The American Melting Pot
Is it demographics or an idea? A look at what makes us great.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) got himself into hot water on Twitter recently for comments he made regarding immigration. “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King said. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Wilders, of course, is Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has stirred controversy over his stances on immigration in Holland and greater Europe. Wilders is on record calling for banning the Koran, ending Muslim immigration, and calling Muslims derogatory names.
Leftists in this country will say that all sounds a lot like Donald Trump. But Wilders and Trump have little in common. Trump has called for a temporary ban on immigration from countries that are known to export violence against America and its allies. Wilders wants to ban Muslim immigration permanently. Trump’s actions on immigration are based on our country’s national security and economic wellbeing. Wilders’s actions are based on a belief that Islam itself is at the heart of all the West’s problems.
Leftists in America see no distinction between what Trump is doing on immigration here and what Wilders and far-right politicians are doing in Europe. That’s because they don’t understand the American ideal. Unfortunately, one might say the same of Steve King.
King’s tweet states that demographics are destiny and America, and presumably Western civilization, cannot be saved by “someone else’s babies.” You’ll have a hard time unpacking a statement like that without coming up with a jaundiced view of America that is based on skin color and national origin.
This view, which is certainly in line with Wilders and other far-right Europeans who have risen to prominence in recent years, suggests that America is about blood and race, not culture and ideas. This mindset is misguided at best, dangerous at worst. We have seen the damage that such thoughts breed in this country with slavery and Jim Crow. At its extreme it leads to ethnic cleansing and large-scale genocide, as we have seen in Europe, Asia and Africa.
America’s Founders handed down to us a nation that was based on ideals, not the demographic makeup of its citizenry. As Thomas Paine, the father of liberalism, put it, “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”
America was and is about representative government, freedom of thought and religion, and the opportunity to make a better life for oneself and one’s family. The fact that a clear majority of early Americans were white and of Western European descent was a key factor in establishing the style of government and culture that composed this country — it was a particular moment in time, in a specific place with certain history. But that doesn’t mean those ideas are confined or bound by race.
As the country grew, and immigrants began arriving from other nations, our government and culture assimilated them via the melting pot. People flocked to this country because of its ideals, because they wanted to be a part of a nation that was like no other nation on Earth. And because America is based on freedom, those immigrants who came here yearning to be free actually enhanced our nation and made it stronger, not weaker.
Still, lack of assimilation among immigrants has been a concern for much of the history of our nation. But it’s rarely the people who come here who don’t want to assimilate — well, at least that was the case before the Left found political advantage in dividing constituent groups. Ironically, it’s the mindset of the extreme Right and Left already in this country that is a bulwark against assimilation.
The Left has fomented a decades-long concerted effort to demonize America and spread a faith of moral relativism, which has led people to believe that assimilation is not just unnecessary, it’s evil. They spread the belief that America is corrupt and racist, and if you assimilate into its culture, then you will be destroyed by it.
The far Right has reacted to this by placing a higher value on demographics than ideals, and sometimes spreading fear and ignorance among the people, even if they don’t mean to do so. If people immigrate to a country where they believe they are not welcome, then they will isolate themselves in closed communities where there is no English, no feeling of American civic duty, no desire to share cultures, and no love of country — all just as the Left desires.
There is also a subset of the Left that believes we shouldn’t have borders. Let everyone in no matter what. This too discourages assimilation because the people who come here have no vested interest in the country. If anyone can come and go at any time for any reason, then there is nothing that makes America special. Nothing is earned and nothing is of value.
America is not a place so much as an ideal. That’s what the Founders intended. It is a fortunate series of events that the great republican experiment happened here in this country. But the success of that experiment was not contingent on the continued dominance of the white race. Rather, it depends on our values.
John Adams once wrote, “There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty.”
Liberty is color blind, and freedom does not come from or belong to any one nation or ethnic group. Steve King surely knows that, and so should we all. If we don’t recognize that fact, then we lose one of the key things that makes America exceptional.