Peggy Noonan weighs in on the real problem of immigration. Unfortunately she does not offer a solution, and maybe there isn't one.
It's the broad public knowledge, or intuition, in America, that we are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all.
We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways--in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.
We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.
So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good. But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.
What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold--they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship.
Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.
The genius cluster--Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest--that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen?
We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?
Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.
Do we teach our immigrants that this is what they're joining? That this is the tradition they will now continue, and uphold? Do we, today, act as if this is such a special place? No we don't. American exceptionalism is so yesterday. We don't want to be impolite. We don't want to offend. We don't want to seem narrow. In the age of globalism, honest patriotism seems like a faux pas.
And yet what is true of people is probably true of nations: if you don't have a well-grounded respect for yourself, you won't long sustain a well-grounded respect for others.