It`s The Culture, Stupid!!!
My wife and I just spent a marvelous
week cruising on the
Adriatic with ports of call all along Croatia.
Our motor yacht, Le Monet, a jaunty
Croatian-registered ship, picked us up in Venice and
took us to many of the main points of interest along
that lovely, island-studded coastline, including
Pulu, Split, Hvar, Zadir, and Dubrovnik
No, relax, this is not a travelogue
piece. Constantly, we passengers, about 50 grads of
Oberlin, William and Mary, Case Western and a few
interlopers from other universities, heard stories from
our Croatian guides and crew members about the
1991-2 Yugoslav Civil War. We were horrified and yet
fascinated. These handsome, tall, well-educated
Croatians admitted that
they look just like Serbs. You can`t tell one from
another, said one guide in Zadir—who had returned from
Arkansas just in time to watch the bombs fall in her
neighborhood, killing neighbors and friends. Some of the
evacuated Serbian population had lived before the war
for years in peace next door to her family`s home.
I asked one guide in Dubrovnik why
that historic walled city—not the new one that surrounds
badly shelled during the war. Her response:
"Because if the Serbs couldn`t have it, they didn`t want
us to have it."
Then she amplified: "You see the
thinking is often
like this. If you could make your neighbor blind,
you would be willing to have one of your own eyes put
To paraphrase an
earlier US presidential campaign phrase, "It`s
the culture, stupid."
Look at the same effect in Ireland.
I`ve been to Ireland, both North and South, many times.
I certainly can`t tell an
Ulster Protestant from an
Irish Catholic. But even now, as the violence
diminished, the place still has its upsets.
A more recent example of the
power of culture to divide and destroy: a New
York Times article by Michael Kimmelman,
With Flemish Nationalism on the Rise, Belgium Teeters on
the Edge (August 4th):
"The other morning Damien Thiéry was in the meeting room
of the town hall here, where every month or so, at
public council sessions,
Flemish nationalists harass him.
“The population of this bedroom community outside
Brussels is 84 percent French-speaking. More than a
year ago it picked Mr. Thiéry, a Linkebeek native, as
mayor. But Linkebeek is within the Flemish north, and
the region`s Flemish government has so far declined to
ratify his election.
“Mr. Thiéry is not
So what? Well, Kimmelman continues:
"The German newspaper Die Tageszeitung a few days
ago called Belgium the `most successful
“failed state” of all time.` The Belgian Prime
Minister Yves Leterme offered to resign last month,
saying that the `federal consensus model has reached its
limits,` and that he couldn`t bring harmony to the
country`s Flemish and French-speaking regions, raising
the specter that this nation of 10.4 million
might split up for good."
If this doesn`t speak to the
situation developing in California and other
Southwestern states, I don`t know what does. The mayor
of LA clearly speaks only for Hispanics. The possibility
of whole U.S. sections being subsumed into a
non-functional ethnic ghetto is no longer
far-fetched. In the context of further quotes from
Kimmelman`s New York Times piece, it`s highly
two separate cultures in Belgium,` said Mr. Thiéry,
a sturdy man wearing shirt sleeves on a warm summer day,
clearly exasperated. `It wasn`t this divisive when I
grew up. Protesters shout, “French people get off our
territory” at our meetings. Flemish authorities refuse
to give contracts to our French-speaking schoolteachers;
they give Flemish children here 179 euros a year for
school trips and other expenses, French children, 68
euros. If we want subsidies, we are obliged to stock our
library with 75 percent of the books in Flemish, but
it`s ridiculous to have a Flemish library in a mostly
“Should Flanders ever secede, an independent Flemish
nation that hoped to regain
European Union membership would need to respect
popular elections, including his, he added ruefully.
`Ironic, no?` he said.
“Els Witte is a Belgian historian. At her apartment, up
the street from the headquarters of the European Union
in Brussels, she pondered the
bad marriage of French-speaking Wallonia and
" `A language is a culture,` she said. `In Belgium the
two cultures know very little about each other because
they speak different languages. There are singers known
in one part, not in the other. Television is different,
“Francophones have now come to talk about `linguistic
cleansing.` Flemish, many of them openly resentful of
subsidizing poorer French-speaking compatriots, who for
years lorded it over them economically and otherwise
(unemployment today is three times higher in rust-belt
Wallonia), say the issue is preserving national
Let`s briefly recall that historic
speech former Colorado Governor,
Richard Lamm gave to a DC group of immigration
reform writers in October, 2003 entitled "How to
destroy America". The following is a part
of my account of that speech (which I
heard in person) as
written up by Frosty Wooldridge:
“Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations
rise and fall and that `An autopsy of history would show
that all great nations commit suicide.`"
is how they do it`" Lamm said:
America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and
bi-cultural country. History shows that no nation can
survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or
more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing
for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a
curse for a society to be bilingual.
historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way: “The
histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do
not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and
tragedy.” Canada, Belgium,
Lebanon all face crises of national existence in
which minorities press for autonomy, if not
Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed
an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with
`Invent “multi-culturalism” and encourage immigrants to
maintain their culture. I would make it an article of
belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no
cultural differences. I would make it an article of
faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due
to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every
other explanation is out of bounds.
could make the United States an “Hispanic
Quebec” without much effort. The key is to celebrate
diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz
said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: “The
apparent success of our own multi-ethnic and
multi-cultural experiment might have been achieved not
by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that
once dictated, however ethnocentrically, what it meant
to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and
pluralism to hold us together.`"
said, `I would encourage all immigrants to keep their
own language and culture. I would replace the
melting pot metaphor with the
salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that
we have various cultural sub-groups living in America
reinforcing their differences rather than as Americans,
emphasizing their similarities.`”
We must not let it happen here.
Donald A. Collins [email
him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.