I don't like conservative, whining, racially-discriminating newspapers that talk about assimilation. But this, otherwise crappy article, aptly titled Too Many: Looking today's immigration in the face brought up an interesting point. One that, happily, isn't really to do with immigration at all.
But assimilation is much more than learning to speak English, or driving on the right side of the road. It involves what John Fonte of the Hudson Institute calls "patriotic assimilation," the belief that American history is one's own history. A century ago it meant that immigrants and their children came to see America's past as something "we" did, not something "they" -- white people of European ancestry -- did. To the extent that immigrants are assimilating they are doing so, in many cases, as "multicultural" Americans.
It made me think about patriotism, and what it means. Is it about where you draw the lines between "we" and "them"? I don't think I like the implications of that sort of idea. But what does it leave you with? Did "we" commit genocide? "We" as white people? "We" as Australians? "We" as British descendents? "We" as the children of the individuals that did it? "We" as people that have benefited? "We" as people that still do bad stuff? "We" as people that wouldn't have stopped it, even if we'd been alive? Is "patriotism" even relevant? Is it outdated? Is it a racism-like prejudice that was useful in the old days of constant war between countries? Can a Chinese immigrant who came in the 1850s feel responsible for the genocide? For the stolen generation? What if they came in the 1950s? Or in the last 20 years?
What relevance does it have to feel that "American history" is "your own history" apart from being a useful, and evocative (because racism often tries to be), "us vs them" line for conservatives to garner support?
Can you be anti-assimilationist but not anti-patriotism? I'm both I, but I don't know how strongly I the second one. Actually, that's not true, I would support assimilation to the extent that immigrants are willing to assimilate to make immigration more palatable to conservative voters. If immigrants are willing to go to English classes every week, and that means that we can have 100,000 more of them, then I would support it.
Does expecting people to value the UN Declaration of Human Rights count as being pro-assimilation? Would I be happy to have 5 million conservative Americans immigrate here, if that meant the destruction of our, already shaky, social welfare system? I'm not sure. Would John Howard permit more immigration, if immigrates could be prevented from voting for a few decades? Would that be a compromise I would be willing to accept in the interests of refugees? If I was a refugee I would be quite happy to move somewhere under the condition that I'd never be able to vote. But if there are a lot of people in that situation, what sort of a society does it create? A pretty shite one I reckon.
What would happen if the government gave a coalition of left-wing NGOs "sovereignty" over a big chunk of Australian land, a big chunk of UN funding, and said that they could accept as many refugees as they wanted. How many refugees would the coalition take? All of them? There 10.4 million according to the UN. Australia could support that many with some extra funding.
Maybe it would be simpler if white Australians assimilated themselves into the Aboriginal community. If multiculturalism is as bad as people think it is, that's the obvious solution. From this day forward, if you want to immigrate to Australia, you have to perform spear-throwing aptitude test, obtain references as to your berry picking skills, and learn one of the major Aboriginal languages at an accredited international language school.
The one problem with that is that we are right and they are wrong. Which is lucky for me? It would be hard to be a vegan in a properly assimilated Aboriginal community.
I read a bit more. I love this little bit.
Some conservatives, and even some liberals, have a different conception of assimilation, but it is not at all clear that those who wish to see a more robust love of country inculcated in our children (immigrant or native) are winning the debate. It simply makes no sense, therefore, for a society that cannot agree on its own history or even what it means to be an American to welcome over a million newcomers each year from outside.
In other words:
The majority of America disagrees with the author.
Therefore, America should do what the author says, at least until everyone starts to agree with the author.
Once everyone agrees with the author, America should do what the author says.
I'll have to use that one more often. "If you disagree with me, that's all the more reason to do what I say."
Oh yay. I just found some statistics on maximum ecologically sustainable populations in various countries. Wackernagel and Rees did a few different studies and they seem to be pretty smart, reliable folk. They reckon that Australia can support 154 million people maximum. Most countries seem to be way over their sustainable levels, but Australia is way under. Canada was the only other country in that particular sample (of 10 or 15 countries) that was under their sustainable level. So that's tops. We could take in all the refugees in the world. And still have 144 million places left for conservative Americans..... enough for almost all of them.