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Taking Religion Seriously

Editor’s Note: This exchange between French philosophers Pierre Manent and Rémi Brague originally appeared in the January issue of the French journal L’Incorrect as “Rémi Brague & Pierre Manent: Duel de Géants.” L’Incorrect is a new conservative-minded journal of ideas in France that challenges the presuppositions of political correctness. We are grateful to the editors of L’Incorrect for permission to reprint this important discussion and to Daniel J. Mahoney and Paul Seaton for their translation.

Islam and the West

Interviewer: Michel Houellebecq recently said in Der Spiegel that in order to resolve the problem of Islam in France, Catholicism would have to become the state religion. What do you think of that suggestion?

Pierre Manent (PM): The idea seems basically on point to me. Not that Catholicism should be recognized as the religion of the State, no one seriously entertains that, but that the role of the Catholic religion in the history of France, but also in the social life of the country, in the consciousness of the country, should be recognized in public forms. However, during the past thirty years we have agreed to espouse the big lie according to which there is no Muslim problem, in fact there can’t be any problems posed by any religion, because we have found the solution to all problems of this sort: laicité or secularism.

In truth, however, depending upon whether there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims or ten million, whether the Catholic churches are full or empty, society will be radically different, even if the secular regime has not changed. We have made ourselves prisoners of a much too restrictive definition of the French regime, by reducing it to the categories of a rather aggressive secularism. We need to enlarge our understanding of ourselves and, in this enlargement, grant an adequate place to the Catholicism that played such a great role in French history and consciousness.  To be sure, that cannot take on an institutional or constitutional form, and that is where Houellebecq’s proposition goes beyond the limits of a reasonable proposal, as he himself knows very well.

This would be an essential element in giving a definite physiognomy and consistency to the community that receives Muslims. Muslims have a very strong collective awareness of their religion, one which nourishes social affects and extremely significant shared mores. One cannot give them as their only destination a society exclusively defined by individual rights, by the neutrality of the State and other institutions vis-à-vis religion, this is to invite them into an empty space, into a wasteland. Whether the society of individuals repulses or tempts them, or both, it does not bring them any new principle of association, it gives them no reason to go beyond a total and complete identification with Islam, in order to participate in a new form of community, or communion. In order for Muslims to be decently received and live happily in France, it is important that they know that they are not in a Muslim nation, that this nation possesses a Christian mark, that Jews play an eminent role here, and that religion does not give commands to the State and the State does not give commands to religion.

We therefore have a complex operation to conduct, which is to persuade the Muslims that we do want to receive them in reasonable numbers, that they do have their place in society, and that this society as a collectivity, this nation as a human association, is not and does not wish to be a Muslim society, but will remain and wants to remain a nation of a Christian mark, where the Jews play an eminent role, and where both the State and the religion embrace a regime of secularism.

Remi Brague (RB): I have not read this interview with Michel Houellebecq, but it is clear that he overstated his real thought. In speaking of Catholicism as a state religion, I believe that he was thinking, above all, not of the State, but of civil society, and of the way in which the nation ought to understand itself, and did understand itself until a rather recent date. In fact it continues to do so.  As Benedetto Croce put it after the war: “We are not able not to call ourselves Christians.” To be sure, Croce understood this in a certain way. As a good Hegelian, he wanted to say that Christianity had fulfilled itself, that one therefore ought to move on to another stage, but while still retaining a certain fidelity to the heritage. Croce, in other words, was a “faithful atheist” (in Italian a “devout atheist”). This awareness would be the way in which the true color of the painting would emerge from behind the overlays with which one wanted to cover it over, which were more or less artificial and even entirely deceptive.

I too believe that it is necessary that we no longer lie, that we cease acting as if the history of France began ex nihilo on July 14, 1789, that we stop telling these lies. I believe this would be a first step to take, to allow Muslims not to imagine that they enter into a void. Pierre Manent employed the wonderful image of a “wasteland”:  when one is in a wasteland, the best thing to do is to remain in one’s vehicle. In order to get Muslims to get out of their vehicles, one must very cordially explain that they are among human beings, that they will have to respect certain rules, just as when one is invited to take mint tea in Morocco.

I speak of actual Muslims, men and women of flesh and blood, who have with Islam a relationship that is as complex and nuanced as Christians, and those of Christian tradition, have with their own religion. I do not speak of the Islam which is presented as a system of civilization, “keys to everything in hand,” which in principle is capable of determining the right way of conducting oneself in all circumstances, including how to dress, do one’s hair, bathe, and comport oneself in family life.  Here there is a double difficulty, which Pierre Manent addresses in his book. Islam is not another religion that enters into a civilization, but a civilization that enters into another civilization.

Moreover, as I argued in a book that recently appeared, the word “religion” itself is deceptive. We have the habit of conceiving religion on the model of Christianity.  Islam would be a sort of Christianity, with some things added and some things taken away, but whose list is fairly easy to come up with. In fact, however, I believe we distort the phenomenon of Islam, because in a Christian regime we are not at all accustomed to follow rules of conduct that claim to be derived from the religion, and which are other than those of common morality. This is a rather exceptional peculiarity of Christianity, one we have a hard time seeing, because we take it for granted. Christianity does not ask men to do anything other than what the most prosaic morality requires of them. It does not have any rules for clothing, no rules for what to eat.

Contrasting Worldviews

Interviewer: You would say that Christianity is not a religion, or that Islam is a religion, plus something else?

RB: Yes, that is an idea that I allowed myself to express by taking up Hegel’s expression, although in an ironic way, that “Christianity is the absolute religion.”  For Hegel, that statement had a normative meaning. To put it bluntly: Christianity is the true religion. (He didn’t say it as brutally as I just did.) Here, though, I employed the phrase “absolute religion” in its etymological sense, that is, the religion that is ab-solved, that is not bound to anything else, thus the religion that is only a religion, and which leaves the rest of authorities intact. For example, it leaves the way we clothe ourselves to tailors rather than muftis, it leaves the way we eat to nutritionists, in the best case to chefs. It has nothing to say about these matters, because other competent authorities exist.

Islam, in contrast, is a religion and a law. Perhaps it is even primarily a law, in that the acts that we consider to be properly religious (prayer, fasting, pilgrimage) are themselves contained in the law. One prays five times a day because the law requires it, one grows a beard and one trims his moustache because the law requires it, and so on. It’s here that one encounters a misunderstanding. The word “religion” is misleading. It would be better to do without it, but I don’t know any better locution or formulation.

PM: The radical originality of Christianity is due to the fact that the Christian community does not superimpose itself on any preliminary political or social community. The specific feature of the Christian church, in any case, the specific feature of the Catholic church in its complete form and vigor, is that it seeks its members in all the preexisting human communities. Hence its essentially missionary character. In this sense, it is a more purely “religious” religion, the sole “religion,” which develops itself from its own resources instead of being a transformation, an expression, a development or aspect, of a preexisting community, as were the Greek and Roman civic religions, or even the religion of Israel, or yet again the Muslim religion, whose expansion coincides with Arab-Muslim conquest.

This specificity of the Christian church – to be a complete or “perfect” society as Christians long said – has a major consequence, one which is rich with all the ambiguities that we still debate. It is the only religion to unearth this fundamental phenomenon which is conscience, understood as the internal tribunal, a phenomenon that, as strange as this may sound, even Greek philosophy did not elaborate, even if it provided certain elements for its later articulation.

This is a very specific notion, one unique to Christianity, and which is at the heart of the Christian-Western torment. Christians demand of themselves an almost impossible to achieve equilibrium between interiority and exteriority, the subjective and the objective. Where Islam puts the accent on the external, the collective, the objective law, Christianity sought its path in an equal attention to the inner conscience of each person and the collective rule maintained by the institution. As I said, this equilibrium is almost impossible to maintain, since in the periods when the Church is in the fullness of its power, the objective law that it conveys and imposes tends to oppress individual consciences – there is no need to belabor this point; while when individual consciences are granted all their rights, they tend to forget the objectivity of the moral law and the authority of the ecclesiastical institution.  This notion of conscience, without which western life, Europe, and even the Enlightenment are incomprehensible, has not appeared, or has not been sustained, in any other civilization.

Interviewer: Aren’t you therefore asking Muslims to become Christians, like the others?

PM: Of course not. What I ask them, because it would be good for them, for us, and for the community that we perhaps will one day form, is to truly want to be a part of a larger community that is not, and does not want to be, and never will be Muslim.  That, however, has not happened as of yet.

How to accomplish this transformation? Ask them to become Christian? No. But, for example, to expressly accept, without anyone having to conceal the fact, that Muslims can convert to Christianity, to the old religion of the country where they live. Imagine that conversion to Christianity was considered by the Muslim authorities in France as something that, while it certainly does not thrill them, they still recognize as legitimate, even normal. Here we would have a sign of the profound integration of French Muslims in the common life of France. A sign that they accept something that is at the heart of Christianity, conversion, but which cannot be compelled, precisely because it is contrary to the free movement of conscience. I certainly hope that Muslims in the French context will end by accepting this change, serenely if not enthusiastically. We are not yet there, but it would be a fundamentally positive development for the national community in its entirety and for Muslims in particular. It would signify that they truly agree to participate in the life of a European nation.

RB: There is a fundamental asymmetry between two systems, which is due to a fact of a purely chronological nature. Christianity came first and Islam came later. This is what the historians say, but it is not what Muslims say. For them, Islam is the “natural” religion of humanity, hence it is the first, as well as final religion. From the historical point of view, Islam appeared seven centuries after Jesus Christ.  Consequently, Christianity knows, or believes it knows, what paganism is, what Judaism is; but as for Islam, it does not understand these things as they understand themselves. In its case, there is no system of categories in which to place Islam.  Hence, it experiences an ambivalent attitude towards Christianity, even a sort of fear.

On the other hand, this time more positive, there is a certain curiosity on the part of Christians with respect to this new thing which is Islam. This curiosity, this perplexity, can be found in the oldest Christian writings on Islam, for example, those of John Damascene, who affirms that it is the last Christian heresy. Christians have remained in this condition ever since.

As for Islam, things are very different. The Koran explains that the Christians are those who have perverted the last revelation and who remain attached to bizarre, even absurd, doctrines, such as a Trinity composed of God, Jesus, and Mary, as well as a constant habit of associating God with creatures, including monks (they say that Christians take monks for God). Christianity therefore is a religion that they already know and for which they have, not so much hatred, as disdain.

In any case, they do not have any curiosity, or very little about Christianity. This is because the Muslim believes that he already knows Christianity, even better than Christians. Colonel Gaddafi said so in the speech he gave to ambassadors when he was received with great pomp under his tent at the Elysée. “You believe that you are Christians, you believe that you are Jews, but because your sacred writings have been perverted by their transmitters, your Bible is worth nothing; its true content is found entirely in the Koran; hence the true Jews and the true Christians are the Muslims.”

As for conscience, I would like to return to what Pierre Manent said, as he put his finger on something essential: the uniqueness of the Christian understanding. To bolster my argument I will appeal to a Jew, Yeshayahu Leibowitz. He is someone who has a half dozen doctorates in different fields, a polymath, as well as a “hyper-dove” who calls for the immediate withdrawal from all occupied territories, and compares the Israeli occupation to the Nazi occupation of Europe. Now, Yeshayahu Leibowitz explains that the concept of conscience does not exist in Judaism because it has no need of it. It has the Halakha and the rules of life that have been painfully extracted and derived from the Torah, then the Mishna, then the Gemara, etc. In principle, a Jew knows what he must do, so there is no need to consult his conscience.

Thus, the idea according to which God speaks, not by the intermediary of a written law, but by engraving his law in the human conscience, is something that is quite singular to Christianity. The Greek language had a word for conscience, but it had a different meaning; it was psychological consciousness, the awareness of oneself, not at all the voice of God.

We both, therefore, Christians and Muslims, live in theocratic regimes. But the difference is that for the Muslims the authority of God is exercised through a written law, while for Christians, conscience is a divine instinct, an “immortal and celestial voice,” to use Rousseau’s phrase. This is the idea that there is an immediate relation of God to the human person by means of the conscience, which is the final authority, but which must educate and form itself, and which is not simply the caprice of the individual, but speaks within each person.

Can one invite Muslims to discover this? There are some points of contact in Islam, especially when it is said that “what counts in an action is the intention.” But originally, intention (“niyya”) meant the fact of verbally declaring: “If I do that, it is in order to obey the law.” Some have been able to interpret this in an interiorizing manner, and one can encourage them to go further in this direction. But this cannot come to fruition except in the long term. On the other side, one should suggest to Christians to become more conscious of their own identity and not to be ashamed of their religion.

Individualism as a Challenge to Understanding

Interviewer: In connection with the last point, are you indicting liberal individualism for having atomized us? Within such an individualistic paradigm, can France really comprehend what Islam is?

RB: I would not dare to speak about individualism in the presence of someone, precisely Pierre Manent, who has written a penetrating book on Tocqueville and thus has provided a conceptual formulation of individualism at a level to which I cannot attain. What I can say is that today it is the idea according to which history begins with us, with us as individuals, with each individual. Then one generalizes this false idea – it is false because the language by which we speak comes from well before us, not to mention our customs and manners – and applies it to the collective, and affirms that history begins today. From this idea comes educational curricula in which one has the impression that history began in May, 1968, and prehistory began with the Great Crash of 1929.

Therefore, it is the awareness of a long duration of time that one must try to restore, as, for that matter, the French historical school is doing and which we would do well to follow. This would entail, for example, that we grasp that the cathedrals are part of France and therefore we must not let them disappear (in the way that David Copperfield made the Eiffel Tower disappear!). However, certain speeches by high-placed officials tend in that direction. It would be good, therefore, to break with this voluntary amnesia concerning our roots.

PM: I would add a factor that seems decisive to me, which is the wide-spread idea that religion can no longer be the object of a collective, or even individual, investigation, that it can no longer be something that we discuss or about which we deliberate. We believe that religion as an “objective object,” if I could put it that way, belongs to the past. For many of our contemporaries, religion is only tolerable as the support or occasion for an individual feeling, but it must never become an “objective object,” especially not a question to which it would be necessary or urgent, judicious and intelligent, to try to answer.

With respect to the Christian religion, there are several categories of negative attitudes directed against it. There are those who are hostile to it in a conscious and deliberate way; then, there are those for whom religion was, perhaps, a grand and beautiful thing, but it has nothing to say to us today. And then there are all those who don’t know what to do with this inopportune guest, who was supposed to be long gone from our tidy homes, but who still comes by periodically to haunt them.  Many of our fellow citizens are irritated by the ongoing presence of a religion in which they can see no significance or meaning, but to which they would not devote even a half hour to try to understand.

The idea of “Christian roots” isn’t very promising in this context, I am afraid to say.  Now, to be sure, it is uttered in order to recall to what extent the history of our nations is bound to Christianity. That, no doubt, is very welcome. But if one wants to pose the matter properly, one would have to recall to our fellow citizens that the question of Christianity is before them. It was a question for Augustine, Montaigne, Corneille, Pascal, Chateaubriand, Tocqueville, Péguy, Gide, Claudel, and it is also a question for each one of us today. It remains before us. A humanity that no longer poses the question of God is a humanity that is terribly mutilated.

What weighs upon us therefore is less individualism than the philosophy of history that asserts that religion belongs to the past, that we have moved on from religion.  Of course, each one in his private self can do with it what he will, but one cannot make it an object of public deliberation and serious questioning! This is the principal obstacle. It is the power of this philosophy of history according to which we do not adequately understand ourselves unless we understand ourselves as having left religion, as having arrived at a “rational” adulthood after a “religious” youth. Marcel Gauchet has provided a powerful development of this idea, but, obviously under cruder forms, it is largely diffused through our collective consciousness. This idea is paralyzing, because it has the effect of excluding religion from public debate. And one does not really participate in a debate when one is relegated wholly to the past. Believers find themselves explaining that they actually do believe, while it is believed that they cannot really believe, because belief belongs to the past. Thus, it is a certain idea of history that is the biggest obstacle for Christians, not only to be understood, but to understand themselves.

Secularism and the Philosophy of History

Interviewer:  In this way, are you indicting French secularism?

PM: No. Here it is a question of a certain representation of history, not of French secularism, a representation of history that was developed during the last two centuries, from Hegel to Gauchet, if you’ll allow me the shorthand. Everything is granted to Christianity in the past, in order to take everything away from it in the present. For example, it is said to be the origin of democracy, or even of modern science. But it is thus deprived of everything in the present and for the future, because once we have liberty, modern science, and individual conscience, we can consign religion to the accessories department, as Sartre put it at the end of Mots (Words). This is the intellectual and spiritual obstacle that gets in the way of a future for belief, and in the first case, creates an obstacle for Christians, who are themselves deeply penetrated with this historical consciousness.

RB: Pierre Manent just referred to Hegel. I would like to mention one of his contemporaries, Schleiermacher. With him, one sees at the beginning of the 19th century the birth of religion as a sentiment, as religiosity, in particular in his Discourse on Religion, which he intended to be a work of apologetics. It is unfortunate that we have inherited this view today. In a later work which is little known, Schleiermacher maintains that one can consider religious propositions in three ways: as a description of the psychological state of the subject, as propositions bearing upon the world, and as propositions bearing upon God. But, he adds, the latter two are in truth superfluous.

This is what we must resist. I would have liked for you to have cited the terms “theology” and “dogmas,” which today are devalued. One should follow John Henry Newman on these questions, when he says that religion is dogma. Dogma is objective, and one must recover this perspective on Christianity. One should speak a little less of faith and a little more about dogmas, and above all one must not reduce religion to the religiosity of each person.

Finally, I, too, do not really like the image of Christian roots. I prefer that of “sources,” which implies an effort: one must draw from the source.

From Radical Secularism to What?

Interviewer: In your book, Beyond Radical Secularism, Pierre Manent, you argue for various “reasonable accommodations” with Muslims, but isn’t it the case that Christians have the right to demand political privileges in France?

PM:  I hope that there isn’t one Christian in France who demands political privileges! As a matter of fact, in general my book was criticized for having granted too much of a place to Christians and to the Church in France. What I think — and this gives rise to powerful objections, which I freely acknowledge —, is that the common fate of our country, at once political and spiritual, will depend in the first instance on the efforts of Christians in the spiritual and political order. While no one dreams of demanding privileges, Christians can address certain requests to the institutions of the State: “[D]on’t abuse the argument of secularity in order to justify certain judicial decisions that are not defensible.” And supposing that these decisions flow from a strict application of the law of 1905 [Ed: Which established a strict separation between the state, public life, and religion], they thus prove that this law cannot regulate everything, and that wisdom should sometimes leave it to the side. For example, I suppose that when the Conseil d’Etat [Ed: an arm of the French government, serving as legal advisor to the executive branch as well as a supreme court of administrative justice] decided to require that the cross overhanging the statue of John Paul II be taken down, that the law of 1905 was scrupulously enforced. This application of the 1905 law led to an absurd result.  With the cross taken down, we only have a statue of a Mr. Wojtyla, a man well-known in another country that is a friend of France, but as a result one doesn’t know why the statue is there. The cross is the meaning of the statue.

One therefore needs to retain a sense of measure when it comes to “public signs of religion.” I argued in this book for us to accept with less apprehension and reticence certain public manifestations on the part of Muslims, because they are the natural expressions of their religion. The introduction and presence of Muslim mores and customs in the French public square is massive; their visibility is a massive fact.  Is one going to apply this jurisprudence to them? I don’t insist that it be done. Each one can draw his own conclusions. If I argue that the Muslim visibility be received with less hostility, I believe that it is reasonable for Christians to demand a certain visibility for Christianity. The Conseil d’Etat did not measure how much its demand to take down the cross was an extreme demand, a public denial of the very meaning of the Christian religion, the religion of a great number of the citizens of our country.

RB: Here I would register a defect, the sole that I find in Manent’s book. It concerns the use of the category of “mores/customs” to describe Muslim practices. To be sure, the word “mores” has its titles of nobility, from Aristotle to Montesquieu. But it poorly fits the fact that Muslim practices are dictated by a law. The danger in using it in this case, is that one risks putting in the same basket the Muslim veil and the Scottish kilt or the eating of snails by Bourguignons. In other words, this term doesn’t help us see what I tried to point out at the beginning, that Islam is a civilization and it is not only what we call a religion. It doesn’t limit itself to worship, to piety and, for those who are more gifted, a mysticism, but it is a rule of life, which is deemed to come directly from God.

In his book, there are two points where Pierre Manent says that one must not negotiate: the integral veil and polygamy. These two instances, however, do not have the same status in Islam. The veil is cited in two places in the Koran, but it is not said that it needs to cover the face. It simply says that believing women ought to drape something — a word that is translated by “veil” — on their chest. Polygamy, however, is expressly authorized in the Koran and there is no other possible interpretation. The word “mores,” therefore, is a bit unsuitable here, although I have nothing better to replace it.

PM: I chose the word “mores” precisely because it designates what everyone can observe.  For the members of the society who are outside of Islam, Islam presents itself as an ensemble of visible, and quite distinct, mores. In this way, I believed I could avoid debates that didn’t belong to my subject (or to my competence) concerning “true Islam,” the “monotheisms,” etc. I appreciate the weight of the learned objections that Rémi Brague adduces. On the other hand, for many readers who are less learned, the use of the word “mores” seemed quaint and outdated.  But I haven’t found another.

The Theological-Political Problem in France

Interviewer: In your book, Pierre Manent, you propose a way out of our situation by taking the high road, but you opened your book with Machiavelli and you ended with him as well. Strauss said that there is more in what Machiavelli didn’t say than in what he did say. You propose a rechristianization of France in order to deal with Islam, but this uncertainty remains: if Islam refuses your proposition, won’t this lead to confrontation?

PM: To be sure, I do not know what the Muslims will do, nor do I know what Christians will do. Moreover, both groups are quite diverse.  The future is unclear and open. My book aimed to be a political and social analysis, which proposed a practical solution. I appreciated the difficulty of this path, which was oriented by the idea of the best that we can do in this situation. In other words, I offered a proposal that in my opinion is the opposite of Machiavelli. I did not announce some sort of necessity, I proposed the best to which we could contribute.

If we do not find paths to this best, what will happen? One thing is certain. Our societies will find themselves seriously fragmented. The most important thing for all of us, is to be able to live in a nation that possesses an awareness of its limits and of what constitutes it. If we do not succeed, then we will wander about in a “Euro-Mediterranean” zone where the different communities will not have the possibility of relating reasonably to one another, because they will have been deprived of any substantial framework for common deliberation and of all sentiment of a “political we” that is at least somewhat firm. Under what form will this collection survive? I am not going to engage myself in the apocalyptic anticipations in which some take delight. But there will no longer be a principle of order. And then, all is possible, including the worst.

Interviewer: You have been reproached, Pierre Manent, with having created a breach in our cultural edifice, which will lead to successive demands and thus is a first step towards Muslim civilization in Europe.

PM: What I actually propose, is that we soberly and candidly recognize what we have already done, which is to accept the installation of Muslims in Europe. We shouldn’t act as if we can erase the consequences of a policy that was followed for thirty years by successive governments with our approval, since we constantly reelected them. Let’s not try to bluff our way through this. We cannot undo what has been done. To dream of doing so is to inhibit us from doing what is still possible, to find a place for, and with, Muslims that is both limited and honorable — and honorable because limited — for Islam in France. Numerous French citizens are Muslims. They are French citizens. I want French law to be applied, including where it isn’t firmly applied, on the integral veil and polygamy, as was said earlier.  On the other hand, I ask that petty matters of dispute are not needlessly multiplied, when the stakes are so high. Thus, I propose that one doesn’t bother Muslims in small things, but that we propose to them a grand common vision. And I repeat: all these initiatives ought to say to them, you have the opportunity to live in equality with non-Muslims in a free country, but this country never was, is not, and never will be, a “Muslim country.” However, if you maintain that dream, if you attempt to go in that direction, there will be equal misery for all of us.

RB: As for me, I am perplexed before this “methodical conquest,” to use Paul Valéry’s phrase. I wonder how our initiatives will be interpreted. Earlier, I used the word “dialogue” in quotation marks. In fact, it is not rare that a proposal for dialogue, made with the best intentions in the world, and coming from the Christian side, because it is hardly ever the case with the other side, is interpreted as a sign of weakness. I have many instances which show that what we call dialogue does not very much interest those with whom we wish to dialogue. In any case, this is an extremely delicate game, which must be played with exquisite political dexterity, and I wonder if very many men have the requisite finesse. Does Mr. Chevènement? [Ed: Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a prominent member of the French left.] I wonder.  We find ourselves on a chessboard with many snares and we don’t have a Deep Blue.

© L’Incorrect 2018, all rights reserved

Reader Discussion

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on April 27, 2018 at 12:26:44 pm

Excellent and insightful discussion. My thanks to the editors for presenting this timely dialogue (no quotation marks applied).

i was struck by the comment asserting that the influx of Islam into Europe represents the movement of a "civilization within a civilization." This seems quite correct. i have often argued the same with respect to the influx of third world peoples into the United States, all the while recognizing that while the motivations may be different, the results may very well end up being quite similar. In the US, we often hear it voiced that the US is a "nation of immigrants" and thus....
This is not so! The US is a) a nation of *settlers* who came to these shores and SETTLED both the territory AND the political question; b) this settlement (political / social/ moral) was later supplemented by many immigrants who, UNLIKE current ones, did not fell impelled to re-open the political / social / moral questions that had long been resolved.

It would appear that this is precisely the problem confronting France and other EU nations. Perhaps, "communities" would be more apt as these states appear to be confronting a loss of their own own sense of nationhood. It is all the more troubling when one considers, as do both Manent and Brague, that the strength, and yes, beauty, of the Christian *sources* of Western civilization is the determination by Christianity that there is an individual conscience, an epistemological reality, for each human being and that this recognition is what has propelled Western Civilization to the heights that it has attained. Not so, for the adherents of Islam who, to my mind, have not made the same transition from tribal attachment to the Christian conception of the "individual within the larger community" that the West has made. They not only recognize the authority of the Koran to regulate their every behavior, but they welcome it. Indeed, they expect, and not unreasonably so, given current Western European political infirmities, they appear to demand that all others prostrate themselves before this tribal dogma.

Manent and Brague are correct. There must be a new *settling* of (theological / cultural) accounts. But that settling ought to be informed by the prior settling of the political / social / moral question BY, and in favor of, those who crafted the original settlement.

Anyway, Absotively Excellent piece.
Thanks again for the opportunity to hear these voices.

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gabe
on April 27, 2018 at 14:40:35 pm

We're looking into publishing more from L'Incorrect and other journals.

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Brian A. Smith
on April 27, 2018 at 15:27:11 pm

Gabe,

I think that a key point in the above is Manent's assertion that "this country never was, is not, and never will be, a 'Muslim country.'" This is a direct confrontation of a major difficulty in Muslim integration: the supremacist fantasy. To the extent that the notion of Islamic superiority is used as an argument by immigrants against assimilation, it is reasonable to use it as an argument against unchecked immigration. It is also reasonable to to reject the supremacist fantasy on the grounds that it is not true. The immigration policies of any healthy nation is justified in saying "we welcome you as an individual for your willingness to be part of and contribute to our community. As for the attitudes of your homeland that we do not share, and which made your homeland someplace to emigrate from rather than to, we don;t need them."

This, as you point out, is not a matter limited to religious matters concerning Muslim immigrants. If an immigrant from El Salvador asserts that her allegiance to MS 13 is reason to disregard American laws, this seems to me sufficient to deny entry and residency. It seems reasonable, in fact obvious that a minimal level of willingness to assimilate is a prerequisite to immigration. Despite this, there are strenuous arguments for the opposite, with assertions that expectations of assimilation are racist, white supremacy, hate, fascist, privileged, backward, oppressive, wrong side of history, misogynist, anti-science, racist again, negating, hurtful, violence, literally Hitler, anti-Semitic, Semitic, Euro-centric, cis-normative, patriarchal, ozone-destroying, [random descriptive noun]-phobic, bigoted, un-woke, and in case you missed it, racist. This type of thinking however leads to contradictions such as organizations demanding diversity and inclusion also demanding segregated spaces for people of color, and other gestures of exclusion. Accommodation of a refusal to assimilate into the broader society, whatever the reason, is a privilege that no society is obligated to grant. Not to mention that assimilation is an objectively huge benefit to the immigrant!

All immigrant groups have reasons for special pleading regarding unwillingness to assimilate, whether they be religious, cultural, ethnic, political, etc. Successful immigrant groups, the Irish, Jewish, Japanese, Indian, Italian, and recently Russian and Eastern European, wisely left these at the door.

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z9z99
on April 27, 2018 at 17:28:26 pm

Z:

Righto!!!

I once again remind readers, especially those who argue *reduction ad stirpim* (hope that translation works) that immigration restrictions are improper, that earlier arrivals to our shores were "as welcomed" as they themselves were WELCOMING OF OUR CULTURE!!! this includes my own grandparents! As my grandfather would remind me, "Mistah Gabe, I no wanna go back to that hellhole and be a stinkin' "schiavo. Here I work - but i don;t speak Sicilian, so what, I work and I am an American."

if only our multiculturalists would recognize the propriety of the basic exchange that my uneducated grandfather intuitively understood and ACCEPTED. indeed, he rejoiced in it!!!!

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gabe
on April 28, 2018 at 09:42:02 am

[W]hy should the Palatine Boors [a/k/a Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

[T]he Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.

Benjamin Franklin, “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind” (1751).

Or what are we to make of Italians? According to New Orleans Mayor Joseph A. Shakspeare, "Southern Italians and Sicilian [were] the most idle, vicious, and worthless people among us," "filthy in their persons and homes," prone to spread disease, and "without courage, honor, truth, pride, religion, or any quality that goes to make a good citizen" Didn't they tend to settle together clannishly in neighborhoods that would come to be known as "Little Italy" or "Little Sicily"? Didn't they tend to cling to their language, their music, their cuisine? And, after all, the Mafia was not entirely a myth, and SOMEBODY shot the New Orleans police chief in 1890--surely that justified mass lynchings of Italian immigrants. John M. Parker helped organize the lynch mob, and in 1911 was elected as governor of Louisiana. He described Italians as "just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in their habits, lawless, and treacherous." And Teddy Roosevelt would tell Italian "dago" ambassadors that the lynching was "a rather good thing".

Likewise, in 1908 the US courts had to wrestle with whether to grant citizenship to non-white people--such as Finns. After all, Finns were famously unwilling to assimilate, slow to learn English, and clung to their native traditions of relative gender equality, socialism, and union organizing, which marked them as undesirables. See also Noel Ignatiev's How The Irish Became White.

In short, I don't doubt the accuracy of what you say about Muslims. Since Muslims represent roughly a quarter of the world's population, I expect you could find an example of a Muslim depicting any of the vilest--or the best--qualities you could name.

But I do question the extent to which you could distinguish Muslims from an other immigrant group. Rather than exchanging anecdotes, can we identify some relevant MEASURABLE qualities that would bear on immigration, and then find some data on those qualities?

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nobody.really
on April 28, 2018 at 12:02:36 pm

nobody:

Let me begin by complimenting you on your skill as a rhetorician. You possess a rather remarkable ability to seemingly address an issue while simultaneously diverting attention away from those issues that you would prefer to remain obscure.

All that you say above is true. indeed, as a young Sicilian student at a large university, I can attest that my own treatment would indicate that the attitudes / behaviors of those who would view me as a "dago, wop, guinea" did not subside earlier in the past century. Yes, bias, prejudice existed, and still does; not quite as severe as in the "Louisiana lynching" to be sure.

But let us examine those comments a bit, shall we?

All the talk about italians, Finns, Irish, etc were aimed at countering what would appear to be the presence, a growing presence, of alien traditions and customs. I find this quite understandable as did Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, etc. (you can readily find their comments. so I will skip them) who feared that a large influx of "uncommon" traditions, mores, etc could result in a diminution of the American system / practice of government.

While we may decry this apparent *bias*, this tendency to favor that which is familiar over that which is foreign, we must acknowledge that however, difficult it may have been for the new arrivals, in the final analysis, IT WORKED. Thus, the great "melting pot".

What do we observe today. Rather than pressure to conform to, and accept our ways, our ethos / traditions / laws, etc, we find that a rather significant segment of the population is encouraging these new arrivals to "be themselves", celebrate YOUR culture and do not accept or conform to this wretched American culture. Let us give praise to the multiculturalists for their apparent ability to *accept* all differences - except their own cultural differences!

There is a marked reluctance on the part of our multiculturalists friends to acknowledge the right, and it is a proper right, of a welcoming culture to insist that the new arrivals CONFORM to the basic tenets and practices of this community.

That is the difference. Whereas, my grandparents were beseiged by many to adopt the new ways, indeed, some nutty evangelicals constantly harassed them to give up their Roman Catholic faith and conform to the dominant religious sensibility, my grandparents understood that ultimately they would be Americans - AND THEY WELCOMED IT!! Social pressures of the time induced many to conform. Can it be said that this is not what they wanted. In the end, it was successful and the American regime incorporated southern Italians rather well (OK, they even had the Mafia - but that is another story).

Not so today. Central Americans, Middle Easterners, etc are encouraged, if not enjoined, by the Progressives and the lunatic Libertarians, to embrace nothing but their own cultures; urged to NOT assimilate, these folks become nothing more than another clamoring constituency demanding "rights" that are valid only in their own unique cultures - NOT in the traditional American culture of which they are now a part. Cui bono?

Moreover, as both Manent and Brague demonstrate there is, unlike with my sicilian Roman Catholic grandparents, an element of LAW that accompanies this religious contingent. Yep, Sharia is not akin to the Bible or the Gospels. No Sharia is the Mohammedan equivalent of the Constitution and the US Code - and they do want to live under it and, if possible IMPOSE it upon their hosts. Look only to the Netherlans, the UK, etc to determine the accuracy of that claim. Then again, listen to their preachers, their *theologians* (such as that terms may be employed). THEN contrast that with the contemporaneous sermons of the Catholic priests, bishops of the early 20th century. Nowhere will you find any claim, any assertion of right, to impose Sicilian practices, or Roman Catholic theology on the American polity. It simply did not happen.
Yet almost daily we read of Mohammedan claims of right to impose their ways upon the West.
AND, the culturally self-loathing left applauds this.

Can you not admit that we live in different times? That what was once a minor irritant, i.e., influx of alien practices, beliefs, may now represent a far more serious threat to the regime / polity. No, it is not on the immediate horizon - but it is nonetheless a mid- horizon potentiality (see London, EU, Phillipines, etc).

So continue to deflect our attention away from the underlying social / political issues that make the current form of immigration markedly different than that of the late 19th / early 20th century - that is both your right and tendency.
But nobody really believes that such praxctices / beliefs will result in a better more harmonious community!

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gabe
on April 28, 2018 at 14:19:56 pm

The secular society of the west is of judeo-christian constitution. The laws are patterned after the concept of an individual spiritual salvation. Even the western conception of freedom is rooted in God gifted free will. Christianity is the west's foundation but it was the pillar. The potection of ourselves from God while also asking to be saved by Christianity is dispairful. Islam and Christianity are both "civilizations" by the logic set above but we would still reject Christianity for ours. Islam is giving us introspection but we refuse repentance. More Islam will come as long as it is what we still need.

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Ian
on April 28, 2018 at 16:14:36 pm

And oh BTW:

As to anecdotes:

In a rather significant sense, "life is simply the aggregate of our anecdotal experiences."
A famous person said that. Do you know who it is?

It is none other than nobody. really who repeatedly has reminded us on these pages of the impact of cultural / social experience, i.e. encounters / exchanges, etc. Whilst belittling the sincerely held beliefs, opinions and practices of those who do not share his *scientific* / rationalistic epistemology, he has inadvertently permitted us to unpack his own biases / dispositions, etc. by attributing all manner of belief / practice to some vestigial tribal bigotries and declaring them insufficiently "informed" by numerology -Ha!

Yet, let us for a moment examine the tribal biases of nobody's *tribe* of rationalists. This tribe would have us believe that one's own life experiences amount to nothing in so far as these experiences are not filtered through the "models" of economic construction / deconstruction. Thus, I neither feel, experience or know what is true, proper, harmonious, etc UNLESS and UNTIL I reduce it to numbers.
But numbers HIDE as much as they reveal. The fascination with numbers also implicates the age old arrogance of the rationalists, i.e., that they know ALL significant factors and that, further, they are capable of assigning proper weight to the various factors. Hubris of the first order!!!

Let us examine the example i offered of my grandfather. Yes, it is one poorly educated Sicilian peasant, in fact, a serf, who expressed a desire to be better and as a result of his (somewhat) trying experience assimilating into the American community professed a deep and abiding love for his adopted home. One man, YOU say. One anecdote, YOU say.

Not at all, my brilliant and rational friend. He was representative of hundreds of thousands of similarly situated immigrants. He was just one of the millions of *anecdotal* examples of how former immigration and cultural practices PRODUCED harmony - not the discord and clamoring for presumed entitlements that we currently observe; nor did any of his generation DEMAND that the United States change to suit their preferences. Amazing how a man without even a grade school education was "rational" enough to recognize the *grand* bargain that was on offer.

Nobody apparently believes that current immigrants do not possess the native intelligence, strength of character, or will to successfully execute their part of the grand bargain. Indeed, nobody really wants them to be required to make the effort. It would be too difficult, unfair and discriminatory.

In the end, we observe that nobody really believes that the vacuity and lack of both consistency and CONSTANCY in such Progressive talking points is not problematic and self serving. Then again, as with so many of our highly educated commentariat, whose origins are in *toney* neighborhoods, they are simply UNWILLING to accept, or even recognize the validity of the *anecdotal* lives and experiences of others.

Once again, brudda, you ain't of them; stop presuming to speak for them (or my folks, especially).

As for me,

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gabe
on April 28, 2018 at 16:44:41 pm

nobody.really,

Your post suggests some basic principles on which I think we can agree. Please correct me if I am wrong:

1.) There is a notion of assimilability, that is a capacity and willingness to assimilate into a community, society, culture or nation.

2.) If a prospective immigrant does not have a minimum threshold of this assimilability, he should not immigrate, nor be allowed to immigrate to a society of which he has no intention of becoming part.

3.) There are many factors, religious, cultural, personal, philosophical, etc. that affect the degree to which one is wiling to assimilate into a society to which he has immigrated.

4.) Those who are able to assimilate to some degree into a society are more likely to succeed and thrive than those who are not.

5.) It is possible to assess, to some degree, how assimilable someone is.

6.) Muslims are capable of assimilating into western societies to the extent necessary for them to succeed individually and become contributing and valued members of those societies.

7.) There are considerations that bear on the assimilability of Muslims that do not affect other immigrant groups (and vice versa).

To examine some of these points:

It is true that all immigrant groups are initially insular, tend to congregate together and concentrate in "Chinatown," Little Italy, and other ethnic, cultural and religious enclaves. This is natural and a function of the human brain's mechanism for dealing with novelty and uncertainty; when confronted with a new situation, perhaps containing unknown threats and opportunities, the mind instinctively seeks out things with which it is familiar. This is a foundation of problem solving, and this tendency in immigrants to initially seek the company of people who look, think and believe like themselves is not an argument against immigration. This is so because within two or three generations those who are willing to, and capable of assimilating become part of the larger society (without, necessarily, "losing their identity").

The history of the Italians and how they came to assimilate is instructive. A significant number of Italians were eager to assimilate. Evidence of this is their service in Civil War, for example the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the "Garibaldi Guards." Most of the Italians came here to work, lavish welfare benefits not being common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Initially, of course, the Italians faced some obstacles. They were the victims of lynchings, discrimination and the occasional massacre. Six Italian-American children below the age of seven died in the Ludlow Massacre. Yet the Italians assimilated and thrived, and it is worthwhile to explore the reasons for this.

First, many Italians wanted to assimilate. The opening line of The Godfather has Amerigo Bonasera declaring "I believe in America," and while this is a fictional character, Mario Puzo came up with his character from somewhere. Looking at the number of Italian Americans who served in World War II, started businesses and became educated here, it is not hard to accept that Bonasera is an accurate stereotype. There were certain things in the background of Italians that facilitated their assimilation. Most were christian, specifically Roman Catholic, and the Catholic tradition references acceptance of others. See for example the parable of the Good Samaritan, or Colossians 3:11 ("Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.") St. Ambrose later cut to the chase: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Furthermore, many Italians immigrated at a time when most Catholic parishes of any significant size had attached schools, and these institutions taught assimilation; English, American history as something praiseworthy, "love one another," etc. Italians assimilated because 1.) they wanted to, and 2.) their background and institutions made it easier for them to do so. Those that did not want to assimilate or could not assimilate could go back to Italy.

Now there are factors that affect Muslims that usually do not pertain to Italians. Of course many Muslims have successfully integrated into American society; in fact, every Muslim I have have known has assimilated. But there are some factors in Islamic beliefs that potentially affect the matter of assimilation. One is that the Koran explicitly advocates insularity. See for example 5:51 "Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them." This doesn't mean Muslims can't assimilate (they do), but it doesn't exactly encourage it. Also unhelpful is the saying in the Hadith "The Hour will not begin until you fight the Jews, until a Jew will hide behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will say: ‘O Muslim, O slave of Allah, here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him." Again, subject to interpretation, context, etc. but somewhat out of place in an essay on "We are all Americans."

There are as well, factors within Muslim immigrant communities that advocate against assimilation. We could ask British Muslim shopkeeper Asad Shah about this had he not been stabbed to death by a co-religionist zealot for wishing Christians "Happy Easter." Or we could read about Tamerlan Tsarnaev becoming petulant that the imam of his mosque favorably quoted Martin Luther King Jr. (on MLK day) rather than a Muslim. Or we could read about the Bridgeview Universal School Muslim girls's basketball team seeking to schedule public school opponents, with the condition that no males, e.g. fathers, brothers or friends of the public school players, be allowed in the gym for the game. Or Google "Can Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving" and read the rich tapestries of responses. Several of the negative responses (there are quite a few positive ones as well) do so on grounds that "Muslims should not imitate non-Muslims." So Muslim assimilation may face some headwinds that did not affect the Italians, Chinese, or Mexicans. The question is, do these things matter, and should we do anything about them?

You note that we should look for relevant measurable qualities, presumably to help make these determinations, and in approaching the issue from an economist standpoint this makes perfect sense. However, there may not be qualities that are amenable to measurement. We could, I suppose just ask people "are you willing to assimilate? , and then get more ridiculous in our probing ("What do you think about Thanksgiving?" "Is it okay to kill a Muslim for wishing a Christian 'Happy "Easter?'" "Is it okay to have Jews and Christians as friends?," "What are your thoughts on honor killing?")

The difficulty in your proposal, i.e. identifying and measuring relevant qualities is not however limited to the practicalities of doing so. You can expect a gaggle of the perpetually outraged to accuse of you advocating "profiling" because that is exactly what you do when you use measurable data to classify and make decisions. The opposition to your reasonable suggestion will not come from immigration opponents, but immigration advocates, who abhor the ideas of classification (assimilable vs non-assimilable) and assimilation itself.

Some "advocates" (so as not to paint with too broad a brush) for prospective immigrants are like those miscreants we occasionally hear about who hire a maid from the Phillipines or Africa, then confiscate their passport, to keep them dependent. Unassimilated immigrants are quite likely to be dependent on someone, and keeping them unassimilated benefits those who profit from their dependence. People who give excuses to immigrants for not assimilating are not their friends.

So to sum up: We should be open to Muslim immigration, and Muslim immigrants should be open to assimilation. The forces that discourage assimilation are bad for the country and bad for the unassimilated immigrants. This is a problem and one that does not have an easy solution.The simple solutions, banning Muslims or pretending that they are no different than any other immigrant group, are not good for anyone.

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z9z99
on April 28, 2018 at 17:33:16 pm

A thought occurred to me as I was raking the garden. It was probably unnecessary to point out the role of Catholic schools in the assimilation of Italians except to the extent that a significant number of Italians were educated there. The public school system as well taught that the United States was someplace worth assimilating into. It was also easier for Italians to assimilate from school age because schools allowed prayer, observed common holidays,, etc.

It seems that the more practical experience our society has in favor of assimilation, the more theoretical arguments are raised against it.

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z9z99
on April 29, 2018 at 16:38:46 pm

Were I you, I would brush up on my history of BOTH Christianity and Islam as the former removes or separates the individual from the /state while the latter cements him to the State. If YOU need islam, please bow down to Mecca - better yet, do your bowing in some middle eastern state; but know also that you are bowing down to THAT State.

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The un-grovelling gardener
on April 29, 2018 at 16:54:47 pm

1) And now for something (not so) completely different:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2018/04/new-frontiers-in-racial-bias.php

For those who are enamored with the explanatory / predictive power of NUMBERS, make sense of this mishmash of statistics absent any supporting survey of possible causes. This does not, of course, mean that the journalist deploying the numbers in support of his presupposition does not attribute blame (cause) - simply that as I have stated previously, "What is left out is often more important than what is included. nobody really believes that numbers are inherently pregnant with predictive capability.

2) For the record: i agree with the principles outlined by Z9Z99. they are not at all remarkable and they underlie my comments above. What is of concern to me is NOT that certain groups of people may or may not be assimilable; rather it is that we no longer a) expect them to, b) require them to, c) recognize the value in assimilation but rather d) we consider it discriminatory to require such assimilation as has previously proven successful.

3) The very fact that previous generations may have had to endure some "discomfort", some *unsettling* (as it were) behavior is simply not sufficient reason to permit these new arrivals to attempt to *RE-settle* the land (as in the case of La Raza) or the political / moral question (as is the case with Islam and Sharia). Are these likely outcomes - NO! But why tolerate it from either invited or uninvited guests to our country.

Indeed, it was the very difficulty of assimilation that made those older immigrants stronger and helped to reshape their behavior / beliefs, etc.

When in rome.....
When in Sprinfield .....

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gabe
on April 29, 2018 at 18:56:08 pm

[…] 4. Taking religion seriously, including with Pierre Manent. […]

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Sunday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
on April 29, 2018 at 22:33:57 pm

I'm speaking of Islam as a self inflicted punishment. The manner of treating Christianity as a thing to be kept at arms length but also needing it to shield the west is the subject of much of the above article. I'm not saying we should bow to Islam. I am saying that as long as we keep thinking like this we deserve Islam. This call without reciprocation is detestable.

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Ian
on April 30, 2018 at 14:45:38 pm

It was probably unnecessary to point out the role of Catholic schools in the assimilation of Italians....

Quite the contrary.

Why do we have Catholic schools? Not to promote assimilation. Again, quite the contrary. Assimilation was the goal of public schools—that is, assimilation to Protestantism. Indeed, public schools had Protestant Bible-reading and Protestant prayers. Catholics protested, but ultimately concluded that they only way they’d get what they wanted was to establish separate institutions that promoted a Catholic viewpoint. And those institutions endure today—assimilation be damned.

Likewise, today we still find Amish communities doggedly living a counter-cultural lifestyle--assimilation be damned! Likewise Orthodox Jewish communities--assimilation be damned. You can even find crunchy, granola-headed coops here and there that resist market transactions and embrace barter—assimilation be damned. And there is the libertarian “Free State” movement to take over New Hampshire and adopt libertarian policies—assimilation be damned.

Indeed, may conservative Catholics are decrying how American popular culture has diverged from what they perceive to be traditional Christian values, and have begun promoting the Benedict Option of establishing separate, overtly Christian communities that proudly and explicitly reject contemporary norms—assimilation be damned.

Why have Jews been the object of so much hostility over the years? Many theories, but at least one theory is the peculiarity of their monotheism. That is, many cultures that interacted with Jews embraced polytheism. If you worship a different god than I do, no problem; I’ll just add your god to the list of gods on my roster. But you’re not willing to reciprocate, because you claim that your god is above all others? How anti-social! But notwithstanding all the eons of hostility, Jews clung to this anti-social belief—assimilation be damned.

Where would people get such ideas? This land has previously been threatened by non-assimilationists. Indeed, a group was so anti-assimilationist, they were known as Separatists. And they were so anti-social, they were driven out of their homeland and ended up in Holland. There, they were free to practice their religion. But they found that, notwithstanding their best efforts, they could not keep their children from adopting Dutch habits and values—in short, their kids were ASSIMILATING! And because they so hated assimilation, they fled to an environment where they could limit any outside influences—the New World.

And what should we conclude from all of this?

1. Assimilation ain’t all that necessary. Societies endure with pockets of subcultures.

2. Assimilation ain’t all that desirable. Ever eat Italian cuisine? If so, then thank an anti-assimilationist. Indeed, Italian cuisine demonstrates that gabe’s darkest fears have come true: Rather than browbeating Italians to abandon their ways, the Italian immigrants actually subverted and converted the rest of the country! Oh, the humanity…!

3. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of immigrants, assimilation will be inevitable. As others have acknowledged, US history is full of “Little Italy’s” and “Chinatowns” and “Little Havanas.” Yet within a few generations the children of these immigrants tend to integrate into the larger society.

Thus, I’m not persuaded that Muslim immigration poses the threat people imagine.

And here’s the irony: We’re commenting in a post entitled “Taking Religion Seriously.” In example after example, I demonstrate that people who take their religion seriously are the ones reluctant to assimilate. In short, we face a choice: If we demand assimilation, we’re demanding the subordination of religion—ALL religions. If we want to honor people’s ability to take religion seriously, then we need to subordinate the demands for assimilation.

So, how to make this trade-off? I propose the following standard: The rule of law. Let’s apply our laws to immigrants in the same manner that we apply it to native-born citizens! Where immigrants violate the laws, they should bear the same sanctions that native-born citizens would. And where immigrants do not violate the laws, let’s leave them the hell alone--as we would with native-born citizens.

This plan is so crazy, it just might work.

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nobody.really
on April 30, 2018 at 16:23:48 pm

"2. Assimilation ain’t all that desirable. Ever eat Italian cuisine? If so, then thank an anti-assimilationist. Indeed, Italian cuisine demonstrates that gabe’s darkest fears have come true: Rather than browbeating Italians to abandon their ways, the Italian immigrants actually subverted and converted the rest of the country! Oh, the humanity…!"

Let me make a minor correction re: Italian food: It should read: "Oh, the DIVINITY" -HA!

Seriously, however, the principal difference I observe today is that people are encouraged NOT to assimilate. The consequences of such an approach may yield a somewhat different social composite - and one that contend may be quite less harmonious than has been previously the case.

As an example, new *immigrants* now arrive at our border "brandishing" THEIR native flags and serenading the authorities with the "One Finger Salute. My, how this differs from the gratitude displayed by immigrants of previous generations. Nobody. really believes that this is an acceptable posture for one seeking welcome in a new home.
Here is an example of what we may expect: Look at the pictures:

https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/04/caravan_arrives_honduran_flags_flying_middle_fingers_flashing.html

Now as for Catholic schools, again, you speak as if you are "of" those schools. Clearly, you are not; for if you were you would recognize that above everything else, other than matters of religious doctrine, WHICH DID NOT AND DOES NOT DIFFER SIGNIFICANTLY FROM the PROTESTANT doctrine taught in PUBLIC schools, Catholic schools made a concentrated and quite successful effort to instill in their students a LOVE of America, a respect for its culture, traditions and laws from the FIRST GRADE onwards. I know, I attended those schools during a time that was much closer to the arrival of large numbers of Southern Europeans to these shores.

Again, you deflect the readers attention AWAY from the obvious. Yes, Catholic Schools were insular BUT in only ONE regard - the teaching of those doctrinal beliefs that were simultaneously significant BUT minor deviations from the larger Protestant doctrines. Underlying the body of Catholic instruction, however, was a belief that much is owed to the host country along with a deep respect and love for those traditions, laws, customs that made America an attractive place.
Contrast this with what Mohammedanism advances, expects and demands. This I mention as a matter of "Koranic" scripture NOT as an indicator of each and every believer / immigrant. There is something markedly different about a doctrine that DOES NOT separate Church and State, is there not. Perhaps, it may be due to the fact that Catholic history has taught them that a Religious State is dysfunctional / oppressive, etc but Catholics and Protestants HAVE learned their lesson. Islam has not (see Iran among others; see Londonistan, Marseilles, subusrbs of Berlin, Sweden, etc.)

Still, we have the issue of religious belief to contend with and a proper evaluation of those beliefs. Let us take a couple.
Anti-semitism: Rampant throughout the Muslim world. Even Angela Merkel has been forced to recognize this. Also France, UK, etc.
Sexual attitudes: Homosexuals are to be tossed off buildings, etc. Women are to be *castrated* (God, how disgusting). Consider what this tells us about their "male" attitudes or insecurity.

My point is not to list all the possible problems or divergences from US culture - but rather to ask:

Are you unable to make an evaluation of "better"? Can you not concede that Western culture is superior?
In Straussian terms, is one not High and the other Low?
It often strikes me that many critics of limited immigration are unable or unwilling to simply say: 'Ours is the better culture. Ours is what OUGHT to prevail" Consequently, they are unwilling to do as Manent suggests: Tell the new arrivals, You will be welcomed so long as you understand that this is not a Muslim nation and you simply will not have your way.

Recall now your little exposition on italians. Yep, we took over your culinary preferences (I mean - what really compares to a wonderful veal parmigiana (I make a great one, BTW)) and this was an easy task. Yet, it did not materially affect the course of American history or politics. Can the same be said of Islam. Italians sought no special pleadings, no carveouts - all they sought was a chance to make a life in the US WHILE abiding by the dominant cultures rules.

Again, look at the pictures included in the link where prospective new *immigrants8 are waving not the Stars and Stripes but their native flag. Can you imagine if my grandfather and his buddies had arrived at Ellis Island waving the Italian flag and throwing meatballs and lasagna at the authorities and flashing them the "malacchio" (evil eye).
Hey, how welcoming is that?

So come here, if you will, bring your halal foods, leave your demands / expectations of incorporating the US into the *umma* back on your native shores, leave your anti-semitism and anti-gay atavistic attitudes back in the desert.

seeya

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gabe
on April 30, 2018 at 18:18:55 pm

nobody.really,

I won't quibble too much, except to note:

1.) When you insinuate that Catholic schools did and do not promote assimilation, you are simply mistaken.

2.) You seem to be using an idiosyncratic definition of assimilation. Your assertion

Assimilation ain’t all that necessary. Societies endure with pockets of subcultures.

is otherwise a non-sequitur. Assimilation does not mean no subcultures, or abandoning any trace of the culture from which one emigrated.

Likewise, your numbered item 2.) above seems to suggest that the availability of Italian cuisine is evidence that Italians, or a sizable number of them, did not assimilate. I disagree.

In my opening post, I referred to the concept of assimilability, the willingness and capacity to assimilate. This is not a binary quantity. Italians who march in a Columbus day parade, play bocce, appreciate opera, ad root for Italy in world cup (or for that matter retained the ability to be interested in soccer at all) have assimilated quite nicely.

Perhaps you would be so good as to explain what you mean by assimilation so that we can avoid talking past each other. What do you think are the criteria by which we can assess whether or not someone has been assimilated?

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z9z99
on May 01, 2018 at 00:27:42 am

Anti-semitism:[L]eave your anti-semitism and anti-gay atavistic attitudes back in the desert.

The desert? Quick point: The most populous Muslim country is the tropical island nation of Indonesia. Roughly half of Muslims live in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. In contrast, less than 25% of Muslims live in the Mideast.

If we're going to generalize about Muslims, let's at least pretend to do so accurately.

[N]ew *immigrants* now arrive at our border “brandishing” THEIR native flags and serenading the authorities with the “One Finger Salute.

Fascinating. When you speak of assimilation, what are you talking about?

1. Some people desire assimilation in the sense that they want immigrants to seem “American”—that is, to speak the vernacular tongue, and to adopt prevailing values and attitudes. And if that’s your desire, then I can scarcely think of a more American posture than this. Do you imagine the One Finger Salute originated in Honduras? And do you imagine that this kind of bravado was characteristic of the downtrodden masses in Honduran villages? I gotta say, these people look damned American to me.

2. To the contrary, when you say “assimilation,” I guess you mean that you want immigrants to be meek, humble, and obsequious—even if native-born citizens rarely behave that way.

[A] Religious State is dysfunctional / oppressive, etc., but Catholics and Protestants HAVE learned their lesson. Islam has not (see Iran among others; see Londonistan, Marseilles, suburbs of Berlin, Sweden, etc.)

What are you talking about? All evidence would suggest that Iranians are pissed with their government, and have been for a generation or more. They regularly vote for presidents who are at odds with the ruling Mullahs (even though the president has limited powers). And the protests against the government have been massive and prolonged. Moreover, their economy sucks—and has done so for a long time now. While it’s hard to conduct polling in that regime, the 2005 World Values Survey found that 64.2 percent of respondents called rule by the Republican Guard “fairly bad” or “very bad” while 91.2 percent called democracy a “very good” or “fairly good” system of government.

London; Marseilles; Berlin; Sweden—places where Muslims have committed murder: yup, that’s bad. Now, what percentage of Muslims have engaged in murder? If you know someone is a Muslim, and you know that, say, 0.0025% of Muslims commit murder, what conclusion would you draw? And if I told you that the homicide rate in the US is roughly 10x the rate in Indonesia, what conclusion would you draw?
Meanwhile, Paradise, NV; Newtown, CN; Southerland Springs, TX; Aurora, CO—places where (apparently) non-Muslim people have committed murder. That’s also bad—and to judge by the body count, it’s worse.

I don’t want to be murdered. But the odds that I’ll be murdered by a Muslim pale in comparison to the odds that I’ll be murdered pretty much any other demographic group you could name. If your goal is to reduce homicides in the US, you could scarcely pick a less effective strategy than restricting immigration by Muslims. Hell, I’d bet a campaign to reduce the speed limit or require more background checks for gun sales would have more effect than an immigration ban. So you’ll forgive me if the big bad Muslim boogieman doesn’t cause me to wet my pants or shred the Constitution.

Can you not concede that Western culture is superior?

I concede that I have a preference for Western norms. (In part, this reflects my ignorance of other norms.) Likewise, I have a preference for the Democratic Party. But I’m not persuaded that I should require all immigrants to embrace my preferences.

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nobody.really
on May 01, 2018 at 00:44:05 am

1.) When you insinuate that Catholic schools did and do not promote assimilation, you are simply mistaken.

Oh, sure—if I made such an insinuation. Clearly, Catholic schools taught English; that would provide a measure of assimilation for people who did not otherwise speak English.

But I made no such insinuation. Specifically, I did not address whether Catholic schools had the EFFECT of promoting assimilation. I talked about the PURPOSE for establishing Catholic schools. And if your purposes was to promote assimilation, then public schools arguably did a better job of it because public schools not only taught English, but also Protestantism—which was (and is) the dominant religion in the US. From Wikipedia:

”As the nation was mostly Protestant in the 19th century, there was anti-Catholic sentiment related to heavy immigration from Catholic Ireland after the 1840s, and a feeling that Catholic children should be educated in public schools to become American. In the 1880s most states passed a constitutional amendment, called Blaine Amendments, forbidding tax money be used to fund parochial schools, which affected also Lutherans and other denominations that operated schools. By 1890 the Irish, who controlled the Church in the U.S., had built an extensive network of parishes and parish schools ("parochial schools") across the urban Northeast and Midwest. The Irish and other Catholic ethnic groups looked to parochial schools not only to protect their religion, but to enhance their culture and language.

The main impetus was fear that exposure to Protestant teachers in the public schools, and Protestant fellow students, would lead to a loss of faith. Protestants reacted by strong opposition to any public funding of parochial schools….

In the classrooms, the highest priorities were piety, orthodoxy, and strict discipline. Knowledge of the subject matter was a minor concern, and in the late 19th century few of the teachers in parochial schools had gone beyond the 8th grade themselves.”

Italians who march in a Columbus day parade, play bocce, appreciate opera, and root for Italy in world cup (or for that matter retained the ability to be interested in soccer at all) have assimilated quite nicely.

Interesting examples. Yes, bocce, opera, and soccer are interests the originated in Europe.

But Columbus Day parades? That didn’t originate in Europe. That originated in the US.

Now, why? Why would people in the US celebrate another nation’s hero, when that other nation didn’t bother?

For the same reason that the US has turned St. Patrick’s Day—a day of sober religious observance in Ireland—into a bacchanal of all things Irish, or Cinco de Mayo—the anniversary of an obscure military victory—as become a carnival of all things Mexican: as acts of ANTI-assimilation. Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo are excuses for members of oppressed minority groups in the US to build solidarity by FLAUNTING their distinctiveness. This is “Say it Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud” for the rest of us.

Perhaps you would be so good as to explain what you mean by assimilation….

“[F]rom … ad ‘to’ (see ad-) + simulare ‘make similar,’ from similis ‘like, resembling, of the same kind’ (see similar).” So I think of assimilation as making things more similar to some (often unstated) point of comparison, such as a majority or an average.

But I’m not the one who is panicked about immigrants not “assimilating.” So perhaps it would be more fruitful for people who have the concern to state 1) a test that I might apply to understand when assimilation has occurred (or has failed to occur) and 2) an explanation for why the problems of lack of assimilation cannot be addressed through our standard social institutions such as police or schools.

It’s good to know that people in North American care so deeply that immigrants assimilate that they’re willing to debate the matter at length—in ENGLISH, a language brought to this land by immigrants. But as my grandpappy used to say, "Who needs foreign languages? If English is good enough for the Bible, then it's good enough for me!"

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nobody.really
on May 01, 2018 at 02:19:43 am

But I made no such insinuation.

Really? You quoted me referring to the <i?role of Catholic schools in the assimilation of Italians. Read your post again; the role, not the purpose, which you now claim to have meant. I said Catholic schools played a role in assimilation of Italians. You replied "Quite the contrary."

And if your purposes was to promote assimilation, then public schools arguably did a better job of it

What does this have to do with whether or not Catholic schools played a role in assimilation of immigrants? If public schools did it better, then Catholic schools didn't do it at all? Italians who immigrated didn't really assimilate because they didn't become protestants?

Your discussion of Columbus day is a bit odd. You refer to people who have assimilated into American culture engaging in acts of "anti-assimilation." Yet, persons of Irish extraction on St. Patrick's day, Mexican extraction on Cinco de Mayo and Italians on Columbus day do not exclude others from sharing in their celebrations. Observing Columbus day does not make an Italian immigrant less American, i.e. it has no bearing on whether an Italian immigrant has assimilated. Why, if Americans of English, and German extraction celebrate Columbus day, would an Italian immigrant demonstrate his assimilation by refusing to join his countrymen in the observance? If a person of Japanese descent celebrates Cinco de Mayo, is THAT an act of "anti-assimilation?"

You do begin to make some sense when you talk about assessing whether someone has assimilated sufficiently into the society and culture to be considered a part of it, and not an aberration to be addressed. You correctly observed "Nevertheless, for the vast majority of immigrants, assimilation will be inevitable." I agree, for the simple reason that assimilating makes life easier and better for those who do so. You reasonably suggest that a willingness to follow the law is something that we can legitimately expect of immigrants. As a corollary to this, we might suspect that a man who kills kills his daughter for dating someone of a different faith has not met your proposed threshold of assimilation. In fact, if we were to be honest, assimilation is not really a racial phenomenon, or even cultural, religious, or ethnic one. There are persons who are multigenerations deep in anglosaxon American lineage who, to tweak the definition that you cited dis-similate (ab-similate? I think John Derbyshire made up that word when he wrote for National Review). These are the psychopaths, the misfits like Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Manson, Elliot Rodger and David Burke. Assimilation is as much a capacity to get along the society as it is cultural acceptance.

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z9z99
on May 01, 2018 at 10:33:08 am

nobody:

"Now, why? Why would people in the US celebrate another nation’s hero, when that other nation didn’t bother? "

Perhaps, it was a simple matter of one or both of the following:

1) politicians seeking to ingratiate themselves with a rising ethnic group?

OR

2) An effort by the dominant cultural group to, curiously enough, further the cause of assimilation by offering some token recognition of the contributions of that ethnic group; in so doing, the dominant group expresses a willingness to accept, or a recognition of, both the differences and commonalities of the ethnic group. And the ethnic group is *supposed* to recognize and appreciate this token. The intent, if not always the effect, is to FURTHER assimilation NOT TO FOSTER insularity as nobody really believes.

BTW: this would appear to be what nobody is suggesting, is it not - maintenance / recognition of cultural differences? So why does nobody now argue against the recognition of ethnic contributions by the dominant group when he supports it for the ethnic group.

sometimes, things are simpler than we make them out to be.

Oops, that's right, according to nobody, this must be an example of my inability to carry the *heavy thinking*.

In sum, where nobody searches (and postulates) insularity, I (and millions of other 1st - 3rd generation immigrant families) see assimilation and a belated (if grudging) acceptance.

Who is right?

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gabe
on May 01, 2018 at 12:53:56 pm

Your discussion of Columbus day is a bit odd. You refer to people who have assimilated into American culture engaging in acts of “anti-assimilation.” Yet, persons of Irish extraction on St. Patrick’s day, Mexican extraction on Cinco de Mayo and Italians on Columbus day do not exclude others from sharing in their celebrations. Observing Columbus day does not make an Italian immigrant less American, i.e. it has no bearing on whether an Italian immigrant has assimilated. Why, if Americans of English, and German extraction celebrate Columbus day, would an Italian immigrant demonstrate his assimilation by refusing to join his countrymen in the observance? If a person of Japanese descent celebrates Cinco de Mayo, is THAT an act of “anti-assimilation?”

I speak of assimilation as making similar. These various celebrations are celebrations of ethnic solidarity—of marking a group as DISsimilar.

How does the US celebrate Guy Falkes Day, the traditional British excuse for setting off fireworks? It doesn’t. People of British descent have not felt the need to demonstrate solidarity and mark themselves as dissimilar to the larger group; rather, they IDENTIFY as the larger group.

But oppressed people who engage in acts of solidarity arguably do not seek to exclude others. To the contrary, the goal is to demand recognition of their distinct character.

And no, I wouldn’t say the Japanese guy who celebrates Cinco de Mayo is engaging in an act of anti-assimilation. I’d say he’s engaging in an act of MULTI-CULTURALISM—the idea that, instead of mindlessly browbeating people into conformity, we can acknowledge and even celebrate differences.

You do begin to make some sense when you talk about assessing whether someone has assimilated sufficiently into the society and culture to be considered a part of it, and not an aberration to be addressed.

I don’t know that I’d characterize my thoughts quite that way. To my way of thinking, the challenge arises from the “to be addressed” part: Some behaviors wrongfully impinge upon others. Generally we have laws restricting or punishing people who engage in such behaviors. But this dynamic applies REGARDLESS of immigration status, or aberration status. Consider Mad Men: it depicts an era in which it was not an aberration to use language disparaging of ethnic minorities and women, and in which rampant smoking was common. Or consider today, when it is common for people to emit carbon without regard to its consequences for the planet. The fact that this behavior was not an aberration did and does not render it harmless.
Nor do I give much emphasis to the “be considered a part of [society]” language. Some people live in the Alaskan wilderness. Others join religious orders and live sequestered from social interaction for the rest of their lives. This behavior differs from how most of us behave, and minimizes “being a part of” society. But I don’t find this behavior especially problematic.

You correctly observed “Nevertheless, for the vast majority of immigrants, assimilation will be inevitable.” I agree, for the simple reason that assimilating makes life easier and better for those who do so.

Great. So then why all this anxiety about protecting people from THEMSELVES?

Catholics and Jews have faced a certain amount of discrimination over the years. Some have chosen to disassociate with their faiths. Some have not. I respect either choice, and don’t feel any special need to try to influence their choices one way or the other. And I extend the same courtesy to Muslims. I don’t see the need for any new, special policy here.

You reasonably suggest that a willingness to follow the law is something that we can legitimately expect of immigrants. As a corollary to this, we might suspect that a man who kills his daughter for dating someone of a different faith has not met your proposed threshold of assimilation. In fact, if we were to be honest, assimilation is not really a racial phenomenon, or even cultural, religious, or ethnic one.

To be a bit more precise, I expect immigrants will violate the law—just as I expect that any population will violate the law. But I also expect that our social institutions will deal with lawbreakers—regardless of their immigration status. I don’t see the need for any new, special policy here.

I believe of immigration laws screen for murders already. And they screen for murderers whether or not the murders has a religious motivation. I don’t see the need for any new, special policy here.

There are persons who are multigenerations deep in anglosaxon American lineage who, to tweak the definition that you cited dis-similate (ab-similate? I think John Derbyshire made up that word when he wrote for National Review). These are the psychopaths, the misfits like Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Manson, Elliot Rodger and David Burke.

Well … perhaps. And perhaps these are also Joseph Smith, Henry David Thoreau, Ken Kesey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Daniel Berrigan—people who couldn’t get along with society as they found it, often ending up in prison or expelled.

Hey, I generally favor most conventional norms. But I’m not so sold on them—or so closed off from the prospects of new ideas—that I feel the need to browbeat people into conformity with them.

You asked me for how I define “assimilation,” and I answered. I asked you for how you define it—and you didn’t.

Based on this discussion, I understand the term to have this meaning: It’s a glittering generality. It has no substance. I noted that Amish communities have lived their separate, non-conforming lifestyles for generations, yet you express no alarm. So merely living separately, living a non-conforming lifestyle, and living it in perpetuity, is not the problem. So what is?

I sense the distinction between Muslims and the Amish is that, well, the Amish don't offend your sensibilities. They're a FAMILIAR kind of non-conformity, much like Italian cuisine. In contrast, Muslims seem unfamiliar. You don't like some aspects of their lifestyle. And you complain about their unfamiliarity with fancy words such as "assimilation" which you never use when discussing the Amish.

I also don’t like aspects of people’s lifestyle. But unlike you, I CAN define the behavior I don’t like: I call it illegal. And I propose a remedy: Let our social institutions deal with illegal behavior (and, ok, let our legislatures adopt new laws to address new problems on a uniform basis).

I still don’t see why we need some new, special policy for Muslims.

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nobody.really
on May 01, 2018 at 19:26:30 pm

"I still don’t see why we need some new, special policy for Muslims."

Will this help?

https://hotair.com/archives/2018/05/01/germanys-imported-antisemitism-problem-continues/

And yes, let the laws be applied equally and let us expect that immigrants as well as native citizens obsy the law.

Problem: While anti-Semitism is distasteful, bigoted, etc - it is NOT illegal. thus, even if we follow your advice to enforce the Law, we are still confronted with the problem, such as is being experienced in Germany, France, Sweden, etc of a rising and vicious new breed of anti-semitism originating within these new *lawful* (your words) Muslim communities.

Would it not be prudent to prevent this - or to take those steps that could reasonably result in LESS of this behavior? Why not screen for this? And so what if it would have a disproportionate effect upon Muslims?
If the effect of allowing greater influx of anti-Semites into the polity is greater discord, stress, etc, why would you not seek to minimize it? prevent it?

I do not recall earlier immigrants, and / or the Amish, espousing such bigotry or engaging in the type of behavior that we observe in the EU.

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gabe
on May 01, 2018 at 20:45:05 pm

Would it not be prudent to prevent this – or to take those steps that could reasonably result in LESS of this behavior? Why not screen for this?

What's your proposal?

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nobody.really
on May 02, 2018 at 00:40:59 am

Ah, yes. Nobody.

Let's see. Where to begin....

You asked me for how I define “assimilation,” and I answered

Did you now? Here is your definition:

" I think of assimilation as making things more similar to some (often unstated) point of comparison."

Okay. What things? And what point of comparison? Is the reader free to supply his own specifics and arrive at nobody.really's view of the world? You said :

Assimilation ain’t all that desirable.

So let's substitute your definition and see what we get:

"Making things more similar to some (often unstated) point of comparison ain’t all that desirable."

Access to contraception is a thing. Planned Parenthood's view of contraception is a point of comparison, no? May we then conclude that your definition of assimilation leads to disapproval of widely available contraception? I wouldn't think so. Rather, I think the mischief is that you fudged a bit when you claimed to provide a definition of assimilation relevant to the discussion here, when instead you provided an overly broad generality that leaves the reader no better off than if you had said nothing. As a further example, substitute "acceptance of homosexuals" for "thing" in the above sentence and "the attitudes of the Taliban" for your "point of comparison," and some people who have concerns about immigration may agree with you.

For the record, I believe you asked Gabe "When you speak of assimilation, what are you talking about?" If you asked my definition I must have missed it, and if so I apologize. Here is what I mean by assimilation:

First, I will note that some societies and cultures are more successful than others; some states are flourishing, others are failing. Assimilation means recognition of and acceptance of those factors that enable a successful society, nation, etc., specifically the one to which a person wishes to immigrate, to succeed. With regard to the United States, I would at a minimum require

1.) A willingness to recognize the legitimacy of and respect the Constitution, the federal government and properly created subordinate forms of government;

2.) A commitment to resolve disputes with others or the government civilly;

3.) Respecting the freedoms that others enjoy, such as freedom of speech, association, and market economy, unless those are altered by the legitimate mechanisms provided for such alteration;

4.) Accepting the principle of equality under the law.

This, I think outlines assimilation. It has nothing to do with abandoning culture, becoming protestant, or renouncing one's heritage.

A couple of points about this: First the factors listed are not especially measurable. Some people try to measure assimilation, using such observables as adoption of the native language, intermarriage, geographic dispersal and economic mobility, but these are after-the-fact assessments. They do not assess assimilabilty, and there may be no metrics to do so. But if you look at the naturalization requirements and citizenship oaths of various countries, you can get an idea of what is expected regarding assimilation. Canada expects naturalized citizens to fulfill the duties of citizenship, a neat point that may be worth repeating: immigrants having duties. This touches on R. Richard Schweitzer's definition of justice. Saudi Arabia requires naturalized citizens to be capable of earning a living. the U.S. requires citizens to support and defend the Constitution. Egypt requires that prospective citizens be healthy enough so as not to be a burden on society, and to be acquainted with the Arabic language.

Secondly, the Amish are an interesting case. Apparently parties that opposed the contaceptive mandate in Obamacare also thought they were an interesting case, arguing that the insular nature of the group, i.e. the limited assimilation means that if there is no benefit to assimilation, people are free to remain unassimilated with regard to those laws or policies that they don't like. Hobby Lobby could cite the claim that assimilation is not all that desirable and use you as a reference. But his is an oversimplification. As we learn from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982), the Amish do accept the four principles I set out above. They submitted their dispute to the authority of the U.S. Courts, and they abided by its decision.

I disagree with you that the Amish are familiar to me. I don't know what you base your claim on. Likewise, your claim that I would not use terms like assimilation in regards to the Amish; I just did. Also, your claim that I can't define behavior I don't like; well good luck proving a negative. For the record, only one of us in this conversation knows what I think, what my experiences are and what policy arguments I find valid, and it ain't you.

But I'm not the one getting hysterical over people talking about assimilation. Have a good night.

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z9z99
on May 02, 2018 at 08:13:01 am

z / nobody:

1) thanks for mentioning the Amish AND the fact that they DO NOT differ significantly in many respects from the "non-insular" culture. Yep, they did submit to US jurisprudence; they also exhibit many of the same behavioral traits as do the rest of the citizenry.
2) Nobody apparently is unable to distinguish the difference between *uniformity* and conformity. Assimilation simply means to "conform": both in spirit and in practice with the prevailing culture / laws, etc.
Uniformity is the expectation, quite often found in dictatorships, that everyone will believe and practice the exact same things.
Nobody in his zeal to paint many of us as xenophobic is substituting uniformity for conformity and further asserting that this is our goal, or expectation. A clever fellow indeed; yet, it does cause one to consider just how wretched HE THINKS we *xenophobes* are. It is quite similar to his continual reference back to the bad old days of the 1950's where everyone (so he claims) was racist. similarly, everyone today, excepting those advocating open borders is a xenophobe.

Nope, we just expect people to conform to our general beliefs and practices.

seeya

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gabe
on May 02, 2018 at 10:29:20 am

You said :

“Assimilation ain’t all that desirable.”

So let’s substitute your definition and see what we get:

“Making things more similar to some (often unstated) point of comparison ain’t all that desirable.”

Access to contraception is a thing. Planned Parenthood’s view of contraception is a point of comparison, no? May we then conclude that your definition of assimilation leads to disapproval of widely available contraception?

No, disapproval of assimilation leads to disapproval of BROWBEATING PEOPLE into making contraception widely available—or BROWBEATING PEOPLE into refraining. It means letting people do as they please unless there’s a compelling need to enforce conformity.

As a wise man once said, “I propose the following standard: The rule of law. Let’s apply our laws to immigrants in the same manner that we apply it to native-born citizens! Where immigrants violate the laws, they should bear the same sanctions that native-born citizens would. And where immigrants do not violate the laws, let’s leave them the hell alone–as we would with native-born citizens.

This plan is so crazy, it just might work.”

Assimilation means recognition of and acceptance of those factors that enable a successful society, nation, etc., specifically the one to which a person wishes to immigrate, to succeed. With regard to the United States, I would at a minimum require

1.) A willingness to recognize the legitimacy of and respect the Constitution, the federal government and properly created subordinate forms of government;

2.) A commitment to resolve disputes with others or the government civilly;

3.) Respecting the freedoms that others enjoy, such as freedom of speech, association, and market economy, unless those are altered by the legitimate mechanisms provided for such alteration;

4.) Accepting the principle of equality under the law.

This, I think outlines assimilation. It has nothing to do with abandoning culture, becoming protestant, or renouncing one’s heritage.

Oh. I clearly had no grasp of what you were arguing. Or why.

Now I have a clearer understanding of what. But I’m even more perplexed about why.

Here’s the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

So as I asked gabe, let me ask you: What’s your proposal? New immigrants already pledge to do pretty much what you ask—and more. So if this pledge is not sufficient to meet your concerns, what SPECIFIC policy are you seeking?

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nobody.really
on May 03, 2018 at 00:33:45 am

Nobody,

Ah, now we are getting somewhere. You ask for a specific policy proposal. That you would do so is quite reasonable.

But I don't have one.

As was the case with ending poverty by giving people money, closing GItmo, repealing Obamacare, balancing the budget, "building the wall," etc, many things are much harder in practice than in theory, and simplistic solutions are more appropriate the dorm room bull session or drunken barroom rant than they are in serious discussion. I find it amusing when someone asserts that doctors could cure cancer if they want to, or that we can completely deregulate air travel, or any number of things that we should be able to accomplish by just doing them. There should be an entire economic discipline devoted to things that are harder than they look. I think the same principle likely applies to immigration , where there are multiple competing concerns: security, fairness, humanitarianism, social burdens, cost, etc.

Now the reason I express an opinion without proposing a solution is because I do think there are issues that should be explored, even if they evade immediate resolution. Two are of particular significance: vetting and externalities. Vetting is a quantifiable process. We know this because of recent discussion of "extreme vetting." Vetting occurs along a spectrum from less to more,, or from none to unrealistically stringent. There are ideological forces that seek to pull opinion and policy to each extreme. On one end of the spectrum is simplistic, ultravetting: "You weren't born in the U.S. to American parents? You're out." At the other end is no vetting,"come on in, and if a problem arises we will deal with it then." This latter case gives rise to externalities such as crimes committed by immigrants, that would not have a victim here were it not for immigration, or providing complex medical care to someone who immmigrates to an ICU for several months. So there must be a balance, But striking that balance will involve much deeper thought and analysis than can be provided on an internet message board. For example, should the same vetting apply to immigrants from France as Pakistan? Should families be vetted individually or collectively? Should mental health be considered? (I seem to recall that this was an issue affecting the Mariel boatlift.) How long should institutions, e.g. hospitals and courts be expected to foot the bill for translators for immigrants who refuse to learn English? Five years? Forever? Zero? Should companies that hire immigrants be required to provide programs that promote assimilation? Should anyone? Do immigrants have obligations beyond abstaining from felonies? Left unspoken is that any amount of vetting greater than none unavoidable involves a measure of profiling. Will we be okay with that?

I expect that the details of immigration policy will frustrate simplistic policy solutions. This is illustrated by the current discussion of Justice Gorsuch's reasoning in Sessions v. Dimaya. If such an apparently straightforward matter as what is a crime of violence can give rise to such a controversy, I expect other details to be even more vexatious.

So I don't have any answers myself. We can't keep 'em all out, and we can't let 'em all in, and we can't let the policies that we do come up with stray to one extreme or the other.

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z9z99
on May 03, 2018 at 10:52:56 am

nobody / z:

Following on Z's comments on what should be included in a vetting program:

Agreed with Z's list of elements in any such program. In fact, this, or something quite similar was historically precisely what was done. From my grandfathers generation up until the 1980's when my own family was required to vouchsafe for my Japanese sister-in-law. These are not unreasonable requirements AND they supplement nobody's basic claim that immigrants ought to be expected and required to obey the law. Clearly, we desire that form of "conformity" to our governing laws. Yet, it is not UNlawful, indeed given numerous court decisions positing an affirmative right to welfare, medical benefits, we may wish to require more of those who come to our shores -if only as a practical matter.
It is not unlawful to speak one's native tongue exclusively - yet, who would advance the notion that this is healthy for a political community?

One could list many more "expectations" BUT:

There is one requirement / expectation that precedes every other:

We must first determine if WE NEED more immigrants BEFORE we determine which ones we shall accept. This is basic. simply because something CAN be done does not imply that it OUGHT to be done.
I'll not list the factors / considerations, etc that would be part of any such evaluation nor the actual economic circumstances that we presently confront. They are debatable. Yet, it should be clear that a nation should possess the ability / power to determine just who and how many, if any, ought to be permitted entry.

So simply stated:

Let us first determine IF we require more immigrants. Libertarian fantasies regarding "one-world" free of borders is not a formula for successful and harmonious culture. To begin with the assumption that we "must" accept new immigrants prevents us from considering the status of our own native citizens.

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gabe
on May 16, 2018 at 10:44:29 am

"Starting in the 1830s and 1840s, some American abolitionists advocated for a tactic called moral suasion, arguing that surely white Americans who truly knew about the full horrors of slavery would change their minds and fight for its abolition. They tried to promote fellow feeling, telling stories of separation and sexual abuse to play upon Victorian idealization of family togetherness and womanly virtue. This worked for some listeners, but not for others, whose racism and complicity in the system deadened any natural empathy they might have had. Ending slavery took a war.

It feels like we’re making a similar mistake here. [Journalist Jennifer] Mendelsohn has tweeted that her project [#ResistanceGenealogy] is about compassion, and strives for the awakening of empathy. But no extremely moving information about John Kelly’s or Mike Pence’s families from decades ago will make immigration hawks rethink the way they perceive a story like the one about ICE taking an 18-month-old child from his Honduran mother—telling her to strap him into a car seat, and then driving away without allowing her to say goodbye. From an immigration hawk’s point of view, that’s not anyone like their mother, not anyone like their family.

The chasm between the life and experiences of a white American, even one who’s descended from desperate immigrants of decades past, and the life of this Honduran mother is the entire point of racist anti-immigration thought. Diminishment of the human qualities of entering immigrants (“unskilled” and “unmodern” immigrants coming from “shithole” countries) reinforces the distance between the two. People who support the Trump administration’s immigration policies want fewer Honduran mothers and their 18-month-olds to enter the country. If you start from this position, nothing you hear about illiterate Germans coming to the United States in the 19th century will change your mind.

* * *

What about the idea that Americans who benefited from immigration in the past should not 'pull up the ladder' after themselves—that they should, knowing their family’s history of struggle and success, give others the chance their ancestors were accorded? Liberals, animated by a sense of fairness, can’t believe that somebody descended from Italian peasants can live with the idea of excluding Syrian refugees today. But what looks like the most galling hypocrisy to liberals seems, to immigration hawks, like self-protective common sense....

It’s not possible to overcome today’s racist thought on immigration with reminders about past discrimination. The Irish and Italians and Germans weren’t “white” back then, as resistance genealogists like to remind people like John Kelly, but they sure are white now. Since it’s a stated belief of many on the right that a history of discrimination, even a horrific one, shouldn’t matter to a person living in 2018 (see: “Why are black people always talking about slavery?”), it makes little sense to expect that this information about past oppression would move any immigration hawk to defend today’s huddled masses.

One mistake that the left tends to make in engaging in historical fights is to believe the right is simply ignorant and that exposure to more history will change their minds. Liberals do this again and again: writing pieces about Andrew Jackson’s horrific treatment of the Cherokees, issuing correctives about the cause of the Civil War (slavery—it was slavery), telling Kanye to read a book. We seem to hope, all evidence to the contrary, that the real information will get through—and once it gets through, it’ll meet minds that share our moral values and will change accordingly. #ResistanceGenealogy makes all of these assumptions. It gravely underestimates the gulf between these two belief systems. I wish it would work. It won’t"

Rebecca Onion, "The Liberal Delusion of #ResistanceGenealogy" Slate (May 15, 2018).

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nobody.really
on May 19, 2018 at 12:47:30 pm

“Christ Is All, and In All”, and He Is thus not partial towards any complexion. Since God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage, Is The Author Of our Unalienable Right to Life, to Liberty, and to The Pursuit Of Happiness, the purpose of which can only be what God intended, the closer we are to The True God, the easier it will be to assimilate.

It is important to note, in regards to our Salvational History, that “The Eucharist is the source and summit of The Christian Faith”; It Is Through, With, and In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), that Holy Mother Church exists.

One can know through both Faith and reason, one cannot have “Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion.”

It is not possible then for Islam to be a form of Christianity, with some things added, and some things taken away, just as it is not possible for there to be various denominations of Christianity.

Nor would it be accurate to call Islam, a form of Arianism, the last heresy, since the denial of The Holy Ghost is the source of all heresy.

"4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

At the end of the Day, one can know through both Faith and reason, when you deny The Unity of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), eventually, you will create a god in your own image.

There Is only One Word of God, One Truth of Love Made Flesh, One Lamb of God Who Taketh Away The Sins of The World, Our Savior, Jesus The Christ, thus there can only be One Spirit of Perfect Love Between The Father and The Son, Who Proceeds from both The Father and The Son, in The Ordered Communion of Perfect Complementary Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity.
Caritas in Veritate. Veritate in Caritas.

“But yet, the Son of man, when He Cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on Earth?”

The answer of that question is up to each one of us, for Love, is a Gift given freely from the heart; it is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification. Love, which only serves for the Good of one’s beloved, “does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with The Truth.”

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Nancy
on May 20, 2018 at 15:21:05 pm

That should read: Nor would it be accurate to call Islam, a form of Arianism, the last heresy, since the denial of The Unity of The Holy Ghost, is the source of all heresy.

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Nancy
on December 18, 2018 at 03:56:42 am

[…] Taking Religion Seriously (long, very loooong) […]

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On religion (bumper links edition) | The Simple Pastor

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