Assimilating Immigrants Requires Teaching Them New Values

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The president recently paid a visit to the heartland of America . He was trying to jazz up a portion of his base by advising that the key to assimilating immigrants is to make sure that they learn American values and culture. That's how immigrants had assimilated in the past. What's puzzling, though, is how immigrant parents and communities figured out that process without a father-figure like President Bush to counsel them on how to get ahead in America . That was then, this is now. American values have changed much since our immigrant ancestors came here for a new life.

People used to come here because packing up and risking crossing the ocean meant a chance at a better life for themselves and their kids. For many, staying put meant being subject to a life of political and economic tyranny. For others, the chance of drowning at sea was more remote than the chance of being beaten and possibly killed in the country in which they were born. That's not to say that when they got here natives didn't harass and occasionally kill them. But a rapidly industrializing country, trying to compete in what was then a globalizing economy, was in need of a plentiful and cheap labor force. The immigrants stuck together, helped each other, and contributed to the industrial growth of the United States . Wherever they came from, they made sure that their kids became 'Americans.'

But the standards were different back then. To 'become American,' today's immigrant class has to adopt values and standards completely alien to those of our immigrant ancestors. In order to be good Americans, they will have to learn American history from the perspective of the last five years. To be like most Americans, they will have to accept that the world has changed since 2001. Even the English they learn, if any, will reflect this reality of the post-911 world. The language structure they accumulate will have to support the values and standards that will define them as real Americans in this changed 21st Century.

It used to be that if you worked hard, sacrificed and saved, and served the economic needs of your fellow man, you could expect that, regardless how bad life was in the Old Country, you were much better off here than there. Because you sacrificed, it meant a better life for your children. They in turn learned the lesson of sacrifice and passed on a better life to their kids, and so on.

Now, to be a good American, you have to borrow, mortgage, and monetize not only your future, but your children's as well. Since this has been a collective effort for so long, the debts racked up to maintain a lifestyle unimaginable to past immigrants, and one beyond what's even reasonable to live better than your parents and still within your means, every dollar earned by all our children and grandchildren will buy less and less. Today's values demand that instead of working and sacrificing for the future, the future is sacrificed for the now.

Americans have always claimed to have a respect for life and the worth of the individual. Now, life exists at the behest of the American state, as do individuals. Life really only has value when put into the service of the state to do the state's bidding. Life abroad is expendable if the American state determines that doing so makes people here safer and more secure. Immigrants will need to teach that to their children if they want them to grow up to be good Americans with strong values.

Private property used to be sacred in this country. A man's home used to be his castle, even a sod hut alone on the prairie. In a complex and diverse society, such selfish and individual notions as ownership might jeopardize the survival of the community and the state it serves. The democratic process and when necessary, unitary executive action, are more suited to deciding how property should be used in a dangerous world. A community cannot trust those with inadequate information, such as individual property owners, to make decisions that might compromise the security and safety of all.

Limited government with accountability for those in office used to be a value held dear by Americans of a past era. No longer. Imperial rule, subject to inspiration and direction from God, exercised through a strong executive and a compliant legislative, is a more efficient and expedient way to run a country in a dangerous world. Loyalty to the flag, the state, and the leadership is unquestionable. This nation is no longer a nation of laws, or even of men, but of God. Even though God now rules America , men are still called to carry out his commandments. Questioning or criticizing their judgment or the laws they give us is not smart. Soon, God would allow evil to once again strike at the heart of America as punishment.

Finally, there was a time when Americans enjoyed a vast amount of economic freedom and competitive markets. They could produce whatever they wanted, sell it for whatever price they desired, trade freely, move about the country to follow opportunity and avoid the greedy hand of the state, sell their labor services freely, and keep all of what they earned except what they needed to pay those with whom they were freely exchanging. Americans of today value fascism. Americans of today want the state to tax what they earn and give them nothing in return; they want the state to make sure economic exchange is 'fair' in every market that exists; they want the state to spy on everyone so they feel secure; they want the state to tell them what to eat, how to raise their kids, and what to think.

American values have changed, and if we want new immigrants to be assimilated properly, they are going to have to learn the new values. We cannot trust the immigrants of today to make these important decisions on their own because that would compromise part of our new values. Just trust our leadership to pray for guidance on how best to solve this problem and then blindly support whatever they do. It's now what defines us as Americans.

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Columns on STR: 40

Harry Goslin lives in eastern Arizona.