May 15, 2007
A Thought About Our Country
Last night I went in to get measured for a tuxedo for my sister’s wedding. As I’m waiting for one of the ladies to measure me, three guys walked in, paid an installment on something, and walked out. What caught my attention in the first place was that the only English words spoken were by the guy getting married (I assume) to say his name and how much he was paying. Everything else, and the other two guys didn’t stop talking the entire time, was in Spanish. Being able to pick up no more than a few words or an expression here or there, it dawned on me that they could be saying anything and noone else would know. Further, that they knew that noone else could understand what they were saying.
At the same time I’ve been reading a book, Americans No More by Georgie Anne Geyer, describing the fracturing of America, specifically relating it to the “dumbing down” of the naturalization process and the evolution of American society.
My experience at the formalwear store was an obvious example of Geyer’s ideas. Over 99% of the important goings on and discussions in the U.S. are in English. In order to participate in the democratic process, or even to function in America (especially in central Illinois) one must speak English. Whether some piece of paper says that English is the official language or not, the reality is that it is the de facto official language of America. To choose to speak another language at all times other than interacting with the “system” is to voluntarily refuse to become a part of that system. It is, in fact, a rejection of that system and a conscious effort to stay outside of it in favor of the home culture.
This is indicative of what has happened and is happening to American society. The old norms of requiring loyalty and allegiance to the U.S. are gone. In their place is a request to give lip-service to the U.S. while still maintaining a different culture on a day to day basis. This is not limited to immigrants. Everywhere, people are banding together not as Americans, but as *insert group here*-Americans. People are grouping along racial, ethnic, religious, and economic lines for the purpose of making life better for their group to the exclusion of everyone else. These groups expect everyone to cater to their needs for no other reason than because they said so.
This country was founded on individual freedom to live and pursue happiness within the context of the laws. It was founded on the principle that all people are created equal and should be treated equally. What we have instead today is the idea that everyone should be treated differently because they want to be treated differently. It’s really an interesting transformation from the early days when people were afraid of being treated differently and wanted equality. Now, everyone shuns equality because they want to be treated differently. This is facilitated by technology as one can actively seek out like-minded individuals and avoid their physically immediate neighbors.
As a corollary, there is a lack of community among individuals. The idea of banding together as a community to accomplish something, it seems, is becoming anathema. The emphasis is not on how one can benefit society, but how society can benefit them. This naturally leads to individual interaction along the same lines. It is socially acceptable to ask for and expect something in return no matter how trivial the action is. Only a very few people do things solely because it’s the right thing to do. I’m as guilty of it as the next guy, but we are being indoctrinated to act in this “me-first” way as that is all we ever see. This has evolved because some unworthy individuals will abuse the good intentions and ready assistance of others to improve their own situation. Over time, this has bred cynicism which has kept us from lending that help unless we are assured compensation. It’s really pretty sad.