Teaching immigrants to love America

In a rather stumbling way, I asked why immigrants don't love America, and said that I wished our schools would be required to teach students what's great about America.  Ironically, one day later, the Wall Street Journal published Peggy Noonan's elegant, lyrical reflection on the same point.  She begins by speaking of Medal of Freedom winners, those extraordinary men (and one woman, I think), who without thought were willing to sacrifice themselves to preserve American freedoms.  From there, she transitions to the conundrum of modern American immigrants, who want what we offer but hate what we are:

There are a variety of things driving American anxiety about illegal immigration and we all know them–economic arguments, the danger of porous borders in the age of terrorism, with anyone able to come in.

But there's another thing. And it's not fear about "them." It's anxiety about us.

It's the broad public knowledge, or intuition, in America, that we are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all.

We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways–in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.

We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.

So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good.

But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold–they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

The genius cluster–Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest–that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen? How did we get so lucky? (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was "providential.")

We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?

Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.

***

Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.

Who is at fault? Those of us who let the myth die, or let it change, or refused to let it be told. The politically correct nitwit teaching the seventh-grade history class who decides the impressionable young minds before him need to be informed, as their first serious history lesson, that the Founders were hypocrites, the Bill of Rights nothing new and imperfect in any case, that the Indians were victims of genocide, that Lincoln was a clinically depressed homosexual who compensated for the storms within by creating storms without . . .

You can turn any history into mud. You can turn great men and women into mud too, if you want to.

What's so sad is that it's no longer fringies dirtying our history.  We've raised a whole generation that has internalized the fringies message and is passing it on to the next generation, both native-born and immigrant. 

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  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

    In enthalpy and entropy systems (sketchy rememberings here), there is always fluxes and balances. I like to compare human behavior to scientific principles, because a lot of human behavior is based upon evolution. And evolution was nothing but scientific trial and error.

    One of the reasons, and Neo spoke about this in our email correspondence, is the worry over willpower and the nature of willpower. Neo doubted that we had as much willpower as we did in WWII, when black people signed up for the Tuskegee Air Squadron even though the military was still segregated and they were treated worse than Nazi prisoners. On a recent Oliver North War stories program, I saw first hand testimonies of these WWII veterans. They said that regardless of the cost, they would do it over again. Because to them, “you fight for your rights and debate, but when your country is attacked you go to the call”. In an ironic sense, that Call of Duty, was what made desegregation possible. When Americans saw how brave and valorous these blacks were, they saw them not as second class citizens but as Americans. Americans, in both civilian and military, but primarily military, were shamed into treating blacks better. Just as they were shamed into treating women better. Why? Because blacks and women had EARNED their rights, for they responded to the call of duty when America was in her darkest days of despair and lifted us up beyond the height of liberation and success. It is the primary reason why the military, more in tune with black sacrifices, desegregated a full 15 years before the civilian sector.

    I tend to think, that willpower is not inherent in a generation. Willpower comes from facing insurmountable odds, and either defeating them or going down in a blaze of glory. The Japanese have much to teach in this sphere, and their culture is both vibrant and educational. Because America is so successful, we perhaps do not have to invoke the sheer determination required to survive, as the human race had to do back in the past. This happened to the Roman Empire, this happened to Britain, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. All successful nations have an expiration date. How long they may stay effective is based upon many factors, but the primary factor is whether you still have patriots willing to kill and to die for your country. You can survive without such things as the Roman Empire did, but you still have to maintain military supremacy. But that would mean that the nation would be nothing but a parasite upon the strength of others.

    (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was “providential.”)

    It was indeed the grace of God. I’m not a religious man, since I’m a follower of Deism, not Revealed Religion. As you look at history and look at how many times we may have stumbled, you had to conclude that all these “coincidences” were more than the sum of people’s actions. You had to conclude, as I did, that there had to be something more working in America’s favor.

    What kind of nation does this?

    As I termed it in Neocon’s comment section. We are the pre-eminent civilization in the history of mankind, with the pre-eminent military of all time to go with our civilization.

    The good news is that the Vietnam generation is fading out. The “good old days” of the 60s greatly impacted our ability to transcend the bounds of human limitations. The challenge of the War on Terror is a great opportunity to prove that this country is yet worthy to wield the power of a pre-eminent civilizatin.

    Another good news is that it isn’t as bad as Europe. Which means, we still have time judging from what is going on in Europe. However, this produces apathy in the politicians, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Five years have already been wasted. In a way, this is another opportunity rendered unto us by God.

    For had 9/11 not occured, what then would our chances of being able to solve the immigration problem be? How many people would have not cared? How many would still feel the pain of an unresolved doubt about Vietnam? Too many, perhaps, for us to succede with reinvigorating patriotism.

    To those who oppose the belief that America is the pre-eminent civilization in the history of mankind, 9/11 was a disaster. Not in the amount of lives lost, but the progress that was setback as Americans “woke up” from their brainwashing. 5 years is not enough to turn back the clock on decades of corrosion, no, but it is far better than nothing. For as we see in Europe, there will come a time when not even the “wake up call” of hundreds dieing will stop the assimilation of socialist ideals and hand out philosophies from taking hold of men’s minds and souls.

    I don’t like Europe, but I do have to say that I am rather grateful, for my nation, that they serve as an example of just how wrong, moronic beliefs can get you if you turn your back on your ancestors.

    There was a good interview about anti-Americanism, I suggest people check it out to learn more about the debate. Link

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    I knew there was a reason I love Peggy Noonan! She has identified the single most important downfall of American culture in the 21st century. We’ve lost our pride in ourselves. Why? Because the people who control the educational systems and the MSM do not share that pride and therefore do not impart it. Until they do, this country will continue to falter and, unless we again learn to take pride in ourselves, we will ultimately fail completely.

  • http://benningswritingpad.blogspot.com/ benning

    We have become a foolish people. We are easily led astray by promises of shiny baubles, while those who so lead us are taking us to the precipice. I wonder if we have run out of time to repair the damage?

  • http://arosebyname.blogspot.com Anna

    Small steps. Instill love of country in your children. Show them the wonders of this great country. Kids share everything. We took our daughters on a camping trip…Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park and they talked about it for weeks. Have hope…don’t give up!

  • DRaftervoi

    As an atheist, I don’t see it as Providential, I see America’s successes as the result of a combination of factors: a frontier depopulated by disease, borders protected by ocean and weak neighbors…but this does not mean I believe that it was a matter of luck. I believe that we are successful as a result of national character.

    Example: if we were to down tools today, drop everything to a man, and march with nothing but the shirt on our backs to…oh, Brazil or Botswana or Belarus, and hand ‘em the keys to the USA….and we’d take up residence in a foreign land, and they in ours….in fifty years, what would our new nation look like? And what would our old nation look like?

    I have no doubt that our Brazil or Botswana or Belarus would be a thriving economic powerhouse and the old USA would be a corrupt poverty-ridden kleptocracy. Character MATTERS. A man has to grow a spine, stand on two feet and spit in the eye of whatever challenge comes his way.

    My children are “Hispanic” – whatever the h*** that means. Their grandfather was in Patton’s Third Army chasing the Wehrmacht across northern France; their great-grandfather was at Second Marne – and I’ll kick their *** if I ever catch them waving a Mexican flags in the streets.

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