Should America be multicultural, or should immigrants be made to assimilate? Neil Cavuto asked the question on Fox News, and he was just one of many asking a variation of it during a year rocked by terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
The answer, however, is both multiculturalism and assimilation. There is no contradiction between the two ideals, and in America’s case, the two ideals are linked. The United States is a multicultural country, and immigrants here should be made to be tolerant of our multiculturalism.
Cliches may be cliched, but they can also be true. We are a nation of immigrants. Ninety-nine percent of us have ancestors who came here from somewhere else. To this land, they brought their food, customs, culture, and heritage, and it came together to make a new culture—American culture.
Salman Rushdie, the prolific novelist who is of British citizenship, Indian heritage, and who lives in America, has experience adopting new cultures while also sharing aspects of Indian culture in his books. He also knows a thing or two about the terrors caused by people who aren’t tolerant of the cultural expressions of others—as he was put on terrorists’ hit lists for having written The Satanic Verses. This is what a character in his book The Ground Beneath Her Feet had to say about American culture:
I want to be in America, America where everyone’s like me, because everyone comes from somewhere else. All those histories, persecutions, massacres, piracies, slaveries; all those secret ceremonies, hanged witches, weeping wooden virgins and horned unyielding gods; all that yearning, hope, greed, excess, the whole lot adding up to a fabulous noisy historyless self-inventing citizenry of jumbles and confusions; all those variform manglings of English adding up to the livingest English in the world; and above everything else, the smuggled-in music. The drums of Africa that once beat out messages across a giant landscape in which even the trees made music, for example when they absorbed water after a drought, listen and you’ll hear them, yikitaka yikitaka yikitak. The Polish dances, the Italian weddings, the zorba-zithering Greeks.