Politics

Multiculturalism in the United States

In the first part of this two-part essay on the anti-multiculturalism movement in Europe and United States, I attempted to carefully note that the backlash against multiculturalism was far more niched against specific groups—the Muslims in Europe and the UK and the Hispanics in the United States.

I did not mean to suggest, however, that there aren’t other groups that are singled out in those cultures. For example, ever since 9/11, Muslim communities in the US have certainly experienced bigotry in their many attempts to purchase buildings or to obtain zoning rights to build mosques. And the historic persecution of the Roma (Gypsies) in Europe recently prompted a strong list of specific recommendations from a European Commission to counter that prejudice.

In the second part of this two-part blog post, I will focus entirely on multiculturalism in the United States.

Historical Tensions Around Foreign-Culture Issues: Irish, Italian, Chinese

America has consistently had tensions around immigration and foreign-culture issues. Ben Franklin complained about the “swarthy” Germans and expressed his fear that Pennsylvania would become a haven for a “stream of their importation” into Pennsylvania. Franklin’s ethnocentrism would eventually match the intensity of prejudice against those of German heritage during World War I and World War II. This, in spite of the fact, Germans, at one time in American history, were the largest reported ancestral group in the United States.

The Irish also experienced extreme prejudice, particularly after their arrival in the United States during the great Irish Famine of the 1840s. They were often stereotyped as “shanty Irish” or “Lace-Curtain Irish”;were consistently harassed as papists; and stereotyped as criminals and paupers as they were in this famous passage from a Chicago Post editorial: “The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses…Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic.” Such prejudice, of course, led to their ostracism from many urban business communities that often put “No-Irish-Need-Apply” signs in their windows. Continue reading

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The Anti-Multiculturalism Movement–Part I

This Blog Post is the first of a two-part article on anti-multiculturalism in Europe and the United States.

Multiculturalism Under Attack

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that multiculturalism is under severe attack throughout many Western countries, including the United States.

UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave an impassioned speech in Munich advocating what he called, “muscular liberalism.” It is a concept deeply troubling to minorities in England, particularly among Muslims.

Cameron’s call for a kind of testosterone-driven toughness on foreigners to assimilate into a homogenized English culture speaks to the fears of many other Europeans that their Caucasian, secular, mono-language base will be diluted by non-Western cultures and values.

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in a 2010 speech, claimed that the attempts at multiculturalism in Germany have, in her words, “utterly failed.” There is no doubt that she was aiming her comments at the 4 million Turkish and Kurdish Muslims in Germany. Continue reading

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The Commodification of America

“Business—that’s easily defined: it’s other people’s money” (Peter Drucker); “The social responsibility of Business is to increase profits” (Milton Friedman); “First amendment never shows why freedom of speech….did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form” (Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission).

There it is folks. The American way: Profits. Corporate free speech. Other people’s money.

There is little doubt that America has become the global symbol for upward mobility, profits, and economic success. But we have also become the global capital of commodification in all of its forms, including prisons, education, health care, and, more cruelly, in our political arenas.

There are few institutional venues in the United States that aren’t, in some way, touched—some would say tainted—by the profit motive. Politicians curry favor with the wealthy who contribute to their campaigns. The health care system continues to be driven by ever increasing profits. The national defense budget has become so entrenched with defense contracts that it would be safe to say that United States Defense is an industry in and of itself.

And some of the top universities are run as corporations with heavy endowments, investments in the stock market, and huge government grants. Not to mention the sports industry that dominates the budgets of many very wealthy universities and colleges throughout the United States. Continue reading

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Poverty in America

  Will You Still Love Me When I'm Broke

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words, we are told, were spoken by Christ and comprise only one of the eight beatitudes.

Some linguists and theologians claim that “poor in spirit” refers to spiritual emptiness, pride, the absence of humility. Others tell us that “poor in spirit” means detachment, a kind of relinquishing of all attachments, earthly and otherwise.

And there are some, I am sure, who would claim that Christ was giving poverty a higher moral status than wealth, a deterrent to a spiritual life, if we are to believe the famous “eye of the needle” passage in which Christ was to have said that it would be easier for a “camel” to pass through “the eye of a needle,” than for a rich man “to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Another teacher of great moral authority, Gandhi, has often been criticized for being an advocate of poverty. Although he tried to rough the caste system up, the iconic photo of the great teacher, at his spinning wheel, has often been interpreted as a symbol of his profound reverence for austerity and the simple life.

The next logical jump for many supporting this philosophy is to view poverty as a way of life freeing humanity from the samsaric wheel of acquisitiveness, materialism, avarice, and greed. Continue reading

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Conservatism, a Liberal’s Take (Part II)

It is one of the beautiful peculiarities of writing, if you do it often enough, that content often unfolds in ways you had not expected.

As I was writing about conservatism, for example, I would discover the need conservatives have for “order”; that they need a chain of command; that a golden-age past looms very large in conservative thinking; that their obsession with “states rights” is an extension of their belief in “rugged individualism”; and that religious conservatives depend heavily on “sacred texts” for their values.

I am still discovering more about conservatives. Continue reading

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Tea Party Patriots, Part II

In my last blog essay, I attempted to unravel the many complaints of the Tea Party followers. Three issues, however, seem to stick in the craw of those who believe in their heart of hearts that America is on the road to self-destruction: (1) The continuing loss of freedom because of big government and what appears to the Tea Party followers as a move towards socialism, the inevitable political paradigm that will only exacerbate that continuing loss of freedom (2) The desire to return to a golden age of a true America (3) The end of Patriotism in America Continue reading

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Tea-Party Patriots (Part I)

Patriotic fervor takes many roads these days. Now there is a new highway entrance for the disgruntled and the angry in America. They are the new-and-allegedly-improved original tea-party patriots of America’s legendary Boston Tea Party.

If there is a bonding message among the Tea Party followers, it is simply that they are not being heard by their politicians.

And their messages are seamless streams of rage that have become the sound-bites of this new generation of discontented: “it’s up to the people to take back the government”; “we rule the government”; “people are fed up with the government that won’t listen to them anymore”; “government crap”; “I just want my government back”; “people should keep as much of their own taxes as possible”; “government should stay out of the car and banking business”; “pull the plug on Wall Street”; “screaming at my tv”; “I had to do something out of frustration”; “they don’t have a clue.” Continue reading

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Health Insurance, a Crapshoot

Nothing in life is certain, as the saying goes, except death and taxes. We live in a world of profound arbitrariness. No one has any control of where they’re going to be born, what kind of parents they’re going to have, and what economic and social status they’re going to born into. We don’t come into our lives with a warranty even if our parents are wealthy and live in the Hamptons. Life, in general, has an arbitrariness that few teleologists are comfortable with.

When it comes to Health Insurance in America, the crapshoot world of arbitrariness becomes even more transparent. If you just happen to be employed by an employer who pays 60% of your premiums, you’re one of the chosen. If your employer pays the deductible, then you’re one among the few. If you just happen to have a health-insurance policy that has dental, you are definitely in a minority, unless you’re willing and can afford to add dental to your basic coverage. And if you can afford a gold-plated policy with all of the medical amenities,including face-lifts, then you are, indeed, among the rich-and-famous.

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Is it Ageism or are Pensioners Really Smug Escapists

In economic hard times and an ever changing economy, older Americans are becoming increasingly paranoid about being let go or bought out by their employers—for the sake of raising the bar, let’s just call it the Willy Loman syndrome

Older full-time employees are often a high needs group in spite of the experience they bring to a workplace. Our salaries are often at the prime-rib level, our equity loans more numerous to pay for children’s colleges, our medical needs more extensive and expensive than they were when we were in our twenties.

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Socialism, Capitalism, Capitalocialism

In the recent controversy over Health Insurance, it occurred to me that I remain an incorrigible  Jekyll-and-Hyde  when it comes to public services. On the one hand, I want my roads to be fixed, my DMV to have short lines, my Social Security Office to answer its phone. On the other hand, I complain every time  an interstate highway toll is increased or when my real estate taxes go up.

In the same way, now that I’m on Medicare, I want to be assured that my doctors (for the most part, specialists required for old birds like me) will give me the same care I had when my private insurance was my primary insurance. As one of the lucky ones who got under the wire because of my age, being born at the right time, and choosing the right career, my drug copays are chump change in contrast to what I would have had to pay out of my pocket—$7,000-a-year—if I didn’t have my private insurance drug plan. Medicare Plan D? No thank you.

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