Whatever happened to America, the melting pot? Did the pot boil over so much it had to be thrown out? Did we drop the pot and it cracked? Did the pot start smoking pot and is now in rehab?
I was brought up to feel high on America, not pot. I’m always proud that we are a free country welcoming all nationalities, all religions, all races to our shores. Colorfully and sometimes comically, they would retain their accents, their color, their ethnic identities, funny hats and shoes, but gradually millions melted into the American mainstream, eventually becoming 100% Americans, many serving their country in the U.S. Military.
Today the spreading threat of Islamic terrorism and particularly our sometimes overreaction to that perceived threat has changed the rules of the game and maybe has altered how we think of the world, ourselves and our country.
Someone sent me today a link to a video I had seen last year, but today it had a more menacing context and harsh tone with the spreading fear of immigrants and foreigners, the rising xenophobia particularly aimed at Muslims.
Yes initially this fear was directed at certain so-called Muslim-majority countries, but underneath is seems much more general, more insidious and threatening.
“You may have already seen this video. It is an American city!!!” says the transmittal email providing the link to it. The video shows Muslim women walking around Dearborn, Michigan in their Hijabs and Burkas. They pass by store fronts with Arabic signs and advertising that says they accept food stamps, while the narrator laments “you don’t feel like you’re in the United States.”
Last year someone sent me this same video and I shared it with my junk file. This time as the waves of Islamophobia are coming ashore I watched it and it sickened me to the point that now I’m writing about it on behalf of the many hard working interns at my PR firm, TransMedia Group (www.transmediagroup.com) who over the years have come from Muslim majority nations, brilliant college students on education Visas who were an enormous help to us and to our clients.
It made me wonder what the narrator would have said if he were plopped down in Chicago’s Little Italy or San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1900.
Isn’t the melting pot one of the most enduring self-images of the United States, a country into which immigrants from all corners have come, have intermingled, intermarried and produced new crops of citizens endowed with a rich, intermixed cultural heritage. Today that noble heritage may be an endangered species. Yet it’s an image that has served our country well, proving, as it did, the philosophical foundations for the widespread acceptance of the culturally pluralistic nation that emerged in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.
Does this intermingling, this absorption happen overnight. Hardly. There are immigrant groups that steadfastly cling to their cultural roots and reject, defy or eschew assimilation into the broader culture, but gradually change occurs, often starting with children in classrooms, unless bigots and zealous xenophobes intervene.
Am I so naïve to think that immigrants from the Middle East and elsewhere shouldn’t be vetted? No, let’s vet, but let’s do it in a civilized manner that’s fair, sensitive, practical and professional.
The person who forwarded the video to me says “We need to stand behind Trump and Brigitte Gabriel’s work for a safer America—-write to your congressmen and senators to encourage people to vote for American Laws for American Courts.”
It continues . . .
“Too many states have been influenced by the wrong groups and are practicing Sharia law….this MUST stop!” the sender says. “With the thousands of new refugees here, there will be more cities like this one. Take ACTION!!!”
I sent the email containing the link to the deplorable video once again into my junk box and I hope by doing so it makes one of my ex-student interns, Zaid from Jordan, happy.
God bless him and immigrants like him. God Bless America! TM
San Francisco’s Chinatown Around 1900