Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fissures


I've been writing about this for years. In the beginning, most of the pundits and self-proclaimed "political experts" blew me off; I was seen as one of those "alarmists" or "extremists"; all gloom and doom. However, most of those criticizing me at the time were on the ideological Right (and no doubt were hyper-sensitive because "Dubya" was in office and looking like the world's biggest jackass). Well, times have changed and it turns out that I may have been right all along (and thank you Obama for assuming the jackass mantle).

To briefly recap, several years ago I wrote about how America appeared to be breaking apart. There's an old saying that every revolution contains within it the seeds of its own destruction; something about a revolution can and will be exploited to the point where it becomes almost absurd. For example, we took the phrase "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" from our Declaration of Independence. and reinterpreted the role of government basically staying out of lives and allowing the opportunity to self-pursuit to requiring the government to provide it for us, and to do so as it defines it while removing any reference to a "Creator". We took the concept of each individual having the right to defend themselves; their family; their property and turned them into something approaching the criminal, while we took the criminal and turn them into some that was somehow disadvantaged by society and in doing so, made them victim.

We took the concept of "cruel and unusual", which the Founding Father's conceived of as meaning torture, and redefined it as meaning no death penalty for those guilty of committing violent crimes, which, again, many of our Founding Father's supported. We created a democratic republic which emphasized the sovereignty of the individual, divided into three roles, the legislative, judicial, and executive, with the role of Congress to be the central branch since it was closest to the People (the office of President was actually conceived of being mainly ceremonial), and now we have an oligarchy---rule not by of and for the People, but by and through a small elite class of the super wealthy. We are morphing into a fascist or corporate state with an Imperious federal government supported by a police state mentality. And the list continues.

We took the notion that America was a country where one could, with some hard work, maybe an idea, and perseverance, perhaps achieve something beyond their previously imposed limitations; if not for themselves then maybe for their children. Individuals came to America; learned English, often before leaving the Old World or on the boat over; they seemed to practice their English on anyone and everyone. They wanted to blend in. They left behind many of their customs; petty bigotries; and found ways to blend in. Some even changed their names or even religions. They wanted beyond all else to become American---not hyphenated Americans; not partial Americans, but ordinary Americans, and they tried to install this into their children. Not so now. Now, we've come to celebrate the hyphenated-American. Now we're expected to "press 1 for English". Now we're expected to accept foreign customs and traditions. It's even become common place to see individuals walking around in the native costumes as if they're flaunting their separateness. America is home to every nationality, ethnic group, and religion in the world. But what made us different is that we added this uniqueness to the "American Stew". Not so anymore. Those coming here now revel in their differences; they're encouraged to remain separate.

What happens to a country when this sense of disunity is allowed to grow; to fester? For a time, nothing. However, within these cultures which remain outside the norm of society, the grains of old hatreds remain, be it against different clans, tribal groups, religions, or ethnic populations. And as with all hatred left unchecked, it grows until it can't be contained and those inflected sooner or later lash out. We're already seeing it in the form of centuries old prejudices with the same centuries old form of retributions. Lost is the respect for laws and traditions of their new homeland and in its place is transplanted animosity toward others. Soon, one group or the other, not feeling a bond to its new home, will as first ask---perhaps even humbly---for exceptions based on traditions or laws belonging to another world, and in many cases, another time with incompatible values. Eventually, they will not just insist on these exceptions, but will demand that its laws should be equal with or even supplant existing laws of the host country or threaten not only non-compliance, but bloody and prolonged violence.

So too will others who fail to adapt to the native language of their host nation. They will plead tolerance and patience for the old or for the young to learn, and it's often granted out of a misplaced sense of compassion, but adoption never comes. Instead, it becomes more entrenched, and then they argue that it would be too cumbersome; too costly; or in some way "discriminates" again them by requiring them to learn the language of the nation where they now live, and instead, the native population is forced to adapt. And again, the bond is left broken. As I often said, "a common language is the thread that bind the tapestry of a nation together". A common language provides a sense of community; a bond among the citizens of a nation. It fosters commerce. It helps to establish a sense of common heritage. Without it, we begin to develop separately; one nation merely becomes transplanted onto a different soil, that's all.

At the same time, many of these groups find themselves impoverished. Partly because they weren't prepared either emotionally, educationally, or financially for their transition to a new country (this is, in part, because they've come illegally with the intent of blending into many of these non-integrated communities and, therefore, not having to make any of the necessary adjustments). However, for the others, they are given the opportunity, at taxpayer expense, and the educational and financial resources--such as low or no interest loans, wavier of certain taxes, automatic government assistance with government contracts, etc---and yet, they prepare only for their own ethnic groups. They insist on either themselves or their children to be taught in their native language only. They demand to be taught their country's history or heritage; not that of America's. Unintegrated , they remain often poor, dependent on others, and often find themselves taken advantage of, even within their own group.

Within this, we have the earlier racial or ethnic groups who are now replaced by these incoming groups. They see themselves set aside from taxpayer based aid, previously taken for granted as a self-assigned "entitlement". For those unprepared, they find themselves hopelessly lost. A sense of abandonment set in as the government redirects its limited attention and resources. Within this sense of abandonment comes a new sensation---anger, but not at themselves for depending of the public handouts and thinking it could and would go on forever, but anger at those who replaced them, and at the same time, a lashing out at those who formerly ladled out the gravy from the public trough.

At first, this is expressed in the form of trying to impart "guilt" for some imagined or ancient slight; without or with proof that it ever affected them. They will continue to insist on their privileged priority while claiming the others had in fact acting out a "privilege" because it was not, nor likely has ever been, in the position of having to depend on handouts. Interestingly, for those who had taken advantage of the opportunities previously afforded them and became successful financially (usually through education), they feel little sympathy for those of the group who they now view as "lazy" or "social leeches" and leave the group, though some remain to try to foster internal change while others only manage to serve as leeches themselves rather than as leaders or positive role models.

Nevertheless, ultimately the result is the same. Fissures develop. Soon the fissures become divisions; often, if not always, irreparable divisions. While these can for a brief time be held together through an increasing successions of rights, authority, and autonomy, the end rarely ever varies historically. The country either breaks apart peacefully; perhaps to enter into some form of loose federation (like the former USSR or UK, or it fragmentation is violent, long, and bloody like the Hapsburg Empire or Yugoslavia). Given the tendency toward religious, racial, and ethnic enclaves, and the nature of the cultures involved, I strongly suspect ours will be more like the latter. Can this be avoided? Certainly, and historically, it has. However, to avoid this fragmentation requires both a sense and understanding of the dynamics of history, but also the political will to insist that past loyalties are just that---past. America is about starting anew. It's about adding one's culture to the American melting pot, and it also means speaking a common language. Without it, America's "Exceptionalism" is no more and no better than those whose "Exceptionalism" has turned to dust.

2 comments:

Bev said...

Paul,

Very good article. Thanks! I've posted it.

Barb said...

Good article and you are right. We are being dividing up in groups, thereby becoming segrated again.