Mulligan Stew v. Pseudo-Smorgasbord

Today [April 9, 2008] one of my sons commented that this is Hispanic Heritage Month. He’s noticed that there seems to be only a select few “heritages” that get a month, and ask me if there was an “Asian Heritage Month”.  I explained that since Asian-Americans as a group tend to have higher than average income and manage to get into the better colleges in greater proportion than their percentage of the population, they tend to be ignored as a cultural group. Jews seem to have the same problem. Their success is deemed a disqualifier for recognition of their contributions to the history of the nation. It makes no sense why their culture, heritage and contributions would be any less than other groups simply because they have a better comprehension of how to utilize the opportunities available to all Americans, but that is how some feel they should be treated. What is observed during Jewish-American Heritage Month (May) is holocaust awareness, important, but hardly the sum total of Jewish heritage or contributions to American society. So why observe only some or part of some heritages? The cruelty of condescension masquerading as charity

Dick Gregory commented in his biography about one of his more painful memories as a child.

There was shame in going to the Worthy Boys Annual Christmas Dinner for you and your kind, because everybody knew what a worthy boy was. Why couldn’t they just call it the Boys Annual Dinner, why’d they have to give it a name? There was shame in wearing the brown and orange and white plaid mackinaw the welfare gave to 3,000 boys. Why’d it have to be the same for everybody so when you walked down the street the people could see you were on relief?

It seems obvious that if Heritage Months are handed out to only those cultural groups Liberals feel are “oppressed” then it isn’t really an honor as much as a condescending trinket that serves the ultimate purpose of making some people feel more smug about themselves for giving the “unfortunate” and few pennies, rather than stopping to see what they actually need. What they don’t need is for their heritage to be treated as some pitiful thing to be gushed over as someone would ooh and ah at a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing.

What it boils down to are the two views of American culture and society.

For a long time most Americans saw our nation as a melting pot. Immigrants would come, expecting to blend into the culture at large, but also adding to the overall distinctiveness of our culture. Gennaro Lombardi came to America from Italy. He learned our language and adopted our way of living, but, he contributed to our culture. In the early part of the 20th century he started selling one of his favorite foods he’d enjoyed in Italy. It was so well liked, he expanded and others began making it too. Lombardi introduced pizza to America, and it’s now become almost a national icon. But pizza remains pizza, so the melting pot imagery is not all that accurate.

A mulligan stew is a dish made from whatever is handy. The ingredients vary depending on what’s available. A good cook can make a mulligan stew taste pretty good. I’ve tried my hand at it myself a few times. It’s a fun exercise for anyone who feels they have the culinary talent.

The Mulligan Stew approach sees people as ingredients, flavoring the over all culture. Each contributing culture adds their own flavor to produce a result that brings out the best of all those contributing. If part of the culture an immigrant brings with them is good enough, it saturates the whole, just as Lombardi’s pizza is now an inextricable part of American culture. Our letters are Roman, our numbers are Arabic, our weekdays are Norse. Our breakfasts are African (cous-cous, Americanized as Cream-of-Wheat), Scottish (oatmeal, which used to be called porridge). Our other meals have origins that span the globe. Even our language is a collection of the most useful words we could find from every culture imaginable. (That’s why English tends to be one of the hardest languages to learn, the patterns are so inconsistent). Our music combines the best of Europe as well as Africa. The marriage of classical music and jazz brought about the songs we still listen to from the 60s, 70s and 80s. But it all—food, music, language, everything—flows together to make a versatile, thriving culture of its own.

But some time back some people decided they didn’t like that idea. They didn’t want to be open to accepting change from other cultures. They wanted walls, boundaries, fences to keep other cultures from “polluting” what they felt was their own. They believed America should be more like a smorgasbord, where each dish was kept separate, served separate and eaten separate. They envisioned an America full of cultural bubbles, each clearly separated from others. To make that concept more palatable they called it “multiculturalism” to pretend it was open to all cultures and hide the reality that its purpose was to maintain the separation of cultures. The problem is, the result is actually not a true smorgasbord, but only the illusion of one. As cultural bubbles are created and boundaries enforced, the choice that is the key element of a smorgasbord vanishes.

Now we see the result of the division caused by the “multiculturalism” mindset. As they created cultural bubbles, they then began to punish those that wouldn’t go along. The reason Asians and Jews thrive? They blend, while maintaining enough of a cultural distinctiveness to be able to offer the benefits of it to the population at large. But that’s not good “multiculturalism”. Bubbles can’t blend. And so we have no Asian Heritage month or Jewish Heritage Month that actually acknowledge all of Jewish heritage.

Our battle with insane immigration policies and enforcement is a result of the conflict of cultural views. Since illegal immigrants rarely join the culture at large, the “multiculturalists” see them as no threat. But the rest of us see a segregated group that is robbed of the best of what America has to offer, because it’s become too easy for them to sneak in than enter legally. The legal route encourages blending, the illegal route discourages it. So is there any wonder Liberals are so opposed to enforcement of laws against illegal immigration?

We only thought we won the fight to end segregation, but the segregationists simply changed its name—to multiculturalism.

(Repost from April 2008)