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The Limits of Diversity By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 20, 2002


No doubt we were all relieved last week to discover that the terrorist threat in Florida that mobilized phalanxes of law enforcement and media appears to have been a stupid prank on the part of three Muslim medical students. But the episode bears a closer look for what it reveals about our various cultural pathologies.

How the liberal media feel about the whole episode can be seen in the Jeff Danziger cartoon reprinted in (and hence endorsed by) the Sunday New York Times. Eunice Stone, the alert nurse who called the police when she overheard the three men laughing about 9/11 and hinting at more attacks to come, is depicted by Danziger as an overweight rube, a typical white Southern yahoo terrified by the cultural "other" and prone to saying things like "dint" for "didn't" and "no sirrreee Bob!"

The cartoon's message is clear: the masses of white America — those folks who fly flags, pray, and are easily gulled into voting Republican — are unsophisticated, xenophobic, parochial oafs who lack the sophistication, culture, and tolerance for "diversity" possessed by the liberal elite. The nurse's proper and laudable response — to err on the side of caution rather than gamble with people's lives — is dismissed by Danziger and the Times as the neurotic overreaction of provincials anxiously protecting their blinkered world view from cultural contamination, the same people who will hand over their freedoms to John Ashcroft in return for security.

Class snobbery, of course, has always defined the liberal and progressive ideology. This social elitism accounts for the hypocrisy one constantly sees in liberal intellectuals, whose exquisitely calibrated sensitivity to minority feelings and the glories of what they call "diversity" is matched by their uninhibited crude delight in mocking the values, culture, and pastimes of "white trash," the only ethnic slur still publicly acceptable. Just think back to the glaring difference between Paula Jones's treatment by the pundits and professors and Anita Hill's. A Yale law degree trumps "big hair" any day of the week.

However, the liberal eagerness for respecting "cultural diversity" is more than just snobbish cosmopolitan pretension. It also reflects a noble-savage idealization of the non-Western "other of color" as somehow more authentic and humane and moral than the overfed Western denizens of the crass, "air-conditioned nightmare" of McDonalds, Disneyland, and Wal-Mart. Pick up the Arts section of the New York Times on any given Sunday and it will be filled with various artistic displays of domestic and foreign noble savagery that appeals to slumming Westerners who want to experience vicariously a more "authentic" and passionate lifestyle (as long as they don't have to drink the water).

In the modern period, this ancient Western myth — the Greeks idealized the Thracians, the Romans the Germans — has been married to a two-bit marxiste historical analysis that makes the Third World the victims of Western colonialism and imperialism (now dubbed the "global economic order") seeking to destroy these superior cultures and assimilate them into uptight, neurotic bourgeois paradigms. Now the "other" is not just the noble savage, but also the noble resistor of a soul-killing, pathological, capitalist-corporate hegemony. Such unhistorical claptrap explains how frauds like Edward Said or Rigoberta Menchu could be turned into celebrities among Western intellectuals.

Here in America, this set of attitudes has also had pernicious effects on how we perceive immigrants and how some of them perceive themselves. Most, of course, including Muslims will admit that they come to America because they want to be free and have a chance at material well being. In other words, they believe that America is in key respects superior to the countries they left. Once upon a time, this truth was obvious, and stating it publicly was unexceptional. Many immigrants obviously retained a fondness for the old country and regretted leaving behind some of its ways, but in the final analysis they accepted that their old homes had failed them. They were mature enough to acknowledge that despite those trade-offs, America was now their homes because it had accepted them and given them the sort of chances they never had in the old country. The first thing my Italian grandfather said after returning from a visit to Italy in the fifties was "Thank God for America."

Multicultural idealism, however, has turned the expression of such obvious truths into insensitivity or even racism. While most immigrants these days no doubt are happy and grateful to be Americans, a whole cadre of multicultural tribunes, abetted by the liberal intelligentsia, have endorsed and encouraged a culture of anti-American rudeness on the part of people who are enjoying a freedom and prosperity unthinkable in their countries of origin. Immigrants are encouraged to retain their old ways, indeed to consider them superior to America's, and to expect that our public culture, including the schools, acknowledge and teach and celebrate that superiority. Immigrant intellectuals publicly disparage America in terms that would get them shot in their home countries, earning not shame for monstrous ingratitude and hypocrisy but adulation from masochistic Americans whose own hypocrisy has become a badge of sophistication and tolerance.

The three Muslim men detained in Florida now claim that Eunice Stone is either a liar or delusional. But if she and her son are telling the truth, I can't help but think that this culture of kowtowing to the idealized "other" made it easier for those guys to make such a stupid, tasteless joke, then blow through a toll booth, and then cop an attitude with the police. They should apologize and thank the gods they did this in America, where freedom of speech covers even rudeness and ingratitude.


Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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