Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Melting Pot vs Salad Bowl

And then it hit me.

Chris and I were having a discussion about what had changed in America since we were young. Why have we become so fractured? Why have special interests become more important than the good of the nation? Why do my rights no matter when compared with others?

It is all in the characterization of the American Experience.

When I was in school we were taught about the great Melting Pot. Where those people who left their homes and countries came and strove to become Americans. They longed to be identified as Americans and not the Irish, or the Poles, or the Germans. Our ancestors learned the language. They learned the economy. They paid their dues working menial jobs. And they taught their kids: you are an American first and Polish (or whatever) second. There was a reason we left our homes and came to the land of the Statue of Liberty. But at the end of the day, and even after a civil rights struggle that spanned centuries--we became Americans!

We memorized the Preamble to the Constitution, the opening phrases of the Declaration of Independence, and I, on two separate occasions memorized the Gettysburg Address. We stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance--every morning. And we were proud of it. We studied the United States as if there were no equal on Earth. We looked back at the Roman Empire determined not to duplicate their errors. And we celebrated our national holidays--even the minor ones that people today forget: Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Flag Day (I used to march in a parade on Flag Day in my hometown), V-E Day, and V-J Day.

And everyone celebrated these days. Was it a better time? I'm not sure. But "We the People" were "A People!"

And then came political correctness.

And the Melting Pot became a "Salad Bowl."

A Salad Bowl is where many peoples are jumbled-up, living together, but each retains their own language, traditions, and beliefs. There no longer is a shared common vision.

And so the nation of "We the People" became a nation of "We the Many Peoples." Keeping the traditions and languages of the homeland alive is not a bad thing--but maybe we have lost something that made us uniquely American! We now celebrate a lot of traditions and have a lot of special interests which seem to overshadow what President Obama echoed from President Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." - J.F. Kennedy, Jan 20, 1961

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task."
- B.H. Obama, Jan 20, 2009

And so we see the results of the Salad Bowl. We have moved from a nation of Americans to a nation of individuals living in America. There is no longer a corporate American--nor, do I believe is there "an" American Dream. There are many American dreams.

It has become a jungle where everyone from corporate America's leaders to the people living next door are looking for a government handout, or some way to get rich at someone else's expense. Why? Because we owe it to them. Or so they think. Let's all play--"Beat the System!" Only no one really wins in the end.

Revisionist history would suggest that the Melting Pot was bad. But, it won two world wars and helped develop the greatest nation for peace that the world has ever seen. A nation where we routinely sacrifice our best and brightest military personnel for ideals and for the protection of others who are less fortunate without thought of annexing territory to add to the Republic.

We are idealistic. Hence we are still in Korea, we were in Vietnam and Haiti, we took action in Nicaragua, we are Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is the result of the Melting Pot mentality we believed in.

Where will be be in 50 more years?

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