Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Praise of Xenophobia

By Garry J. Moes

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation...." — Abraham Lincoln

Though not often the focus of analyses of the Gettysburg Address, those last three words — "a new nation" — have significance. They signify, that is, that America, upon its founding, was something innovative and unique in the history of nations. It had from the outset, as Alexander Hamilton noted, a particular "national spirit and a national character" — a complexion so vastly worth having that virtually any sacrifice could be afforded for its development and preservation.

This fact is rapidly being driven to the nether lands of our present national consciousness as our cultural elite vigorously propound a philosophy of multiculturalism and contend for policies of borderlessness and unconditional immigration. The multicultural ethos urges us to unreservedly embrace all traditions, value systems, and world views and the sojourners who come here while steadfastly maintaining their former civic spirit and character. Those who seek to advance this ethos are fond of citing parts of the inscription on the tablet of the Statue of Liberty ("Give me your ... huddled masses...) as if it were an utterly open invitation to all comers without restriction, ignoring that this inscription, when read in its entirety and intended context, is an invitation to absorption into the considered liberties of that unique American system alluded to by Hamilton and others of our Founding Fathers. Rather then extending an unconditional embrace to immigrants who desire to maintain a native disposition alien to the American spirit and character, our approach should be to embrace the notion once put forth by American social philosopher Eric Hoffer when he argued, "America needs new immigrants to love and cherish it" (The New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1971, p. 25).

Theodore Roosevelt proffered that "Every man has a right to one country." Note carefully: a right to "one country."

"He has a right to love and serve that country and to feel that it is absolutely his country and that he has in it every right possessed by anyone else," Roosevelt said in 1918 during the closing months of America’s war with the German-led Axis Powers (Kansas City Star, July 15, p. 2). "It is our duty to require the man of German blood who is an American citizen to give up all allegiance to Germany wholeheartedly and without on his part any mental reservation whatever. If he does that it becomes no less our duty to give him the full rights of an American, including our loyal respect and friendship without on our part any mental reservation whatever. The duties are reciprocal, and from the standpoint of American patriotism one is as important as the other."

George Washington put it another way when he said, "The bosom of America is open to receive [all], whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment" (emphasis added).

In 1802, Hamilton wrote: "The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias and prejudice; and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education and family" (quoted by Michelle Malkin, "The Importance of Assimilation," The Washington Times, July 9, 2007).

Hamilton also warned that "The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others, it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another. The permanent effect of such a policy will be, that in times of great public danger there will be always a numerous body of men of whom there may be just grounds of distrust; the suspicion alone will weaken the strength of the nation, but their force may be actually employed in assisting an invader. ... To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens the moment they put foot in our country would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty." (ibid.)

What then is the "common national sentiment," the "uniformity of principles and habits," the "national spirit and national character," that constitute the uniquely American world view from which our culture grew?

"The study of the historical development of civilization and culture is a study of world view," writes Jay Rogers ("Whatever Happened to Western Civilization," The Forerunner). "World view is defined as the basic presuppositions of a people in a given society; how they look at life; and the basic truths which form their values and beliefs. When we look at any civilization or culture, it is as though we are looking at a vast tapestry made up of many intertwining threads. The picture formed by this tapestry symbolizes the world view of that civilization's culture."

Today’s multiculturalist and xenophoric "Americans" deny that there is such a thing as a uniquely American world view or at least that there should be such a thing. Yet their unflagging exertions to destroy the "citadel of our liberty and sovereignty" only prove that it exists or once did.

The American cultural ideal has some roots, of course, in the broader category we call "Western civilization."

"The campaign against Western culture — sometimes called multiculturalism — is not simply a call for equal time for other cultures that make up the world," says Rogers. "Clearly this would be a noble cause. Yet more often than not the champions of multiculturalism promote an accompanying disdain for the values and beliefs that have sustained Western culture. Nobody knows for sure exactly what these people are so angry about. And even more baffling to the casual observer, there seems to be no certain agenda for reform except a destructive nihilism.

"But let us propose that behind the diatribe against Western culture is an attack on the religious faith that has characterized the West. Indeed the basic theme of multiculturalism is as much anti-Christian as anti-Western. At the root of the attack on Western civilization in America is a more subtle attempt to discredit Christianity."

But Western civilization is itself somewhat of a paradoxical amalgam, assimilating some of the ancient Greco-Roman world view along with the Judeo-Christian world view. These two systems were in many respects fundamentally at odds with each other, especially at their religious cores.

The American system, though it developed in the context of broader Western system, found its fundamental character in the Protestant Reformation, particularly in the understandings of the Calvinist Puritans and Scottish Covenantal Presbyterians, such as John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence whose sermons and writings were perhaps the leading doctrinal inspiration for the Revolution. There can be no doubt that proponents of the humanist Enlightenment sought to contribute their comprehensions to the development of the American system, but the foundations and most of the superstructure of the emerging American polity reflected the Presbyterian paradigm. Calvinist models are credited with playing a a role in shaping the American political structure with its recognition of basic human depravity, its consequent system of checks and balances, separation of powers, and constitutional limits to authority.

Growing out of Luther’s discovery of the doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers," the Puritan civil polity, which gave the world its first representative, parliamentary democracy, saw that human governing authority comes from God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ (who was given "all authority in heaven and on earth by reason of His obedience to the Father’s redemptive plan), directly to the federal head of each human family. There was no divine right of kings to rule, and there was no sacerdotal priest to intervene as a mediary in the rule of men, but God’s authority (His law) was to be exercised on earth by patriarchal individuals at the foundational level of society. Families thus governed formed the local community, and communities combined to form the whole society, the greater society being governed by representatives of the decentralized community of families. In short, those who govern do so by consent of the governed who, in turn, get their authority as an endowment by their Creator, to whom all authorities owe their allegiance and gratitude. This concept was a death blow to top-down authoritarianism, despotism and hierarchical priestly rule, all of which were anathema to the society sired by the American Revolution.

While it would take volumes to fully describe the comprehensive nature of the American system, this fundamental element is clearly at odds with virtually all competing world views. Thus any ascendency of those competing world views in America would constitute catastrophic trauma to the system which has produced the world’s and history’s most successful, productive and highly sought society.

It would also take volumes to compare this system with all other competing systems, but we must at least briefly consider two of its strongest contemporary competitors: Islamism and the Latino world view.

We hardly need to discuss how radically disparate Islamism is from the American set of ideals and common governing principles. There could hardly be two more divergent world views, and it should be abundantly clear that Islamism is a potentially fatal threat to all that our American civilization stands upon and for. For this reason, it must be resisted at all costs, save the sacrifice of our system itself. We must pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to prevent its ascendancy in our country and its dominance in our world.

The world view of the historically militant and imperialistic version of Islam is universalist and borderless, envisioning a worldwide House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) governed by the revealed law of Allah and demanding pandemic submission to its demands and principles, with death to all who resist.

Islamic scholar Mohammed Salam Madkoar notes that "Islamic Law is very different from English Common Law or the European Civil Law traditions."

"To understand Islamic Law one must first understand the assumptions of Islam and the basic tenets of the religion," Madkoar says. "The meaning of the word Islam is ‘submission or surrender to Allah's (God's) will.’ Therefore, Muslims must first and foremost obey and submit to Allah's will.... The most difficult part of Islamic Law for most westerners to grasp is that there is no separation of church and state. The religion of Islam and the government are one. Islamic Law is controlled, ruled, and regulated by the Islamic religion. The theocracy controls all public and private matters. Government, law, and religion are one. There are varying degrees of this concept in many nations, but all law, government and civil authority rests upon it and it is a part of Islamic religion."

Though less dire in its consequences than Islam, the world view of Latin America is also problematic as its influence spreads through North American culture. Again, as always, this world view has its basis in religion, and at its heart is the concept of sacerdotalism, a doctrine basic to the Roman Catholicism which has molded Latin American culture. "Sacerdotalism is the establishment of a rigid hierarchy that separates man from God, the interjection of a ‘priestly’ class between man and God, through whom the ‘layman’ must go to reach God" (William A. Simpson). Carlyle viewed this doctrine as the polar opposite of Puritanism.

A sacerdotal mindset gives rise to a polity in which a hierarchical government is the foundation of society. It is predisposed to the maternalism of the socialist state. "In Latin America, the female runs the household. She educates the children and manages the finances. As a result, the Latin American family is matriarchal. Whereas the father is distant, the mother is ‘linked with love and proximity’ and has a greater influence on the children" (One Hundred Years of Solitude/Cien Anos de Soledad : The Buendía Family).

This foundational aspect of Latin American culture has vast implications for change as its influence spreads throughout traditional North American culture. It is a foreign element which can elementally altar this nation. We could go on to discuss the vast differences in historical experience, linguistic understanding, and institutional memories of Latin America and the United States.

Without going into further comparative detail, let it suffice to say that if we are to preserve our admirable character as an American nation and culture, we must be vigilant in examining the influences and impulses which may be anathema to our common spirit. For this reason, we may rightly be xenophobic. We must hasten to say that we do not fear foreigners per se. Indeed, we may welcome foreigners who yearn to embrace our founding principles and contribute their own hues to our already colorful national complexion — those immigrants who, in Eric Hoffer’s words, will "love and cherish it."

My family once emigrated to Sweden for two years. During that time, we shared our American values and traditions, much to the delight (and sometimes curiosity) of friends and neighbors in our temporarily adopted country. But we did not strive to fundamentally alter the culture of our host nation. Indeed, we acquired many delightful traditions there which we carried home to America and still enjoy to our greater delight and human vision without submerging our native spirit.

While we as Americans do not fear foreigners, we should fear that which is foreign, i.e., destructively alien, to our national character. We have every reason to delight in our American heritage, for it has fostered the most cherished and brilliant form of human existence, liberty and creativity the world has ever known. We are well disposed to share these blessings with all who would embrace them, and have every right to require that they learn and absorb them into their own lives. But we are equally justified in standing firm against all who wish to smother or dismantle them in favor of a strange spirit.

E pluribus unum!

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