Tom Brokaw apologized for saying that it would be helpful if the incoming immigrants would assimilate. Mr. Brokaw was almost in tears and in apologizing he betrayed the people he called The Greatest Generation. He also revealed one of the critical elements that is ripping at Europe and keeps the USA from coming together and will always keep us divided.
Assimilation has become one more battlefield word. Asking anyone to learn English if they intend to live in our country seems the least to demand. Without speaking and reading English, how will the immigrants or refugees shop, buy gasoline, interact at work? We are a melting pot nation and pride ourselves at growing by knowing the culture, languages, heritages of our new neighbors. That is impossible if our new neighbors can’t tell us or write about their journeys. It looks to me that some of the new neighbors are insisting that we abandon or change our culture and adopt theirs. How does that make us a richer people?
Senator Ben Sasse says,
“When I was president of Midland College, it was obvious that the college’s decision two decades earlier to abandon a rich core curriculum had made the student experience hollower, shallower. Even if someone had big and legitimate objections to parts of the old core curriculum—either what it included or what it omitted—there was still great value in students, faculty, alumni at least having some books in common, even if only as a point of departure from which to argue.”
Feel how this impacts today’s news?
“When previous generations of students had been in the dining hall, or after they had lost a big game, or when they were wrestling with ethical question in the dorm late at night, or they were thinking through a broken relationship or when a student was killed in an accident or diagnosed with cancer, there had been common language for approaching problems. No more.”
The next time you hear someone say, “Please… bring us together” know this:
“Having shared intellectual traditions glues us together, helps newcomers assimilate, and allows us to take active roles in our shared community.” (Page 224 The Vanishing American Adult, Senator Ben Sasse, St. Martin’s Press © 2017)
With no shared language, traditions, core values, “bringing us together” has nothing around which we can be brought together. There is no “together” to bring us to.
“In 1987 at Stanford, Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson led five hundred students in a Palo Alto march attacking the “Western Culture” requirement for Stanford freshmen. Newspapers and the evening news across the country seized on the protestors’ chants of ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western cultures’ got to go!’ When the university decided to abandon the older curriculum, it signaled to many a definitive end of an era.” (P. 223)
Or a civilization!
As I listen, I wonder where some people in Washington went to school to learn what it means to be an American system. Why our form of government has been a fairly successful experiment and why our economic system has stimulated wealth and survival.
Mr. Brokaw, I appreciate your desire to be kind and inclusive, but your first statements were not unkind. They were the practical, and pragmatic truth. It works best.
© 2019 D. Dean Benton