fault of the would-be immigrants) discourages loyalty to America, stands in the way of assimilation and promotes segregation, multiple cultures and languages, and the dilution of American culture and the English language.

We need to have an open and honest public discussion about immigration and to develop reasonable policies toward it: those that are geared toward assimilating immigrants, are fair to existing citizens, are respectful of the rule of law, and are committed to preserving an American culture.

I just wish that we could have a rational discussion about these issues without the demagogic innuendo about "nativism" and "racism." The unique American culture is racially and ethnically colorblind and wanting to maintain it is laudable, and imperative.