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August 22, 2002

God, country and family (part I)

God, country and family (part I)

Richard Poe pointed me to this article by James Cantrell. He seems a historically literate and thoughtful person (you might disagree) [1]. His views are somewhat off the beaten path. Though not a white racialist-he makes no qualms about being proud to be white and reveling in his patch of the quilt of human diversity.

He asserts:

While raceómore accurately ethnicity (for the racially Caucasian Turks or Semites are not interchangeable with Europeans) and most accurately culture that could not have arisen without Christian Europeans and their civilization and cannot be maintained long in any meaningful sense without them as the preponderant members of society in cultural, educational, moral, and political influence and probably in raw numbers....

Is he serious? Were my ancestors not the Gauls?

Can I take pride in the achievements of American civilization though my ancestors were across two oceans for much of the republic's existence [2]? I am asking: are we a proposition nation, or a nation of folk of like faith and blood? I believe the answer to be somewhere in the middle.

Today the road to citizenship is 5 years or less once you have permanent residency. Most new citizens are well integrated economically. If the proposition is simply come and be wealthy-than we are an admirable success [3]. But more than capitalism does a liberal democracy make-or so sayeth the seer that I have consulted in this matter! I think most people would agree that many new citizens are not particularly well assimilated into the national culture-and it is clear some do not wish to be.

Of the new citizens-it seems likely that those of European ancestry will assimilate faster than those of non-European ancestry. Blood does matter. Not only will European immigrants have a host of racial and cultural similarities to the dominant ethnos of this nation-they will not be noted and singled out, and so are much less likely to resent the xenophobia of the natives [4]. But blood is not the only factor. Who is more likely to fit in-a wealthy dark-skinned engineer from southern India or a Dutch welder? The answer is contingent upon the class that you speak of. Who would be more likely to fit in, a Christian nurse from Vietnam or a gay man from the Netherlands? There is more than one factor-one lens to look through. Race is a good proxy for many of these factors, for there is a strong correlation between race and religion (South Asians will be Hindu or Muslim, Europeans will be Christian or post-Christian, etc.) and frankly class (how many people in San Francisco would not note it if their boss' wife was a female software engineer from Mexico and their maid was from India?).

Perhaps we should aim to be the propositions nation, and acknowledge that some groups will be able to fill the propositions with more ease than others. But just as cultures develop organically-one should be careful to make generalizations based on bright and hard axioms cut from reality.

1-Cantrell sees the provincial nature of the early Romans as superior to the cosmopolitanism of the later Romans. There is something to this-but he neglects to mention that the Roman conception of citizenship was not based solely on blood, but left the door open for enfranchisement of individuals and nations who provided service to the republic. In this way-Rome created an incentive for allies to fight for her and expanded the circle of citizens over time and spread Romanitas. Some great Romans, such as Cicero, were from enfranchised people.

2-This begs to me the question: why should someone who's ancestor was under loyalist rule in New York take as much pride as someone who's ancestor was a patriot in Boston? These sort of "back in the day my grand-father" assertions get rather tedious and the implications rather knotted. How many Italian nationalists from Milan are actually the descendents of Gauls?

3-The poor in America are part of the consumer class. By world-and surely historical-standards Americans are a wealthy people, even the most humble of us.

4-I do not discount the past prejudice that the Germans, Irish and Italians faced-or the current backlog of jokes that the Polish have to deal with. But the arrival of visible minorities has made the ethnic whites far less prominent (they are singled out more by accent than appearance) and jarring to the sensibilities of the WASP. I doubt that any Irish or Italians are the victims of concerted xenophobia today as compared to say Mexicans or Vietnamese (how many children today know of the insults "Mick" or "Wop").

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