Saturday, June 09, 2007

THE POWER AND LEGACY OF OUR CULTURE IS OUR CONCEPT OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM

The following is my answer to a comment posted by "Bauta" in the blog of Andres Oppenheimer from The Miami Herald. It touches some of the points of my previous two postings but here again, it does provide further insights as to my thoughts on the immigration issue. Enjoy!

Bauta said...

When you have millions of people coming from the same region, the result is that they don't feel the need to assimilate to the new society and they don't learn the language. Hispanics in America and Muslims in Europe don't want to assimilate, they want to impose their culture. Now the US is going to bring 7,000 more Muslims from Irak. Wonderful ah? Bauta

Mousqueton said....

Dear Bauta:

That is not quite true. Let me explain.

1) At a certain point in our history over 74% of the New York population was foreign and they eventually assimilated. Further, in the 1900’s the foreign born population of the United States was higher than in the year 2000 and they have assimilated as well.

In the process we also assimilated some of their customs and traditions. A token of that is the Saint Patrick's Ball held in the White House and certainly the bagpipes that are today an American tradition at the funeral of any policeman and/or firefighter who dies in the line of duty.

2) While numbers do have an impact on the assimilation process, it is the endurance and fortitude of the principles that eventually determine which culture prevails.

If you make a list of everything you believe to be American and do some research you will find that none of it, except as I mentioned before arguably Baseball and certainly Rock and Roll, is indeed American.

The logical question then is; how can there be an American culture if everything we regard as American is indeed foreign?

Continue....

Well, the answer is simple; the only true and absolutely authentic American value and believe is our concept of "individual freedom". This concept is so strong and powerful that it has survived the test of time and protected our democracy to the point of making it a beacon for the world.

Our concept of freedom is so powerful that it even negates the need of a given culture and/or language to exist. In fact, it is the power of our concept of freedom that allows us to assimilate as much or as little as we want from any culture in the world and still remain uniquely American. In the process, our freedom compels us to use our imagination and reshape, transform, refine, etc. everything we assimilate and end up with a uniquely American version of the original; talk about hot dogs, Taco Bell and Brooklyn style pizza.

You should have more faith on the power of our concept of freedom. Immigrants certainly do and eventually are compelled to make it their own regardless of what believes they might have brought with them when they first arrived to the US.

That is the true America; "E pluribus Unum" by the uniqueness and immensely creative as well as galvanizing power of our concept of freedom.

I sincerely believe that our Forefathers and certainly Thomas Jefferson as well as George Mason, from whom Jefferson borrowed much of the preamble in our Declaration of Independence, initially did not realize the magnitude of their contribution both to America and to human kind.

I am positive though that the power of this concept overwhelmed them later. It certainly overwhelmed John Adams whose letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813 is absolutely eloquent.

“The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite…. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Christianity, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believe they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles.”


The overwhelming power of our concept of freedom was also evident for John Quincy Adams in his argument before the Supreme Court to make the black slaves of the “Amistad” free.

"The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration."

This is indeed what America is all about and what we, the people, should treasure and protect.

3) Learning a language is also a process. It is easier to learn a language when you are young than it is when you are a mature person. It is easier to learn a language when you do not have to work two and three low paying jobs to barely survive.

The idea that Latino immigrants do not want to learn the language is a fabrication. If you could buy a pill that taught you English you would see a line of Latinos in front of Walgreens as far as your sight can reach.

Though everything is stacked against them, current statistics show that Latinos are indeed learning English, want to learn English and as a matter of fact, the rate and degree of assimilation in second and third generation of Latinos is nothing short of amazing.

Do not fall for the easy concepts and slogans of the anti-immigration zealots. Try to picture yourself without a visa, in a low income neighborhood in Paris, subject to discrimination and working two or three low paying jobs and then tell me how long you think it will take you to learn French.

We have an immigration problem, but we need to look at it seriously, creatively, under the light of our basic principles and come up with an intelligent and long lasting solution.

4) I must concede that I still do not have an answer to your concerns about the Muslim immigration. I am currently reading voraciously to learn about the Muslim religion but I am still an ignorant and therefore unable to give an opinion. I can share with you some of my doubts though.

While I hold Muslims to the same standards as any other human being in the world and further, I believe them to have exactly the same rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness as every other human being, I am not sure that Muslims are allowed to embrace the concept of individual freedom that is the corner stone and essence of both our identity and legal system. As far as I know, for Muslims, there is no freedom outside religion; religion is life itself and there is nothing and no one allowed beyond that.

In contrast, our concept of freedom allows us to even deny God himself and be agnostics. While this is a very strong statement it still measures up to the test of Christian religions because they believe in “free will” and the individual pursuit of salvation or damnation.

Having said this, I should mention that Turkey is in fact a Muslim country with a secular government that seems to be working well. Also, there is a large community of Muslims in the United States that seem to be in agreement and at peace with our concept of freedom.

As I said, I am still an ignorant and therefore I would appreciate if you give me a rain check on this issue. I am not going to avoid the issue though and will write about it as soon as I feel comfortable with my knowledge of the religion and convinced that its teachings are indeed compatible with our concept of freedom and justice.

2 comments:

Peter Chen said...

Hi Mousqueton,

First, let me thank you for your concern for my health, for regularly visiting and commenting in my post My first grandson at his granddad's 58th birthday gathering and for giving me the incentive to exercise.

I read your post, the comment by Bauta and this:

"You should have more faith on the power of our concept of freedom"

"I must concede that I still do not have an answer to your concerns about the Muslim immigration. I am currently reading voraciously to learn about the Muslim religion but I am still an ignorant and therefore unable to give an opinion. I can share with you some of my doubts though."

We non-Muslim Malaysian have been getting a taste of conservative Islam. Perhaps these posts of mine may further enlighten you a bit more of what the Islam religion can be like:
The Malaysia flag and the USA flag

Candlelight vigil for Revathi (and for Malaysia)

Candlelight vigil for Revathi (and for Malaysia) Part 2

Unity threatened by continuing infringements of religious freedom booklet

This is a Muslim country and if you don't like it, you can leave

Peter (Blog*Star 2006 and 2007)
Blogger Tips and Tricks

Mousqueton said...

Dear Peter:
As always, your comment is indeed enlightening!
I do have a question though.
All religions have been used as an excuse to abuse the people all over the world and in fact they have often being used as an excuse for war throughout history; I still have to come across a religion though that promotes violence as a mean to accomplish righteousness. I have certainly not found it in Shintoism, Budism, Christianism, Judaism, etc.
I am also aware that the Muslim countries seem to be particularly intolerant of individual freedom and hence my doubts about the possibility of coexistence of such religion and our concept of individual freedom.
My question though is more philosophical; Is the Muslim religion "per se" opposed to the American concept of individual freedom?
That is what I am trying to find out.

Best regards;