America has a rich history as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and religion. Those who have come here over the past couple hundred years have sought a better life through the freedoms and liberties assured by our Constitution and the free enterprise system that fosters their “pursuit of happiness.” They’ve brought their culture, customs, and language with them, but they became Americans: learned English, learned our customs and conventions, and became encultured into the American way. America is great in large part because of the diversity of our people, and the richness of our cultural elements brought here. But multiculturalism has become much more than that, and is now more destructive than ameliorative, to American culture.
If the goal of multiculturalism was followed, which was to primarily facilitate the understanding and respect of other cultures, it would contribute, even add “seasoning” to our melting pot by encouraging our young people to compare and contrast, and then eclectically assimilate the best of all cultures. Instead, it has become an assailant to diminish Western values and advance ideologies distinctly anti-American. It has evolved, or devolved, to an illogical extreme that in academic and educational circles, attempts to vitiate the strengths and advances of Western civilization and promotes other cultures as preferable cultural paragons, regardless of their shortcomings.
Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University has said, “What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.”
Roger Kimball of the New Criterion has written, “Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness.” Multiculturalism has led to the historical revisionism that paints Christopher Columbus as a nefarious European who initiated the transformation of a supposed paradisiacal Western hemisphere into the evil, corrupt America of today.
It is multiculturalism that precludes Shakespeare from being studied by many university literature and English majors, because he was a “sexist and racist white man.” It is also the underlying principle engaged in revising history, including the historical roots of our contemporary observance of Thanksgiving and acknowledgement of the Christian principles prevalent at the time of our founding. Multiculturalism, in it’s extreme, is at the root of the removal of any references to Christ in the public square and public schools, even at the time we celebrate His birthday, for one characteristic of the movement is distinctly anti-Christian.
As convoluted as it may seem, Al Gore was perhaps correct when in the 2000 Presidential campaign he defined E Pluribus Unum as out of one, many, instead of the other way around. Multiculturalism in its extreme form seeks to divide rather than unify as Jefferson and Franklin intended, as emblazoned on the official Seal of the U.S.
A poll by the Pew Research Center a few years ago indicated that only 55% of Hispanics, living either legally or illegally in this country, consider themselves Americans. Another poll of Muslims in Los Angeles County indicated that only 10% of them consider themselves to be Americans. It seems the hyphenation of Americans is another social and cultural divider, rather than a unifier. A hyphenated American is just another symptom of political correctness.
Multiculturalism in its extreme weakens community bonds and reduces the motivation for new immigrants to participate in the common culture, the shared history and the common language of America: English.
The American concepts of freedom of expression, religion, human rights, liberty and democracy are distinctively Western values. As historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has said, “These are European ideas, not Asian, nor African, nor Middle-Eastern ideas, except by adoption. There is surely no reason for Western civilization to have guilt trips laid on it by champions of cultures based on despotism, superstition, tribalism, and fanaticism.”
The pejorative aspects of multiculturalism have contributed alarmingly to a Balkanization of America, where differences are the focus instead of common values and ideals. Where culture and ethnicity divide us, rather than adding seasoning to our melting pot to enrich the entire culture.
President Theodore Roosevelt put the concepts of multiculturalism in perhaps the best context, although it was of course not known as such in 1907. He declared, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
As long as multiculturalism is an end in and of itself, or worse, as a means to continue to diminish western values and our history, and divide and weaken our country, we will continue to decline as a culture, losing those distinctively American traits that once made the nation unique. As it diminishes our value system, erodes our cultural strengths, and rewrites our history, the very meaning of what it means to be an American is perhaps forever changed.
Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].