09 May, 2006

Social Yogurt

Many active cultures improve the flavour and help digestion.

There are too many ideas floating around on this post for me to have a polite-length comment. So I'm hammering out some of my thinking over here.

Still, lest any of you think that I'm suddenly taking Sarcastro's side against myself, I also respect that not everyone will see the motion towards a vast "us" as positive (since it does come at a loss, which we can acknowledge, I think) and that, for them, that loss is too great.

That's Aunt B., talking about the obligations we owe ourselves.

But I think programs like Affirmative Action are imperfect ways of trying to acknowledge an unpaid debt.

So, the comments go back and forth about AA, and assimilation. Multiculturalism means different things to different people, and essentially the argument seems to be about the level of assimilation required to call ones self an American.

On one end of the spectrum exist those who believe that they are an American solely because they live here. All other cultural identifiers--food, language, religion, personal appearance--can be retained from the Old Country without affecting their rights as citizens. I grew up around the Amish, so I'm going to use them as my reference for this end of the spectrum.

At the other end of the spectrum exist those who believe Americanism should be its own culture, and one cannot truly be American without sublimating all other cultural identifiers. Learn to like hot dogs, speak English, keep your religion quiet and wear clothes from the Gap. Only then can you be One Of Us.

Both ends of the spectrum are irritating. As much as I respect the Amish on one level, it's easy to understand the irritation they cause. They seem to enjoy the fruits of the freedom of this country without participating in the whole of America. They speak primarily German at home, don't vote, they don't fight in wars and they don't send their kids to our schools. Like the much villified illegal immigrants, many of the Amish work for non-union wages and are paid under the table.

Likewise, the hyper Americans are just as irritating in their bland homogeneous nature. I look at Vanilla America and have no interest in them. What is that culture but a bizarre text-message mangling of English, endless strip malls and Velveeta cheese?

In between the two you have all types...English-speaking businessmen who go home to celebrate Pesach in Hebrew, Black women in stylised Dashikis shopping at K-Mart.

This is why America is dangerous. Because the beauty of the American idea is to say that these other things--language, skin colour, religion--don't matter. You are a free person, and this is the place where it is safe for you to be free. There are no outlawed tunes. There are no outlawed pipes. The only thing required to be American is a belief in freedom of the individual. I hear much from those who believe that multiculturalism will lead to Dhimmitude. Yet it seems to me that when we insist that all cultures sublimate themselves to Americanism that we have established our own dhimmitude of perverse blandness.

Yes. There is an "us". It's all the people that believe all are created equal. It's all the people who wish to live free. If you cast your lot here, then you are an "us." Speak what you want, wear what you want, pray to your gods. Because it is precisely those exercises of freedom that make you most American. But remember. The rest of us are free, too. We owe your gods no allegiance, we are under no sufferance to speak your tongue.


At 2:00 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Su-May said...

Interesting expression. Thanks!

At 2:07 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Pink Kitty said...

That's beautiful, Kat. And true.

At 3:12 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Casey said...

Wow. What an intelligent, lucid, dare I say, profound post.

[Looks at his own recent post regarding the nature of bird poop]

I'll just be getting back to XCode now.

At 7:08 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger W said...

I find myself vaguely insulted by your list of characteristics of Americans (eat hot dogs, wear clothes from the Gap, keep your religion quiet). But I can't think of anything.

At 7:23 AM, May 11, 2006, Blogger W said...

Welll, that last sentence was supposed to be 'I can't think of anything better'.

At 10:40 AM, May 11, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Aha! Makes more sense now.

Wasn't sure that's what you meant. But it was what I meant, because I couldn't think of anything better, either. ;-0

Casey, I learned from your post....

At 8:38 PM, May 12, 2006, Blogger Exador said...

My ideal American melting pot is that we are like a family. My sister and I see eye to eye on almost nothing. I will call her all sorts of bad names, as she will me. But woe be to the outsider that calls her the same names I do. That's how America should be: we all fight and hate each other until an outsider attacks us, then we forget the petty stuff and band together.


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