Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, June 10, 1998

Prop 227 Underscored Our Yearning for Common Culture

Oh, well, somebody has to say it. This is what some of us get paid for.

California's overwhelming vote to extinguish bilingual education in most instances underscores the need for a common culture. Without a common culture, you can't have much of a nation. What you end up with is people who can't talk to each other, lack mutual interests and, in the end, may cut each other's throats in the approved Bosnian manner.

Americans are increasingly embarrassed to acknowledge this objective verity - this account of how things actually are, as opposed to how the intellectual establishment decrees they should be.

The intellectual establishment has fashioned, and raised in the marketplace, a new deity we all are supposed to worship. The deity is the Great God Diversity.

Through its various megaphones - the news media, the academy, often the pulpit -- the establishment tells the United States of America that Diversity must be bowed low to in all its manifestations; that we shouldn't repine for the old American identity, which, after all, was fashioned by Dead White Males; who cares about them?

American liberaldom's reading of the raw statistics, and some of its extrapolations from those statistics, are not wholly wrong, heaven knows. There is diversity. It's here: more tongues, more pigmental shades, more, as we now call them, "lifestyles." The future is not cohesion, the future is fragmentation.

The American people, who lag agreeably behind their intellectuals, sense in their hearts the nature of the predicament. The Prop 227 results prove as much. You don't need a vote by the Stanford faculty to figure out that a nation isn't a collection of peoples - it's a people. Multiple traditions can enrich a nation (as have America's) but only by deferring to a tradition that overarches all the rest: in our case, the British tradition.

From the British we got two priceless gifts: (1) liberty under law and (2) language. Californians know we'd better not water down either one.

The shuddering irony here is that encouragement to water down at least the language (and of course the literature) comes chiefly from people with British surnames.

Who loathed Prop 227? The Garcias, the Espinosas? A huge number of these, understanding the necessity of conforming in the great majority of respects to the ways of the dominant culture, wanted their children freed as soon as practicable from mandatory indoctrination in the tongue of the Old Country.

Worshippers of the Great God Diversity, by contrast, disproportionately bear English or European names. They are just so sorry they can't stand it that English language and English literature hurt other people's feelings. Kick these people, they love it.

The author of these unfashionable sentiments tries to position himself between the two schools of thought on immigration. He isn't for eradicating borders; he isn't for barricading them either -- certainly not in the greatest migratory age since the collapse of ancient Rome.

Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery. People come here because it's a great country. Why not just do the best we can under existing circumstances and make our varied newcomers . . . Americans? Not hyphenated Americans, just Americans pure and simple. What's the alternative? A sea of little Bosnias: discrete traditions and languages arrayed against other ones - peacefully at first, violently when peace fails to work.

The Great God Diversity is the Ba'al of our time. He has already got us in big trouble. Many American citizens of Mexican birth are taking up dual citizenship in Mexico -- a literally un-American practice our government should forbid. California's diversity culture has been propelling growing numbers of white Californians to Utah, Nevada and Colorado.

Prop 227 was a partial response to such Bosnia-style provocations. May there be infinitely more such responses. "One nation . . . indivisible" - is there a better language than English in which to say it?

William Murchison is a columnist for Viewpoints.