Cause and Effect in Cultural Integration

A horror story out of England, describing children, in Saudi-backed schools, being asked to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, will shock anyone with a basic amount of decency. But it will also likely draw the ire of cultural conservatives here, eager to flag this as an example of the failures of multiculturalism. This would be the wrong reaction.

This incident, like many reports out of England, France, and Europe in general, surely signals a failed or deeply troubled effort at cultural integration (cf. the July 2005 Tube bombings). But these dangers represent reasons to approach integration honestly, and from a position of peace; not a reason to avoid it altogether. America has absorbed (and will continue to absorb) cultures wildly different from our own, as more and more are drawn by the desire (even the need) to live in peace and security in a pluralistic, [largely] prosperous society. This is an attractive offer, almost unique in the world. And if we have faith in our values, we’ll trust that it’s one men and women from different cultures will accept, given the opportunity.

We must, however, be in a position to make the offer of peace. For those who believe in the basic premise of America — that the promise of peace and equality can bring cultures together under one flag — it has been a bruising season. We must constantly remind ourselves and our countrymen that those who wish for war shall find it. Belief in a pending clash of civilizations becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but true trust in American exceptionalism will bring peace. Islam has come to us with the honest request to live in peace, and join us in the fight against the radicals that purport to act in its name. With the offer made, the acceptance must not linger.

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9 comments

  1. I think you touched on a good point when you mentioned that cultural integration has failed in Europe. You went off the rails with the ‘give peace a chance’ rhetoric. I could hear Kumbaya playing in the background while I read this post. Since you aspire to political office, you might want to start thinking like a politician. What kind of language actually affects Americans on both sides of the aisle who have a poor view of immigrants?

    1. Apparently not appeals to shared values.

  2. Re: cultural integration, I’d like to point out that Europe is (if slowly) in the process of building a federal state out of some 30-40 different cultures – while on the other hand, according to “reports”, you guys are still having trouble deciding if New York is actually American or not.

    So, yeah.

    1. Haha. Burn. I take no issue with any of this, since the bad guys in your second point are bad guys in my worldview too.

    2. Yeah, I know.

      There are some problems in Europe, true, but they tend to be more socio-economic in nature than cultural. When e.g. the young people in the Parisian banlieues are rioting, it’s not primarily because they’re Muslims or North African, but because they’re poor, have limited access to jobs and education, and very few prospects for ever improving their lot. Young Mahmoude from Clichy-sous-Bois does not grow up with the dream that anyone could become President of the Republic (or probably even mayor), because French society does not in practice allow that sort of social mobility.

      In the broader view, I think that what at first hand seems like a “failure of integration” is just a reflection that you guys have about a century longer experience with large-scale immigration than Europe does. Between the Irish gangs and the Know-Nothing’ers, New York of the mid-to-late 18th century would probably also have seemed like a failure to many.

  3. Why is pluralism a good thing?

    1. Steve, mate, don’t you ever worry about becoming a caricature of yourself? You need to get some fresh material, this “edgy social nihilism” shtick is growing a bit stale.

      1. It really isn’t a shtick so much as what I actually believe. And while I suppose I was being needlessly obtuse with the question, I really don’t understand why people ascribe such importance to cultures (and especially cultures not their own) that multiculturalism and pluralism are valued any way but neutrally.

        1. Because all modern societies have a wide diversity of cultures (not just ethnic, but also political groups and subcultures and such), and the alternative to a positive treatment of those cultures is usually not neutrality but discrimination.

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