Sunday, June 17, 2018

An American 21st Century Kaleidoscope versus a Civil War?
 Saving the Union is a struggle against pots, bowls,
 and mosaics, between individuality, identity, and
 assimilation, amid unprecedented wealth disparity

I. Introduction

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in the United States two myths were proffered as truths to advance the cause of what we today call "nation building." One was the "melting pot" concept. The other was the "Horatio Alger"story. Neither was inherently false, but as with many myths they were misused to support political viewpoints resulting in a popular misunderstanding of whatever truth they represented.

A "myth" is a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, frequently involving supernatural beings or events. Typically a myth plays a fundamental role in society, frequently a sacred narrative. As noted in Wikipedia:

    Although the term may be used to mean a 'false story' in colloquial speech, myth is commonly used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as anthropology. Use of the term by scholars has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise.

The term "melting pot" first appeared in the January 1, 1875, edition of the magazine The Galaxy in an article "A New Country" by Titus Munson Coan who wrote: "Uniform institutions, ideas, language, the influence of the majority, bring us soon to a similar complexion; the individuality of the immigrant, almost even his traits of race and religion, fuse down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot."

In contrast to Coan's "alembic" which is defined as "a distilling apparatus, now obsolete, consisting of a gourd-shaped container and a cap with a long beak for conveying the products to a receiver," a "kaleidoscope" presents continually changing reflections of 300+ million people all of who have individuality and identity while over multiple generations experiencing assimilation in varying degrees, all as viewed in the moment by the one observer as complex reflections.

It is, of course, the 21st Century; we are in the internet era. The American political scene is as divided today as it was in 1860, just before the Civil War. The underlying cause of today's rancorous division is widespread disillusionment related to those two myths which has led to both fear, disappointment and, in far too many Americans, depression.

We will explore the 19th Century American "melting pot" idea further in this post, along with newer concepts like "salad bowls" and "mosaics." We will take a hard look at the politics of individuality, identity, and assimilation that divide us in the 21st Century. And we will recognize that within the invitation of the Statue of Liberty that says “give me your poor" is a promise not only of freedom but of an open economy.

This cannot be done without a common understanding of certain concepts. So we will begin with, and spend time on, the ideas of culture, history, and the United States of America. At the end we will explain why we need to embrace the idea of a "kaleidoscope" which presents variations in image to every person who looks at America and Americans.


II. "Time" as an emblem for inextricable cultural differences


A child's expanding cognitive abilities can allow him or her to progressively understand the idea of "time" more clearly as follows:
  • Two- and three-year-olds' understanding of time is mainly limited to "now and not now."
  • Four- to six-year-olds can grasp the ideas of past, present, and future if their culture/language includes the concept.
  • Seven- to ten-year-olds can learn to use clocks and calendars if culturally permitted.
But what a child can do is not the same as what they actually do. The understanding of "time" depends on culture.

Some cultures tend to exhibit not so much a relaxed attitude toward time as no attitude at all. The Pirahã tribe of the Amazon appear to have no real concept of time. Their language has no past tense, and everything exists for them only in the present. When they can no longer perceive something, it effectively ceases to exist for them.

The language of the Hopi tribe of Arizona (as well as some other Native American languages) lacks verb tenses, and their language avoids all linear constructions in time. The closest the Hopi language comes to a sense of time are one word meaning “sooner” and another meaning “later”.

Such ancient cultures as Hopi, Incan, Mayan, and other Native American Tribes – plus the Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and others – experience time as a wheel-of-time concept. They regard time as cyclical and quantic, consisting of repeating ages that happen to every being of the Universe between birth and extinction, that are happening between moments of "now" awareness. The Hopi, for instance, appear to have little or no sense of linear time as most of the Western world knows it.

On the other hand, the Islamic and Judeo-Christian world-view regards time as linear and directional, an arrow-of-time,  beginning with the act of creation by God. The traditional Christian view sees time ending, teleologically, with the eschatological end of the present order of things, the "end time." This has created a fixation on "the arrow of time" and a sense of urgency around death.

Another way of looking at a people is time orientation.

Arrow-of-time future-oriented folks tend to run their lives by a clock that in the 21st Century has a second hand or the digital equivalent thereof. Many, if not most, Americans are always looking to the future, striving for the “American Dream”. They values busy-ness, which equates to success, status and importance. Of course those folks have a very short mythological history and are evolving a short attention span.

Wheel-of-time (and some arrow-of-time) past-immersed folks have a long point of view that diminishes the scale of minutes or even a days, measurements that become insignificant and inconsequential. This is a more laid back look at time. It is not unusual for trains in India to be several hours, or even a full day, late, without creating undue stress and turmoil. Of course those folks have thousands of years of mythological history behind them.

The known radical differences in cultures led Canadian researchers Joseph Henrich, Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan to publish a paper The weirdest people in the world? the abstract of which explains:

    Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers – often implicitly – assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species – frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. [Note: the use of the capitalized word "Democratic"as a part of the acronym and is not reflective of any partisan affiliation - these writers are Canadian.]

None of this has anything to do with the debate over multiculturalism, of course. Just because two peoples have no common perception of time shouldn't result in confusion or hostility in communications, right?

Or could it be the very reason some 21st Century Americans cling to the "melting pot" concept? Are they discovering that the "melting pot" defies a demand to blend significant differences, as those 19th Century Americans who coined the term understood. For instance, Buddhism and Christianity cannot be blended without one group losing their core beliefs.

Regardless of which school of Buddhism you belong, pursuant to philosophical and myth-filled texts you observe moral precepts, renounce craving and attachment, practice meditation (including calm and insight), and cultivate wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion either to achieve Nirvana or help other beings reach awakening.

None of that involves anything resembling an all-powerful Christian God - who our one nation is under and who is part of some trinity that demands our completely loyalty, and maybe our good behavior, or we won't be allowed to join our dead good relatives and Jesus in some heaven.

In other words, at its core every culture has its own view of existence including such things as "time." Most importantly, each culture has its own myths which frequently begin with an assertion that our (people are chosen) (our god is the one true)....

You see, "multiculturalism"is one of those terms. You know, words that have no meaning because they have a dozen different meanings, usually political, or even a different meaning for every person who uses the term. As indicated in the Online Etymology Dictionary entry to the right, it isn't even some old scholarly term.

The best way to understand "multiculturalism" is to begin by understanding "interculturalism" as explained by Wikipedia:

    Interculturalism refers to support for cross-cultural dialogue and challenging self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures.
    Interculturalism has arisen in response to criticisms of existing policies of multiculturalism, such as criticisms that such policies had failed to create inclusion of different cultures within society, but instead have divided society by legitimizing segregated separate communities that have isolated themselves and accentuated their specificity. It is based on the recognition of both differences and similarities between cultures. It has addressed the risk of the creation of absolute relativism within postmodernity and in multiculturalism.

Absolute relativism has pervaded American discourse in the 21st Century, first gaining support from multiculturalists and faculty in our universities, then smilingly picked up by the Trump people as a means of destroying any sense of Union among cultures. When you embrace multiculturalism you must begin by embracing the idea that there is no one truth, no common view of reality. Even "time" has no common meaning. There are my facts, your facts, and Donald Trump's facts and all are valid.

Per Wikipedia:

    Relativism is the idea that views are relative to differences in perception and consideration. There is no universal, objective truth according to relativism; rather each point of view has its own truth.

Suffice it to say that many different cultures exist. And we know that as an "ism", as an ideology, multiculturalism is a big thing in 21st Century  politics. As noted by Wikipedia:

    Multiculturalism that promotes maintaining the distinctiveness of multiple cultures is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a "salad bowl" and "cultural mosaic" in contrast to a melting pot.
    Two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies have developed through different government policies and strategies. The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures; this approach is also often known as interculturalism. The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness which can sometimes result in intercultural competition over jobs among other things and may lead to ethnic conflict. Controversy surrounding the issue of cultural isolation includes the ghettoization of a culture within a nation and the protection of the cultural attributes of an area or nation. Proponents of government policies often claim that artificial, government guided protections also contribute to global cultural diversity. The second approach to multiculturalist policy making maintains that they avoid presenting any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural community values as central.

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway, the multicultural controversy is significant in the 21st Century. Predictably, in 2016 it blew up in the faces of career politicians in the United States and Great Britain and anger against multiculturalism is expanding in Europe. Consider this:

    “What if we were wrong? Maybe we pushed too far, maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe," said Barack Obama quoted after reading a column on the 2016 election for Donald Trump asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. - from The New York Times

Unfortunately, that New York Times article includes a misuse of two terms.

First there is the adjective "cosmopolitan" which when used in the context of an ideology is really "cosmopolitanism" which "has come to stand for peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence."

Second the term "globalism" is used in the context of "globalization" which is "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology, nominally beginning with the steamship and the telegraph in the early to mid-1800s."

The column titled "The Myth of Cosmopolitanism" that depressed Obama when he read it presents for serious consideration what the writer calls "elite tribalism" by supposed "insiders."

    The people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan” in today’s West, by contrast, are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity, by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call “global citizens.”
    This species is racially diverse (within limits) and eager to assimilate the fun-seeming bits of foreign cultures — food, a touch of exotic spirituality. But no less than Brexit-voting Cornish villagers, our global citizens think and act as members of a tribe.
    They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home.

At least that New York Times columnist did not use the misnomer "empty cosmopolitan globalism" though the the New York Times article mentioning the column does. What the columnist does make clear is that he knows there is a cultural difference between the Trump-voting Deplorables and "global citizens" whomever they may be.

What Obama concluded after reading the column was wrong, however. It simply isn't true that "maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe" because about 60% of Americans have never abandoned their tribal view of "time" and other formative experiences, no matter where they live. And more than half of them and their descendants are not going to abandoned their tribal view in the next decade or century.

Not discussed by any of these writers is American post-WWII cosmopolitanist globalization seeking "peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence" from "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology."

Particularly as the aging soldiers, sailors, and aircraft crew members of the American Armed Forces who actually fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam die, Americans seem to have forgotten just how significant "peace and harmony among nations" becomes when it is replaced by war. 

And all ignore the 250 years of failed American "nation building" based on mythology that underlies the the long tradition of the white populism of the nationalists and nativists that in 2016 Trump used politically. And that mythology does not mean the myth of young future slave-owner George Washington chopping down a cherry tree to emphasize the importance of not lying as we shall discuss next.

III. The Old Nation-Building Myths of America

America's white European "Melting Pot"

    Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resembles those of a dominant group. The term is used to refer to both individuals and groups; the latter case can refer to a range of social groups, including ethnic minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups such as sexual minorities who adapt to being culturally dominated by another societal group. - Wikipedia

Most think the American "melting pot" term is essentially a synonym for "cultural assimilation" as broadly described above "including ethnic minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups." Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you look around the web you will see references to the writings in 1782 of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur as sort of a starting point. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you also will learn that Titus Munson Coan 93 years later actually used the term in an 1875 magazine article. And you will discover that the term really only entered popular culture 125 years after Crevecoeur's starting point, because of a 1908 play The Melting Pot written by Israel Zangwill. Let's explore that history, recognizing the context of "nation building" that surrounds it.

Beyond government, people need an identity that stimulates a sense of belonging and loyalty. In 18th Century in the 13 Colonies many who were feeling separate from Europe worried about that. But some saw a solution evolving.

A migrant to the New World from France, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782), wrote:

    ...Whence came all these people? They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes....
    What, then, is the American, this new man? He is either an European or the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds....
    The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared.

His "finest systems of population" was that described by George Washington in his Farewell Address:

    With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.

But Crevecoeur's "people" who, according to Washington had "with slight shades of difference...the same religion, manners, habits and political principles" at no time were all the persons living with the States. To begin with, there was this reality...

...on which the red color indicates a substantial population brought forcibly from Africa, who were not English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, or Swedes. No slave believed in Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population" concept. Then consider this map...

...which indicates the location of indigenous populations of North America, including a substantial population in what we now know as the United States and Canada estimated to have been between 9.8 to 12.3 million, people that not only were not included in the Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population" but were to be reduced to 490,000± in the largest government endorsed genocide in the history of the World.

And there is this map...

...emphasizing land which at different times, for aggressive economic purposes, the United States obtained...
  1. by purchase from Spain and France and 
  2. through war with Mexico and indigenous peoples,
...about 70% of which was the recognized Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain at the time of the formation of the United States. Through purchase and war the dominate white European population expanded the United States entrapping, among others, people with an indigenous heritage some of whom spoke Spanish and who were not included in Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population".

The idea of "nation-building," which up to the mid-20th Century in the United States was a fuzzy conceit, is offered in the graphic at the left.

Prior to the 17th Century, conceptually "nation" meant "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history." In 1789 in the former colonies about to embark on creating the United States, there was no "considerable history" during which a common language and culture evolved. Nor was there anyone discussing "nation-building."

The term "nation-building" gained acceptance among American political scientists a decade or so after World War II. As noted in Wikipedia: "Traditionally, there has been some confusion between the use of the term nation-building and that of state-building (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in North America)."

Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state which began in the United States. Nation builders use government programs such as required schooling using content designed to create a sense of a nation. Other tactics range from military conscription to major infrastructure development. Nation-building includes the creation of national paraphernalia such as flags, anthems, national days, national stadiums, and national airlines.

Most importantly national myths are needed to overcome psychological resistance to identifying with what one may perceive as an "other too different" within your state. Crevecoeur's American, "an European or the descendant of an European...from all over Europe", needed to evolve to include freed slaves, Native Americans, people speaking Spanish, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.

The "melting pot" myth was created to solve all the language, ethnic, racial, and religious "differences" stuff, right??? Wrong!

In the January 1, 1875, edition of the magazine The Galaxy, the term "melting pot" first appeared in print in an article "A New Country" by Titus Munson Coan (Coan's parents were missionaries in Hawaii when he was born which was reflected in an 1877 article "On Being Born Away from Home"). Frequently when Coan's "melting pot" is mentioned, no expanded context is provided. To give a sense of his thoughts when he wrote "A New Country", the first paragraph from that text and the paragraph containing the term "melting pot" are offered below:

    What is a new country? Perhaps we need not inquire too closely, since I admit that these United States are the country in question at present. Nor would I pretend to offer a cavil-proof definition; I would only premise that the real newness of a community is not to be measured mainly by its age in years, nor, as Malthus points out, by the number or even the density of its population. It is rather the ratio of the population to its available means of support that has to do, for good and evil, with its complete development, that brings into play in civilized communities the competitions, the vices, and the virtues which make up the complex character of a modern society. Redundance of population is thus a relative thing; it is not a question merely of the census returns, of thousands or millions of people, but also of the amount of subsistence that is easily available.
    People say that the American character is unformed; and it is a fashion with some to say that there is no American character as yet. I do not think so; the national type seems to me quite as definite as most others. Like any other, the American character is of course undergoing constant change and development, for growth has no fixed limits in its processes, and we speak roughly when we speak of its stages. But our character seems to me to have gained its features. No nation of equal size was ever developed so rapidly. The fusing process goes on as in a blast-furnace; one generation, a single year even, transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American. Uniform institutions, ideas, language, the influence of the majority, bring us soon to a similar complexion; the individuality of the immigrant, almost even his traits of race and religion, fuse down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot. The resulting character seems to me a definite alloy; and its homogeneity is a guaranty that the nation is to remain one as long as the Federal Government shall retain the least efficiency. It is hard to see what cause of civil war should arise among a people so homogeneous in language, customs, and ideas as ourselves. We are one as no other great nation of Christendom is; and it seems unlikely that domestic quarrels, as about tariffs, or in this late age any discussion between Catholic and Protestant, should become bitter enough to bring about any secession wars. Predictions are dangerous, but what is there for us to quarrel about, unless a dictator should try to make himself our king some day?

So, the guy who first offered up "melting pot" was impressed that it "transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American" who as "Catholic and Protestant" won't fight because "the individuality of the immigrant" is fused "down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot."

His "melting pot" was successful within the confines of the same folks identified by Crevecoeur about 100 years earlier as "a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes" who Washington described as "with slight shades of difference...have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles."

However, Coan's piece was written after the approval of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War, which permits Spanish-speaking brown folks to remain in the United States entitling them "to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction."

Also, Coan's piece was written after the Civil War when the slaves were freed and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted which begins: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

These two legal documents seemingly would have encouraged Coan to make some gain on the Crevecoeur/Washington "white's only" club. But the deaths from, and settlement of, the two major 19th Century wars, didn't mean adding color to the "melting pot." So the "melting pot" was for white folks, of Northwest European descent.

Oh, and just to be clear how wrong Coan's thinking was, it was considered no small achievement in 1960 that an Irish Catholic could be elected President. In his failure to acknowledge the depth of the animosity between Protestant England and Catholic Ireland, Coan erred in including the Irish who in his time period were suffering severe discrimination, an error he probably made because he was raised in Hawaii and when he came back to the mainland the Irish looked like white Europeans.

But in all fairness, we must acknowledge the "melting pot" didn't gain traction in the popular culture until the beginning of the 20th Century, as explained in Wikipedia:

    In The Melting Pot (1908), Israel Zangwill combined a romantic denouement with an utopian celebration of complete cultural intermixing. The play was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in New York City. The play's immigrant protagonist David Quixano, a Russian Jew, falls in love with Vera, a fellow Russian immigrant who is Christian. Vera is an idealistic settlement house worker and David is a composer struggling to create an "American symphony" to celebrate his adopted homeland. Together they manage to overcome the old world animosities that threaten to separate them. But then David discovers that Vera is the daughter of the Tsarist officer who directed the pogrom that forced him to flee Russia. Horrified, he breaks up with her, betraying his belief in the possibility of transcending religious and ethnic animosities. However, unlike Shakespeare's tragedy, there is a happy ending. At the end of the play the lovers are reconciled.
Reunited with Vera and watching the setting sun gilding the Statue of Liberty, David Quixano has a prophetic vision: "It is the Fires of God round His Crucible. There she lies, the great Melting-Pot—Listen! Can't you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth, the harbor where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight". David foresees how the American melting pot will make the nation's immigrants transcend their old animosities and differences and will fuse them into one people: "Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God. Ah, Vera, what is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!" 

And so there it is. In America's mythic "melting pot" two white Europeans, Russian immigrants, one a Jew the other a Christian, not only can learn to tolerate each other, they can intermarry. And they can celebrate it by admiring the Statue of Liberty which has that plaque which says:

    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries sheWith silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, is perfectly placed to be welcoming ships coming from the Atlantic, presumably from Europe and presumably full of white Europeans.

In the United States, the "Hispanic" peoples mostly have an indigenous ancestry - their ancestors were living on the American Continent before it was known to Europeans as the American Continent. To make matters worse, they speak a European language that is not English and were doing so 100 years before the Pilgrims made a big deal of a rock in Plymouth, MA.

The black peoples share an African slave ancestry and an evolved culture created from within their communities. To make matters worse from the point of view of many white people who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the ancestors of the black peoples were the reason there was a Civil War in which a million or so Americans die according to American liberals today.

Native American peoples come from groups that were officially the target of genocide by the United States government created by the Europeans. It is through that genocide, and its logical extension the Mexican-American War, that most of the United States, the Union, is not like Mexico which has a population of people with an indigenous heritage.

Asian peoples speak languages that have not derived from, nor borrowed from, either Roman Latin or the the Germanic languages. And no knowledgeable person would ever think that Buddhism and Christianity are similar enough to be "melted" just because we call them religions.

Because these peoples haven't "melted", a new generation has created the "salad bowl" myth to replace the "melting pot" because we so very badly seem to want to be a "nation" with some kind of bounded container whatever that means. We will come back to the problem of defining the word "nation" after taking up the myth known as the "Horatio Alger story."

The myth of the Gilded Age - the Horatio Alger story

    The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. - Wikipedia

Horatio Alger was a prolific 19th-century American writer, best known for his many young adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. His writings were characterized by the "rags-to-riches" narrative, which had a formative effect on America during the Gilded Age.

Alger is considered by some to have been the biggest American media star of his day. In the nineteenth-century the sale of 10,000 volumes was deemed a publishing triumph. Readers bought at least 200 million copies of Alger's books, placing him in the Stephen King category.

Alger's "rags to riches" stories popularized and perpetuated the American "land of opportunity" myth that anyone could work hard and become rich, a "self made man". But it was a myth that not too subtlety reflected the truth.  Often it is not hard work that rescues the boy from his fate but rather some extraordinary act. This brings the boy—and his plight—to the attention of a wealthy individual who using his wealth would give the boy an opportunity - an act of charity.

This myth was important to the general population at the end of the 19th Century because the United States was becoming more corporate and industrialized while "the West" offered less of a relief valve. Lost was the dream about which Virginia Governor John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, noted in 1774 that Americans "for ever imagine the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled" adding that, "if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west". At the time, he was conducting a war between the Colony of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo American Indian nations known as Lord Dunmore's War which resulted from escalating violence between British colonists who were exploring and moving into land south of the Ohio River (modern West Virginia, Southwestern Pennsylvania and Kentucky), and the American Indians who held treaty rights to hunt there.

Simply, it had become harder for people to control their own fates. At the beginning of the 20th Century, in recognition of reality President Teddy Roosevelt took on the corporations in "trust busting" crusades.

Wikipedia notes that in the Gilded Age...

    The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, turnout was very high and national elections saw two evenly matched parties. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education, and ethnic or racial groups), and economic (tariffs and money supply).
    The term "Gilded Age" for the period of economic boom after the American Civil War up to the turn of the century was applied to the era by historians in the 1920s, who took the term from one of Mark Twain's lesser known novels, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). The book (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner) satirized the promised 'golden age' after the Civil War, portrayed as an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding of economic expansion. In the 1920s and 30s "Gilded Age" became a designated period in American history. The term was adopted by literary and cultural critics .... For them, "Gilded Age" was a pejorative term used to describe a time of materialistic excesses combined with extreme poverty.
    From 1860 to 1900, the wealthiest 2% of American households owned more than a third of the nation's wealth, while the top 10% owned roughly three fourths of it. The bottom 40% had no wealth at all. In terms of property, the wealthiest 1% owned 51%, while the bottom 44% claimed 1.1%. Historian Howard Zinn argues that this disparity along with precarious working and living conditions for the working classes prompted the rise of populist, anarchist, and socialist movements. French economist Thomas Piketty notes that economists during this time, such as Willford I. King, were concerned that the United States was becoming increasingly in-egalitarian to the point of becoming like old Europe, and "further and further away from its original pioneering ideal."
    There was a significant human cost attached to this period of economic growth, as American industry had the highest rate of accidents in the world. In 1889, railroads employed 704,000 men, of whom 20,000 were injured and 1,972 were killed on the job. The U.S. was also the only industrial power to have no workman's compensation program in place to support injured workers.

Any of that sound familiar? If you think it sounds like today, consider this. The Gilded Age was a period of economic growth as the United States jumped to the lead in industrialization ahead of Britain. Engineering colleges were established to feed the enormous demand for expertise. Railroads invented modern management systematizing the roles of middle managers and set up explicit career tracks. They hired young men ages 18–21 and promoted them internally. Career tracks were invented for skilled blue-collar jobs and for white-collar managers, starting in railroads and expanding into finance, manufacturing, and trade. Together with rapid growth of small business, a new middle class was rapidly growing, especially in northern cities. The United States became a world leader in applied technology. From 1860 to 1890, 500,000 patents were issued for new inventions—over ten times the number issued in the previous seventy years.

Numerous young men experienced a "Horatio Alger" rise in financial circumstances to the level of upper middle class lending credence to the myth. But as noted this economic growth failed too many Americans.

The Horatio Alger myth is simply that - a myth, a dream, an American dream. And so long as the employed can see themselves as a middle class, it is an easy myth to perpetuate in an expanding economy. But as the world has hand to learn over and over again, the existence of a willing workforce does not guarantee a rising economy.

The Great Depression of the 1930's began with a recession in August 1929 including two months of a declining GDP, but it was the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 that signaled the beginning of a decade of bank failures, high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging farm incomes and, perhaps most importantly, lost opportunities for personal advancement.

The Depression caused major political changes in America as 27% of the population belonged to families with no regular full-time wage earner and 1% were homeless people migrating around the country. New York social workers reported that 25% of all schoolchildren were malnourished. In the mining counties of West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, the proportion of malnourished children reached as high as 90%. The myth began to sour and politics changed. Fortunately, WWII created new opportunities...well, perhaps not so fortunately for the 70,000,000 to 85,000,000 people who were killed as war raged across their lands...but fortunate for those United States citizens who didn't have a war fought across their lands or didn't have to fight on anyone else's lands.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, the American Dream was filled with increasing expectations until The Great Recession. While The Great Recession beginning in late 2007 did not represent an economic collapse as significant as The Great Depression, Wikipedia notes:

    In 2013 the Census Bureau defined poverty rate decreased to roughly 14.5% of the population. As late as 2014, and early 2015, a majority of Americans still believed that the nation remained in a recession. Such perceptions have been cited as a partial factor in the rise of Donald Trump as presidential candidate in 2016, and later the 45th President of the United States.

Some argue that in 2018 we have achieved a full recovery. In fact health issues including the oxy epidemic and a rising number of suicides remain partly as symptoms of what was an acceleration of an economic dislocation resulting from layoffs and plant (or facility) closings associated with economic restructuring. We see stories like 'The Coasts Pulling Away': 10 Years Since Recession, Thriving Cities Leave Others Behind which reflect the divisions. In 2018 "the economy, stupid" is the political mantra in large geographic areas of the United States.

IV. A More Perfect Union, Not Country, Nation, Or State

One cannot understand the range of emotions experienced, and related opinions held, by Americans without having an awareness of the world of the men we call the Founding Fathers of the United States. Particularly, we need to understand the language they spoke, the meaning of the words they used. Late 18th Century Colonial English might seem to resemble the language of 21st Century America, but it is not the same language. 

Political disinformation in the United States for 230 years has created confusion about certain words important to an understanding about what was new and different in the world after the Revolutionary War.

Key to the confusion is the American jumbling together of words that once had truly different definitions and implications - country, nation, state, and union.

For purposes of clarity and simplicity, as used here from this point on the following words have specific meanings based upon pre-17th Century concepts:
  • "Country" means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."
  • "Nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."
  • "State" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries."
  • "Union" means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."
Using those definitions, the Cherokee Nation is a nation. Italy is a country and a state. Japan is a country, a state, and a nation. The United States of America is none of these. It is a union of states.

It's not a country - here's why

Again, "country" as will be used here means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."

As explained in Wikipedia:

    In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the indefinite article – "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a synonym for state, or a former sovereign state, in the sense of sovereign territory or "district, native land"....
    The equivalent terms in French and other Romance languages (pays and variants) have not carried the process of being identified with political sovereign states as far as the English "country".... In many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the German Bundesländer, as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that are officially recognised at some level, and are either natural regions, like the Pays de Bray, or reflect old political or economic entities, like the Pays de la Loire.
    A version of "country" can be found in the modern French language as contrée, based on the word cuntrée in Old French, that is used similarly to the word "pays" to define non-state regions, but can also be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The modern Italian contrada is a word with its meaning varying locally, but usually meaning a ward or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.

For purposes of sharing an understanding of the political world as understood by our Founding Fathers, here is a map of Europe at the time of the creation of the United States of America:

Fundamentally, Europe was divided into constantly warring empires with shifting boundaries. While topographical conditions may have slowed some conquests, our concept of "country" did not set boundaries for kingdoms and empires which are "states" by our definitions. And that was an attitude that Europeans brought to the Americas and which has resulted in a blurring of the terms "country" and "state."

As can be seen on the map below, North America is a large geographic area with significant topographical conditions:
Click on image to see a larger version!

If a people whose only mode of transportation on land is walking "discover" such a geographic area and through walking logically divide it into more than one division without intent, it is reasonable to assume that the dominate shape for divisions would most likely be in a north-to-south direction,  more or less. And indeed, the result of an actual natural migration produced this map:

Further some predominantly English-speaking Europeans came along and, initially struggling just to survive, began to occupy a land bounded by topography:

But these folks were Europeans used to warring empires with shifting boundaries not constrained by topography. So over the next 150 years in defiance of the idea of a topographically-defined "country" they and their descendants drew some lines dividing that continental topography in illogical ways...

... and, more irrationally, even further like this:

To summarize, the United States is not a "country" defined by obvious topographical extremes. Even the oceans did not stop it from including Hawaii as one of the internal "state" governments even though it is 2,500 miles from the American Continent. In fact, the Rocky Mountains were known as the Continental Divide but even that didn't suggest creating separate "countries" based on topography. The United States is not a country as we define it.

It's not a nation - here's why

As it will be used here "nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history." And it is this map that indicates a division of the North  American Continent by "nations" of indigenous peoples...

As already discussed, the American "melting pot" did not include those indigenous North American nations, African slaves and their descendants, and the indigenous Spanish speaking residents of lands purchased or conquered by the United States. Not only that, the United States encouraged immigration from around the world, such as from China to build the Transcontinental Railroad, resulting in these maps today...

...which makes it very clear that the United States is not a "nation" by our definition as "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."

As a reminder, we have explored the historical fact that the term "melting pot" was a concept to encourage immigrant "English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes" who back home in Europe constantly fought wars with each other to form an English-speaking culture. Had anyone before 1920 suggested adding other races, they would have been met with incredulous laughter.

So it is a perfectly logical outcome of this history that emotionally for many within the United States "nationalism" means only white English-speaking nationalism. But that doesn't reflect the population born and living here.

Again the United States is not a "nation."

It is not a state but rather a union - here's why

As it will be used here "state" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries." Given the definitions accepted here, most would want to say the United States is a "state."

Except, of course, within the defined geographical boundary that is the United States pursuant to Constitutional law there are 50+ "state" governments which independently exercise the legitimate use of force within defined internal geographical boundaries. There is nothing confusing about the wording of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So the United States is not even a "state" in the our use of the word (for this discussion entering into the arguments over the so-called "implied powers" is not relevant). Rather, it is a "union" which means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority." The following is the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (emphasis added):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

And here is where the confusion exists. In that document, the Constitution of the United States, a "Union" was formed. That "Union" meant "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."

The existing real states jointly assigned the Union the limited authority to use a very few of their powers and functions while retaining the vast balance of powers of a state to themselves.

Americans seem to be confused about that. Perhaps that is because political history is not something we think is as important as, say, how to use technology to see cat videos to make us laugh. But sometimes we need to consider the concept of a "union" in the context of the American Revolution and Constitution which happened in the last quarter of the 17th Century. It literally was all the latest in government.

"Founding Father" Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 which meant that even our oldest Founding Father had a clear understanding of the then new, cool British concept of a "union." That is because over the first two years of Franklin's life the concept of a political "union" was formalized during the process of creating Great Britain which most Americans probably think was created by the Romans at the time Jesus was alive.

Wikipedia provides a brief insight into what we frequently shorten to Britain:

    The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, Great Britain itself entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
    Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.
    In 1997, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, in the form of a devolved unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, having authority over many areas of domestic policy....

In a different Wikipedia entry we can also learn:

    The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".
    The Acts took effect on 1 May 1707. On this date, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London, the home of the English Parliament. Hence, the Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments. On the Union, the historian Simon Schama said "What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world ... it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history."

It might surprise many that within the Constitution of the United States the term "country" never appears. The term "nation" appears only in reference to "Commerce with foreign Nations" and to "punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations." The term "state" does appear, but always in reference to the proposed union of 13 states - you know, the real states per our definition which was the definition understood by Benjamin Franklin and the other Founding Fathers.

On the other hand, besides in the preamble quoted above, the term "union" is used as follows:
  • New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union...
    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union...
  • Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...
  • To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union...
In the lifetime of the "Founding Fathers" prior to the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was clearly understood to be newly created as a "union" which was a revolutionary acknowledgement of a political idea. Because of the words used in the Constitution, it would be fair to say that the United States was created as a "union" of somewhat diverse states, where "state" clearly referenced 13 central civil governments that exercised the legitimate use of force within 13 defined geographical boundaries. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as for the Founding Fathers a "union" was a new and improved concept of political organization.

And is it surprising that the winning army in the Civil War was the Union Army? Was not the Union Army a land force that fought to keep and preserve the Union of the collective states? Did you never wonder why they called it the "Union" army?

In fact throughout the 19th Century, the Union was known as "these United States" which is a plural designation meaning more than one state. Titus Munson Coan in his 1875 article "A New Country" discussed above in which he coined the term "Melting Pot" uses "these United States are" a decade after the end of the Civil War.

Linguist Mark Liberman in When did the Supreme Court make us an 'is'? noted that contrary to one of his previous posts indicating the change to "the United States is" may have been made after the Civil War, he learned that Minor Myers of the Brooklyn Law School prepared a study Supreme Court Usage and the Making of an 'Is' which examined the use of the phrases “United States is” and “United States are” in opinions of the United States Supreme Court from 1790 to 1919 and determined that the plural usage was the predominant usage in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s and did not disappear until the 1920's.

As one comment speculated it is likely the plural persisted "at least through Reconstruction, and I'm afraid it hasn't entirely disappeared in some quarters."

No it it hasn't disappeared, and sometimes the use of the plural in the 21st Century creates a political buzz. For example, on Thursday, April 25, 2013, speaking at the dedication of the George W. Bush Library,  then President Barack Obama asked God to bless "these United States."

Don't dismiss this as if it were Bush fumbling a speech. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years. In his 2013 inaugural address he closed with "Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America." Obama understand that those who drafted the Constitution never intended that the Union be other than "these states." When he says that Constitutional Law professor Obama knows full well that it is "these states" that make up the Union.

Again, the singular usage "the United States is" did not become the "common" form until after World War I when it became obvious that the Union functioned as an "is" in a complex international scene where people could kill each other in the millions based on their "is-ness."

What we need to understand is "these United States" is a union of "states" created solely for purposes of a common military defense and assuring economic success, not regulate mundane issues such as who can have sex with whom. That's one reason why in 1792 Americans insisted on leaving establishing government churches to the real states.


V. A More Perfect Union as a 21st Century Kaleidoscope

After the 21st Century Gilded Age economy collapses

As Titus Munson Coan noted in his 1877 article that first referenced the melting pot, the amount of subsistence that is easily available is a major determiner of good and evil in civilized communities.

Subsistence broadly means "the action or fact of maintaining or supporting oneself at a minimum level." Originally it referred to the minimal resources that are necessary for survival, such as water, food, clothing, and shelter. Today the term is broader including such things as transportation and communications. For instance, it could be asserted that having a "smart phone" is critical to subsistence in 21st Century America though it is not necessary to have an internet service account of your own in many locations because of available open wireless.

In the 21st Century Gilded Age in which we live, such subsistence as Coan described is available for the relatively poor at Walmart where they can buy imported goods.  But, as "alarmist" economists have noted, American subsistence is built upon a structure of world trade and immigrant labor. The Trump Administration is seeking to destabilize both those foundations of our economy, policies Trump promised to those who elected him - a significant portion of whom are the relatively close to subsistence level.

Because of the TV game show The Apprentice he produced and hosted from 2003 to 2015, Trump himself had become the symbol of this new American Gilded Age. Prior to that TV show, Trump's style of business was to take high risks using corporations and when it doesn't work out file for bankruptcy. It is a style that, as of the corporate tax cut, is being used to manage the U.S. economy. The problem is, the U.S. can't simply file bankruptcy avoiding obligations to everyone owed money and start over again when the economy collapses.

Unfortunately, for the most part Americans are completely unaware of The Long Depression of 1873–96 which coincided with the original Gilded Age and only have a vague awareness of The Great Depression of 1929-1941.

No recession of the post-World War II era has come anywhere near the depth of the Great Depression.  The 2008 Great Recession did not reach near that depth because of governmental actions taken by the outgoing Bush Administration and the incoming Obama Administration.

But the actions of those two Administrations were consistent with WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) understandings of a late 20th Century economy. Those in the Bush and Obama Administrations were led by those WEIRD type of people Trump and his supporters hate.

Because of the nature of the global economy, what happens after the next collapse could become an global economic catastrophe because of a domino effect. Except....

In contrast to the United States, the rest of the world's leading economies have been systematically acting to minimize the impact of the next recession - reducing government debt, for instance. And the one benefit of having to adapt to the antics of the United States in the global economy will be less economic reliance on the U.S. which could substantially reduce the domino effect, if there is enough time. (Sometimes we forget that for those who make political and economic policy in other countries, what we think of as the antics of Donald Trump are effectively the antics of the United States.)

Since WWII the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (both created as a result of the Bretton Woods Conference) have evolved a system to provide for a stable international currency should the U.S. dollar become problematic in a U.S. banking system collapse. Further, on its own and through such international institutions China could act to stabilize the economies in the Indo-Pacific region.

The risk is that the U.S. will find itself in a box similar to that of 1923 Wiemar Germany - far too much debt to be repaid without devaluing the American dollar potentially leading to hyperinflation.

Of course, in the digital age initially it won't be as obvious as when Germans had to take baskets of money with them to shop for food.

The critical issue for the United States is that once the new Gilded Age collapses, a much broader swath of the American population will be struggling in a 21st Century subsistence level economic box than those who suffered from The Great Recession. And they likely will be doing so without the psychological underpinnings of the mythology that that allowed the American Dream to survive The Great Depression.

Outwardly, it does appear that the Trump Administration is pushing hard to put as many policies in place as fast as possible to accelerate an economic collapse. Those who a paranoid might even believe it has something to do with the historical fact that within an economic collapse it is easier to persuade people to accept totalitarian government.

It would be wise, then, to consider pushing for a new Union mythology.

A Kaleidoscope of Individuality and Achievement

As noted in the beginning of this post, the use of the words myth or mythology carries no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise. What we are about to posit is that "individuality" and "achievement" are the myths that remain strong across the Union at the beginning of the 21st Century.

But first let's take a very careful look at visual representations of the existing myths regarding cultural assimilation or integration.

Notice that all these involve boundaries. The American melting pot puts everyone in a...pot! The new salad bowl version puts everyone in a...salad bowl! And the Canadian mosaic puts everyone into various cultural blocks. In each case, these are visible "boxes" that hide or even melt the individual, boxes which are to be viewed in the same way by every viewer.

At this point we should take another look at our American 21st Century Kaleidoscope. Note that it begins with blocks of color placed intermixed in rings. As the viewer adjusts the kaleidoscope to create a view with some detail, gradually those blocks of colors turn into reflections of individual human faces. This representation is how we see individuals in real life, through our own personal kaleidoscope, a narrow obscured view, distorted by mirrors. But we can recognize those images as individuals with whom we share a Union.

For Americans, the reality, the norm, is for each of us to believe in our own individuality, that particular aggregate of qualities that distinguishes one person from another. We are taught to embrace our individuality.

As children we grow up discovering that much of the time others see their world that as blurs of color with only broad boundaries, which hides individuality. And when people find a moment to notice there are differences, the world they see looks little blocks of color with no real identifying characteristics other than shades of color.

Individuality is not easily seen, particularly in an America arguing over the traditional myth of the melting pot versus identity politics which all too frequently places the group ahead of the individual. Let's repeat that for emphasis - which all to frequently places the group ahead of the individual. And let's take a "for instance" look.

Perhaps one of the most complex cultural issues in the world is the marriage partnership which every state in the world regulates with laws. And it is a source of conflict.

Polygamy is legal in 58 out of nearly 200 sovereign states, the vast majority of them being Muslim-majority countries situated in Africa and Asia. But the form is polygyny, or men with multiple wives, not polyandry, or women with multiple husbands. The latter is illegal in virtually every state in the world. Same sex unions, whether marriage, civil unions, or cohabitation, are illegal in all of those Muslim states.

Indonesia, which is not in the Middle East being some 5,000 miles from Mecca, is the largest predominantly Muslim country in the world. In the Indonesian Province of Aceh, and for Muslims in the city of Palembang, homosexuality is illegal under Islamic Sharia law, and punishable by flogging. Currently, Indonesia does not recognize same-sex marriage.

In July 2015, the Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister stated that same-sex marriage is unacceptable in Indonesia, because strongly held religious norms speak strongly against it. He offered a very cultural explanation. The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights, which means that human rights along with LGBT rights are very fragile.

It raises a significant question for those advocates of multiculturalism. If communities of Indonesian immigrants are created within our Union of states, should polygyny be legally recognized? Can bakeries in such communities refuse to sell cookies to LGBT couples, much less refuse to create special wedding cakes?

Consider your answer in the context of the salad bowl and mosaic images. If your answer to both questions is "no" then are you a“blind” liberal reflection of a particular culture, imposing your beliefs on others? You simply cannot have a 225-year-old "Union" or even its member states force on a different culture the abandonment of beliefs established over a millennium and pretend you believe in diversity.

And that summarizes the dispute - an emphasis on social harmony that requires performance of duties in conformance to the preferences of a culture rather emphasis on individual rights which leads to  individuality.

The American 21st Century Kaleidoscope focuses on reflective images of individuality. Yes, our Constitution assures the right of individuals to practice a religion, but it prohibits the imposition of religious beliefs on individuals. If "individuality" means being free to distinguish yourself from others, then no religion can be permitted to impose its practices and beliefs on those individuals who choose not to embrace its beliefs.

Our Union mythology also guarantees every individual "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" (Declaration of Independence).

With that said, when Americans finally take the time to focus the kaleidoscope sufficiently to see the faces of the individuals, it is likely they will see individuals pursuing happiness through achievement.

What might be unclear to many is whether a guarantee of the right to pursue happiness by successful achievement through individual effort come with a Horatio Alger myth caveat - that the successful achievement depend upon the patronage of a wealthy individual or corporation.

But "achievement" as most frequently used in American scholarly writings is a psychological term frequently associated with a human need for security, reward, and recognition. It is here we have allowed one of our myths to lose its meaning by containerizing it into corporate management structures.

Earlier we discussed the term "WEIRD" (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) which was coined in a study of psychological studies. What the researchers noticed is that most of the broadly accepted scholarly psychological studies - and resulting findings - were limited to study subjects who were clearly WEIRD. After exploring alternatives, the findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans.

At the core of most of the discussion about the "needs" driving human behavior comes from  Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs."  Let's just let Wikipedia tell us about that:

    Maslow studied what he called the master race of people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that "the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy." Maslow studied the healthiest 1% of the college student population.
    Maslow's theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. The hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and secondary and higher psychology instruction. 

What this says simply is that everything you know about the psychology of needs, particularly as it relates to business and economics, begins with an assertion that could only be described as the remarkably unrivaled bigotry of the WEIRD. Your knowledge of psychology applies to every European-culture-oriented, college educated person who was born and raised in a rich industrialized democracy at-least-second-generation and who suffers from no neurosis or psychosis.

And yet we have to recognize Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the myth it has become explaining a social phenomenon, which means it's not inherently false. In fact, it has become a "huge" mythology supported by a volume of books and articles that would rival the Ancient Royal Library of Alexandria.

So let's dismiss now any thought of psychology theory when we talk about "achievement" as an American myth. In our discussion, we will limit the term "achieve" to "an individual carrying out a task successfully."

That more than one person is involved does not diminish the achievement, but if any person feels imposed upon, then success does not mean achievement for that person. "Achievement" must be understood in the context of "individuality" being expressed in the pursuit of happiness as understood in 1776 as "prosperity, thriving, wellbeing."

At the same time, "achievement" as a myth cannot include fulfillment of an inordinate or insatiable longing for excess, meaning exceeding the normal bounds. In this myth, greed is not good.

In theory, at least, our Union will not permit a systematic distortion of the economy to the benefit of some over others. The promise of the the right to the pursuit of happiness cannot begin with a system that guarantees someone's pursuit of happiness will be a waste of time.

When you focus The American 21st Century Kaleidoscope, what can be seen is a mythic reflection of individuality and achievement. Unfortunately, it exists in a world that seeks to keep people locked in groups.

VI. A Second Civil War Between Groups

As noted at the beginning, the American political scene is as divided today as it was in 1860, just before the Civil War.
  • We can divide people into tribes, ethnicities, and races. So we do.
  • We can group people into cultures and religions. So we do.
  • We can divide people into geographic groups such as Mississippians and Californians. So we do.
  • We can consider any person "not of our group" as "the other." So we do. 
  • And when we fail as individuals to achieve happiness, we can blame "the other." And so we do.
For many in the Silent Generation who fought for tolerance and justice, who believe in the "individuality" and "achievement" myths, it is curious how we got to this point.

Nothing in the 21st Century news media offers a hint that in the United States of 1971 Americans were watching with strong emotional commitment the following:

Keep in mind this is a commercial - an ad intended to sell a popular product to all Americans - seemingly a corporate commitment to tolerance towards "the other." It advocates interculturalism and an economic shift to globalism. But these words do not threaten individuality and achievement:

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land
(That's the song I hear)

In late 1993 TIME magazine produced a special issue:

By James R. Gaines
Thursday, Dec. 02, 1993
    The woman on the cover of this special issue of Time does not exist -- except metaphysically. Her beguiling if mysterious visage is the product of a computer process called morphing -- as in metamorphosis, a striking alteration in structure or appearance. When the editors were looking for a way to dramatize the impact of interethnic marriage, which has increased dramatically in the U.S. during the latest wave of immigration, they turned to morphing to create the kind of offspring that might result from seven men and seven women of various ethnic and racial backgrounds.
    The task fell to Time imaging specialist Kin Wah Lam, who went to work on computerized photos of 14 models selected by Time's assistant picture editor Jay Colton. Aided and abetted by our issue's design directors, Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser, Lam spent more than 65 hours on the computer, using a complicated formula to produce the various combinations of offspring. The result is the fascinating chart on pages 66 and 67. Time makes no claim to scientific accuracy (although the process is described in more detail in the text accompanying the chart) but presents Lam's chimerical results in the spirit of fun and experiment.
    The highlight of this exercise in cybergenesis was the creation of the woman on our cover, selected as a symbol of the future, multiethnic face of America. A combination of the racial and ethnic features of the women used to produce the chart, she is: 15% Anglo-Saxon, 17.5% Middle Eastern, 17.5% African, 7.5% Asian, 35% Southern European and 7.5% Hispanic. Little did we know what we had wrought. As onlookers watched the image of our new Eve begin to appear on the computer screen, several staff members promptly fell in love. Said one: "It really breaks my heart that she doesn't exist." We sympathize with our lovelorn colleagues, but even technology has its limits. This is a love that must forever remain unrequited.

Pico Iyer [Siddharth Pico Raghavan Iyer], a British-born American novelist and essayist for TIME since 1986, who also publishes regularly in Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications, wrote the optimistic essay piece for the edition entitled "The Global Village Finally Arrives." However, he did offer a caution followed immediately by a paragraph that he likely would not write today:

    The dangers this internationalism presents are evident: not for nothing did the Tower of Babel collapse. As national borders fall, tribal alliances, and new manmade divisions, rise up, and the world learns every day terrible new meanings of the word Balkanization. And while some places are wired for international transmission, others (think of Iran or North Korea or Burma) remain as isolated as ever, widening the gap between the haves and the have- nots, or what Alvin Toffler has called the "fast" and the "slow" worlds. Tokyo has more telephones than the whole continent of Africa.
    Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, the "transnational" future is upon us: as Kenichi Ohmae, the international economist, suggests with his talk of a "borderless economy," capitalism's allegiances are to products, not places. "Capital is now global," Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor, has said, pointing out that when an Iowan buys a Pontiac from General Motors, 60% of his money goes to South Korea, Japan, West Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, Britain and Barbados. Culturally we are being re-formed daily by the cadences of world music and world fiction: where the great Canadian writers of an older generation had names like Frye and Davies and Laurence, now they are called Ondaatje and Mistry and Skvorecky.

The pictures to the left were not taken in 1971 or 1993. They were taken in Michigan at a Trump rally held this month, June 2018. They would not provide some good examples of the racial mixing suggested by the 1993 TIME special issue. And they certainly do not bring to mind the spirit of the 1971 Coke ad.

The America that Donald Trump "tapped into" is a living, breathing representation of Pico's caution that "tribal alliances, and new manmade divisions, rise up, and the world learns every day terrible new meanings of the word Balkanization."

Pico's "transnational" future is under attack in the United States and in the Atlantic-Mediterranean regions - particularly in Europe and the United States East of the Rockies.

The problem is the progress made from 1932 to 1972 was completely undermined by Conservative economic policy. As in the original Gilded Age, today the rich are getting richer. But unlike in the original Gilded Age the Middle Class clearly is undergoing erosion. Naturally this creates anger among working folks.

The Coke ad represents "interculturalism" while the TIME cover represents "assimilation." And both give some insight into why many of us in the Silent Generation (people who were born between 1925 and 1945 and now are over age 70) struggle with the current political tensions. We were ages 26-46 when the Coke ad appeared. We were 48-68 when the TIME cover appeared. Many of us believe both represent the desired truth. The Coke ad tells us how we must handle immigration and the TIME issue tells us that over time intermarriage will occur, absent institutionalized bigotry.

And both acknowledge the inevitability of "globalization" which, as noted earlier, is "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology" which "has come to stand for peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence."

Americans must dismiss both our old mythologies and multiculturalism. The 21st Century American must embrace an American mythology of individuality and achievement in the context of the pursuit of happiness. To fail to do so could allow the divisions in the Union rise to the level of a Civil War.

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