The Melting Pot Is Cooking a Highly Indigestible Stew

By Fields, Suzanne | Insight on the News, March 14, 1994 | Go to article overview

The Melting Pot Is Cooking a Highly Indigestible Stew


Fields, Suzanne, Insight on the News


Once the United States was the "melting pot," a domestic metaphor for the more abstract national motto on dollar bills, e pluribus unum -- one out of many.

Immigrants reveled in diverse backgrounds and argued over political issues charged with the concerns of different constituencies. But along with diverse languages and cultural traditions a special dignity infused the spirit of American citizenship. A common pride united farmers and city workers, Poles, Irish, Italians, Jews, northern Catholics and southern protestants, rich and poor. E pluribus unum.

Democratic ideals forged the national legends of unity and inspired the pursuit of the American Dream. Pride begat patriotism. Freedom gave birth to possibility. Difference was celebrated in the home with strange pleasures of the table such as matzo ball soup, spaghetti, corned beef and cabbage and sauerbraten, but children quickly found common pleasures at the corner soda fountain to fuss and flirt over banana splits and cherry Cokes.

Today the soda fountain is gone and the melting pot bubbles with an indigestible stew. Pride begets protest, heroes become villains. Columbus is transformed into a killer of women and children. The dead white males who created our Constitution are dismissed as racists. Men of letters, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who looked to Americans to revive the ideal of One Man -- one out of many -- are denigrated and deconstructed.

The multicultural scholars on American campuses today want to stress differences, our ethnic, racial, religious and cultural divisions, reducing individual identity to an ethnic or racial molecule.

Social critic Richard Sennett preaches against "the evil of a shared national identity." Intellectual theorists attack the fundamental concept of a unified theory of citizenship, saying it always oversimplified our divisions.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger calls such thinking the "cult of ethnicity," and he worries that it will balkanize America, replacing the unifying forces of democracy with the tyranny of false idols. Diversity that once fostered tolerance now demands conformity through speech codes, politically correct language and allegiances, and even sensitivity-training sessions to eliminate "deviant" differences.

This is the "thought control" dramatically foreshadowed by George Orwell in his nightmare novel, 1984. The Ministry of Truth wrote new meanings for old words on behalf of proletarian liberation. Our own Ministry of Correct Politics confounds and distorts language in the name of liberation of the oppressed, to eliminate sexism, racism and classism. Large lies hide behind noble goals, especially in academia.

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The Melting Pot Is Cooking a Highly Indigestible Stew
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