Wrong message on assimilation
In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, many are asking how someone who came to America at the age of 9, attended some of our best schools, captained the wrestling team, went to the prom and became a citizen could have inflicted such a devastating attack on our society. The emerging evidence suggests that part of the answer is that no one in the past decade taught Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to love America— or at least did a very poor job of it.
But we know one thing for sure: He wasn't taught that assimilation into American society was desirable. What I experienced as a young Cuban coming to this country in the early 1970s is that we no longer teach patriotic assimilation. By that I mean love of country, not just its creature comforts.
We teach the opposite — that we're all groups living cheek by jowl with one another, all with different advantages and legal class protection statuses, but not really all part of the same national fabric. In other words, we teach multiculturalism and diversity.
If Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan, are guilty of the acts of terrorism because they succumbed to Islamist radicalism, then they are monsters who are personally responsible for turning against the land that welcomed them.
But as we grapple now with the thorny question of immigration, we could do worse than look at the affairs in Boston for a clue on whether our current approach works.
First let's look at the brothers Tsarnaev. For a hint on their motivation, we have no less an authority than their uncle Ruslan. Asked why his nephews had bombed the Boston Marathon, he replied with the now famous line, “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves; these are the only reasons I can imagine of.”
In other words, failure to assimilate provided the fertile ground that allowed the bad seed of radical Islamism to take root. We didn't just get lazy and stop teaching immigrants (and natives) to love America; we decided to stop and made assimilation a dirty word that connoted coercion and loss of ancestral culture. This despite all the evidence that assimilation, as preached and practiced since the nation's founding, was not coercive nor did it demand an end to St. Patrick's Day parades or love of Italian cooking.
Over the past few days, many people pondering the question of how the Tsarnaevs could have acted the way they did have discounted that lack of assimilation could be the case, emphasizing that the brothers Tsarnaev lived in Cambridge, “one of the most diverse and inclusive places in America.”
The problem is indeed with an “inclusive” approach that considers it wrong to teach love of a country so generous that it takes in two foreigners from a far-away land, gives them refuge, welcomes them in and gives them a free education.
To have done so might have precluded the radical brainwashing that led to the bombing.
Mike Gonzalez is vice president of communications for The Heritage Foundation.
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