Friday, September 20, 2013

E Pluribus Bonum

The mantra “We are a nation of immigrants” is repeated endlessly, but this incantation is essentially misleading. The addition of one adjective, “assimilated,” as in, “We are a nation of assimilated immigrants,” would greatly clarify our understanding of American identity. The question then becomes, Assimilated to what? Samuel Huntington argued (correctly) that immigrants have, for the most part, assimilated into the culture, language, and institutions formed by the original settlers who emigrated from the British Isles. Thus, we are a nation of settlers and assimilated immigrants. Two new optimistic books from Encounter grapple with this issue of American identity.

In a long bibliographical essay, the authors of America 3.0 explain that their book is the product of ten years of research into the cultural foundation of America. Building upon co-author James Bennett’s previous work on the Anglosphere, this new book is buttressed by scholarship in archaeology, anthropology, and historical analysis, particularly the work of French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd, English anthropologist-historian Alan Macfarlane, and English historian James Campbell, the foremost modern expert on the Saxons.

“Our American culture today,” Bennett and his co-author, Michael J. Lotus, tell us, “is part of a living and evolving organism, spanning centuries.” At the center of that culture is the American nuclear family. In the American nuclear family (as opposed to the traditional extended family), individuals are free to select their own spouses; grown children leave their parents’ homes and form new households; women enjoy a high degree of freedom compared with those in other cultures; children have no legal right to demand any inheritance from their parents; parents have no legal right to demand support from their adult children; and people have no right to expect help from their relatives.

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