Overloading the melting pot

By Linda Bowles

When Islamic fundamentalists declared war on the United States, it had the effect of rallying America to God and country. It also had the effect of flushing out deep flaws and divisions throughout our nation that have been too long ignored and too often not only tolerated, but reinforced.

While America has a generous supply of enemies throughout the world, the most dangerous threat to our integrity as a nation lies within ourselves and our institutions. In a brilliant essay written earlier this year, Diane Alden agrees with historian and social critic Gertrude Himmelfarb that in our major institutions of learning, there no longer exists a canon, a central body of thought particular to the American or Western experience.

Alden drives directly to the point: “It is reasonable to conclude that we may no longer have an ‘American’ culture but instead a hyphenated, divided and broken America … When Western academe does not offer a focus or support courses for the basics of Western culture, we are setting ourselves up to become a balkanized Yugoslavia.”

America was conceived and built by religious white men, mostly from Europe. Blacks, women and others made contributions, but they were secondary. The Constitution was written by white men, steeped in European philosophy, literature and political science.

However, if you say any of that out loud on a college campus, you will be labeled a racist and a sexist, and sent to sensitivity training and taught that our strength is our diversity. You will be told to stop saying things that offend others – unless, of course, the others are white, heterosexual males or Christians.

In an essay in USA Today, Don Campbell, a lecturer in journalism at Emory University, conceded that when the American Council of Trustees and Alumni “says campuses have been kidnapped by the political correctness crowd, it has a point. A college campus is one of the last places to find freedom of speech, and has been for many years … and when ACTA says that colleges are abandoning core liberal arts courses, especially American history, it is absolutely right.”

Study after study confirms that most of our high school and college graduates are genuinely ignorant of American history, the Constitution, capitalism and the philosophic and religious values that inspired our founding fathers. We are systematically abandoning our heritage as a great nation and are teetering on the threshold of losing our national identity.

Ethnic diversity is a double-edged sword. It can be a fatal weakness that divides a country into warring factions, or it can be a strength if there are transcendent and unifying values, a common language, a cohesive culture, a shared tradition and a sense of loyalty and allegiance to the same nationality. Diverse people can then organize themselves around and make unique contributions to the whole.

Without debate or even acknowledging it, we have abandoned the idea of the “melting pot,” not only for all those who currently live in the United States but for immigrants as well.

President Woodrow Wilson said this to immigrants: “And while you bring all countries with you, you come with the purpose of leaving all other countries behind you – bringing what is best of their spirit, but not looking over your shoulders and seeking to perpetuate what you intended to leave behind in them.” The current message to immigrants might as well be this: “Come as you are, and stay as you are.”

According to a report in Human Events, there are 44.9 million Americans who do not speak English in their homes. This is more than the population of the nation of Spain. Human Events asks the question, “Has the melting pot been overloaded and broken by a combination of massive immigration and a multicultural ideology in the nation’s public schools?”

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., answers in the affirmative: “There are too many coming in too quickly,” he said. “And with multiculturalism and bilingual education in schools, it’s not a melting pot mentality. It’s a Bosnia mentality. In the school system, we encourage people to disconnect from America and to think of themselves as separate.”

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, agrees that “there is a great emphasis on multiculturalism, which encourages separate identities.” Children are taught that it is wrong to believe that one culture is better than any other culture, or that one morality is better than any other morality – which is hardly a firm foundation for a belief in God and country.

This hardly resonates with the words of the celebrated author James Baldwin: “The making of an American begins at the point where he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts the vesture of his adopted land.”