While speaking recently at American University in Washington, D.C., a student asked me a provocative question. “If what you say is true about culture being so important, don’t we owe the Native Americans an apology for invading this continent and destroying their culture?” To the student’s surprise, I answered, “Yes, that’s true.”
What I then told the student is that we ought to learn from history instead of repeating the mistakes the American Indians made. The indigenous Native American culture was defeated by the invading Europeans for two main reasons. The first one is obvious: the European-Americans had vastly superior technology. The second decisive advantage is less understood and often forgotten – the Indian tribes’ disunity.
When Europeans came to the Americas, the Spanish and Portuguese to Central and South America, the British and French to North America, they encountered hundreds of scattered, warring tribes. Many of the tribes made alliances with the new arrivals because they saw them as allies against other tribes who were their historic enemies. Capt. Cortes had Indian allies when he conquered Mexico City in 1521, and that pattern was repeated in the American West.
Today, American culture is easy prey to invading cultures because of a similar fragmentation and accelerating balkanization. America is falling into a new tribalism based on ethnic and racial identities. This new, toxic culture is not coming from across the ocean or across our borders, it is bred and nourished within our own institutions by the ideology of multiculturalism.
The historic American identity rooted in the principles of the Declaration of Independence – principles to which all citizens pledge allegiance – is being replaced by a new identity, one in which multiple tribes have diverse loyalties and are all equal partners – “stakeholders” in liberal parlance.
In this new world of “identity politics,” America’s traditional principles have no higher standing than any other. To the “progressive,” they are suspect and deeply flawed because of our experience with slavery. To the Marxist, they are mere expressions of an outdated capitalist hegemony. Obama’s world apology tour was the perfect expression of this Blame America First mentality.
In this new multicultural lexicon, any expressed loyalty to or preference for American values and institutions is derided as “nativist,” “tribal,” or “xenophobic.” The first nation in the history of the world to accept new immigrants from anywhere as equals based solely on a commitment to become an American – that defining quality is now considered passe because our cultural elites can no longer agree on what it means to “be an American.”
This conflict in the American political soul is far from an academic question. In fact, the confusion about the American identity is the root cause of our nation’s inability to respond effectively to the threat posed by a very determined enemy, radical Islam. Radical Islam does not possess superior technology, but at present, it does possess a superior strategy. It has a clear goal and a means of achieving that goal. America has no goal except to persuade radical Islam to abandon its goal. Unfortunately for our children and grandchildren, that is not a strategy, it is only wishful thinking.
What radical Islam wants is our utter destruction. What we want is to “live and let live,” a generous maxim when dealing with anyone but criminals and madmen.
In this struggle, Islam has a secret weapon – America’s moral confusion. The governing elites in America do not see an adversary, so they do not see a need for a strategy to resist the adversary. The American left does not see radical Islam as an enemy of democracy or personal liberties, they see only new recruits to the “postmodern” society of multiculturalism. The ideology of cultural relativism does not allow its adherents to see radical Islam as incompatible with constitutional liberty.
To a rational citizen, the November 5 terrorist attack by Maj. Hasan at Fort Hood should serve as a wakeup call. But if the diversity police have their way, the U.S. Army officials who could not connect the dots will never be held accountable. The diversity police will insist Hasan’s Islamist views were not a factor in his murderous rampage.
This means that future terrorist acts of the Fort Hood variety are unavoidable. It is not an exaggeration to say that the enemy is not only within the gates, he is being allowed to man the gates.
In 1871, the Apache Indian chief Cochise made many mistakes in fighting Gen. George Crook on the Arizona frontier, but he never invited Crook to sit in his war council. Crook on the other hand had dozens of Apache scouts and informants. Lessons, lessons, everywhere.