Saturday, July 30, 2005

When Did America Stop Being a Melting Pot?

For a society to grow and remain strong, it must have certain things in common. It must have shared values. America, for instance, shares a Judeo-Christian heritage (Moslems also share in our common “Jewish Roots”), as well as a strong work ethic and a roughed measure of independence. It should have a shared sense of history. We are primarily a nation of Europeans it is true, but also we are a nation of immigrants. America is no less than a micro-cosmism of the world. We have representatives from every nation, every ethnic group and race, and every religion living and working side by side without the hatred that in other parts of the world would be impossible. That is not to say we don’t have our conflicts, we do. But, we don’t have the genocides common in some nations either. It should have a shared sense of direction or goals. There must be an openness of opportunities. People came to America to be free.

Some define freedom as a type of anarchy; the absence of control or governmental interference. Some define freedom as the absence from want, as in a welfare or communistic utopian state. But that’s not why people flocked to these shores. They came because America offered freedom to believe, or not, believe in religion. In some countries, they were required to belong to this or that religion in order to participate in politics, own property, or practice a trade. Here their religion offered no barriers. Others came to start life anew. To acquire land or to start a business and see where their ingenuity and perseverance would take them. These were our common goals and directions we shared.

America was a melting pot. People from all walks of life came together and cultures began to meld. People intermingled and naturally intermarried. If some combination could be imagined, I’m sure it happened. Sure, there were problems. Chinese, Irish, Catholics, and Italians weren’t welcomed at first. The older wave of immigrants resented the newer wave. Some are still having trouble fully intergrading. Still, no one can argue that tremendous strides take could have only been made here in America.

But something has happened. Something that could have terrible consequences. Somewhere along the line we stopped becoming a melting pot and started becoming a multicultural nation. Cultures opted out of our great mosaic. They began staying to themselves. Once, an immigrant boasted with pride that they could speak English. Now, we’ve had to “adapt” to those who come here but won’t learn the language. We, the taxpayers, spend billions modifying forms, labels, educational formats, hiring special teachers because parents refuse to have their children learn English (seriously, I know folks like this). We have whole communities across the country where no one speaks English. There are no signs in English. No one understands English. There is nothing that lends itself to the feeling that you’re in America. And that, my friends is wrong.

Language is the thread that holds a people together. Once broken, we drift apart. We become a separate people. We become a balkanized nation. My family spoke German at home, in Church, and within their own community. But they knew that to become fully Americans, they had to learn English. They were also businessmen. It only made good business sense to speak the language of your customers. If we went anywhere else in the World, would they make these same changes for us just because we refused to learn their language? Hardly.

English should be made the national language of America just as every nation has its own national language. We should stop spending money to accommodate and instead spend the money to educate. Every immigrant coming to America must take and pass a Basic English language class. What they speak at home, in their communities, or places of worship doesn’t change. Just as Latin once held the ancient world together, English now plays a key role in connecting the world. Let us allow a common tongue to reconnect us again.

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