Multiculturalism, tribalism dangerous

Jeremy Rabkin tells us that “our freedom depends on where we live,” and so it does. In countries where individual rights are paramount, where freedoms are based on the rights of individuals, and where nation states are organized to defend the individual, freedom rings.

America is based on the tradition and narrative of individual rights and liberties maintained by a willing people who share American values and who have adopted their new country with all of its flaws and warts.

A vast and destructive lie has now invaded our national feelings of patriotism and sense of being one nation of assimilated millions, all focused on shared goals, the very mortar of our strength, resolve, and power as a nation. This is troubling because we cannot succeed as a nation or as a federal republic if we allow our bonds to each other as individuals and to our nation as representative of all of us as individuals to be broken or exchanged for some other model.

The problem is separatism that invades all aspects of our lives. Cloaked as “multiculturalism,” we are asked and encouraged to focus on parts and pieces and push resources and enact laws for small groups of people who self-identify as anything but American. We are slowly morphing into a nation of separation and a focus on separate groups, ignoring the rights of individuals that are the basis of our remarkable experiment in democracy.

It shouldn’t matter where you came from or what language you speak. It’s fine to hang on to the important traditions of your family and past, play the bag pipes on Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrate the victory on the Big Horn, and speak the language of the country from where you came. It’s not fine to ask the rest of us to separate you out and give you special treatment because of your cultural tradition, race, or other preferences.

When you get to America, we expect you to assimilate into our political model, fighting for the rights of individual persons, not separate groups with separate religions or other values. Believe whatever you like, but, when you take the oath to become a citizen of this country, the nation and individual rights come first. Your self-identity with your past comes second.

If we are to survive in this world as a haven for the hopes of millions, we must revert to the founders and follow their plan. We are a melting pot and we need to be. It’s the only way we can protect ourselves and each other in a world where our power and ingenuity are envied and desired, even to the point of war against us for what we have achieved, together.

“Patriotic assimilation work[s] precisely because here in America, [our] bonds are to the creed of the founding documents and adherence to the American virtues and national culture.” We are Americans, whatever our race or religion or gender. America does come first, and your self-identity as a Quaker or transgendered person come second.

One writer calls our current state of affairs “an incoherent multiculturalism that denigrates identification with the nation-state while celebrating every other kind of partial identity.” Tribalism has inundated our national discourse in destructive ways.

Tribalism, identifying ourselves and acting according to something other than patriotic assimilation as Americans, is insular and self-focused. Tribes by their nature fight among themselves and are not prepared to spend their energy projecting their interests and power outside of narrow self-imposed limits. Multiculturalism and tribalism are the single most dangerous fads we face today. It’s time to teach e pluribus unum and abandon separatism.


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