Just about everyone recognizes the irony of the current immigration debate in America. America is the single country that defines the concept of Cosmopolitan – yet the very people who have benefited from the cosmopolitan nature of our country take to the streets in fear of a more cosmopolitan country. We are, of course, talking about immigration.
There are a variety of conceptions of cosmopolitan – the broadest suggests that all of humanity belongs to a single moral community. This concept would seem to fly in the face of the ideas of nationalism or patriotism – but again, this is America. America is defined by inclusiveness – all cultures, all races, all ethnic groups, and all religions are accepted as a part of the national fabric.
It seems that primitive tribal protectionism rises up to threaten the very idea that formed the tribe. In this case the ‘tribe’ is white America. The arguments reek of irony. A bunch of white guys got together in Europe about five hundred years ago and inadvertently planned the Vasco De Gama era of European ideology export. That era essentially ended in 1948 with the independence of India from British Colonial Rule. Along the way the white folks of Europe colonized the Americas.
In the late 1700’s a bunch of the white folks in colonial North America banded together to form a more perfect union. They wrote a constitution that protected individual liberties from abusive government. Abusive Government at that time meant a white Monarch living in Europe. The brilliance of the more perfect union rested in the idea of equality for all under the law. Race, creed, ethnic group, religion, and even gender would eventually be the cosmopolitan ideal of equality for all. The idea of a shared morality with shared economic relationships was embraced as the most favorable future of humanity.
We note ‘eventually’ because there were a few kinks in the system to be worked out. For instance, the initial result of the development of the United States of America did not immediately grant equality to gender, race, or ethnic group. This level of definition did not occur to the Founding Fathers – cultural class structure was assumed. Was class prejudice so ingrained in the mentality of the brilliant white men who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and The Bill Of Rights that they never imagined their work would lead to the gender, race, and religion challenges? Perhaps – and perhaps they planned for the challenge – knowing that they could not immediately knock down the walls of Jericho.
Individual cities brag about their cosmopolitan nature – Houston, Texas, comes to mind. As one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas of the late 20th Century the people of Houston bragged that people were “immigrating” to their city faster than to any other area. In the case of Houston immigration meant people from around this country moved there for economic opportunity. Houston received a big boost in population in the late 1970’s when a couple of hundred thousand Vietnamese exited their country in fear of their lives – and formed a Vietnamese settlement in Houston. Houston embraced the newcomers and bragged further about the diversity of culture.
The greatest cities in the United States are considered great because of their cultural diversity and shared economic opportunity. These cities brag about their cosmopolitan nature. The great cities of America, New York, Kansas City, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, you name the city – all of them benefited from the migration of people looking for a better life. The United States itself was given birth by the very idea of migratory opportunity.
The greatness of America rests with the cultural diversity of immigrant populations. The very idea of a Constitution was borrowed from European ideals – the first bill of individual rights was the Magna Carta – written in Europe in 1215 C. E. (We use the politically correct C. E. just to aggravate right wing radicals who might read this post).
Everything about America that is considered great and wonderful is the result of the melding of cultural ideals brought here by immigrants. People across this country enjoy Mexican Restaurants – as long as there are no actual Mexicans in the place.