July 6, 2012

THE GRACEFUL AMERICAN NARRATIVE:

The powerful pull of assimilation (Juliette Kayyem, 7/06/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The uniqueness of our American identity is that it is, above all, contagious. While critics of immigration are quick to claim that new arrivals "don't want to be American" or "are weakening our common identity," Tufts political scientist Deborah Schildkraut's new book, Americanism in the Twenty-First Century, finds something much more benign, even graceful, in the American narrative. A nationwide survey validated a fact that is rather obvious to most Americans: Immigrants and those born in the country share similar views of what it means to be an American.

Regarding those great American notions of economic and political freedom, there is barely a distinction. Better still, Schildkraut told me, "This is not just about rights, but also about obligations and being engaged through this notion of civic republicanism." Immigrants and those born here believe in giving as much as they do in taking.

Schildkraut's book eviscerates misconceptions about a struggle for America's soul, fears that have lingered since our independence. Benjamin Franklin lamented an influx of Germans into colonial life. Present policy debates aside, the fear of America's identity being overwhelmed has affected a broad range of groups: the Irish Catholics in the 1840s; the Chinese in the 1880s; the Japanese in the 1940s.



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Posted by at July 6, 2012 5:12 AM
  

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