Sammy’s at It Again

By Garen Yegparian

No–it’s not Sosa; so don’t expect discussion on broken baseball records any time soon. Today it’s Samuel P. Huntington of "clash of civilizations" fame. (Too bad it’s not "Huffington," ’cause "Sammy Huffs Again" would have made a perfect title).

You might recall that about a decade ago–this chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and cofounder of Foreign Policy magazine–made quite a splash with his article heralding future planetary clashes along lines of civilizational cleavages–Islamic–Western–etc. As I recall–that piece appeared in Foreign Affairs. I was pleased then that someone seemed to have a clue amidst the prevailing triumphalism; you remember–"We won the cold war! but we’re really not gonna brag about it–see–’cause that’d be tacky."

However–Huntington seems to have gone off the deep end with his article The Hispanic Challenge–(Foreign Policy–March/April 2004–pp 30-45) a shorter version of his upcoming book Who Are We. In this article–he advocates–to my eye–a throwback to pre-WWII American society.

His central thesis: immigration patterns–particularly Hispanic–(his term) and specifically Mexican–are different today from those of any other period in US history. The numbers–continuity–contiguity of the source country–and former ownership by Mexico of much of the Southwestern US–all create unprecedented conditions. These attenuate the assimilative forces that have in the past sucked immigran’s into the vortex of the English language and Protestant-based (later generically Christian)–melting pot. He says–in polite–scholarly terms–of course "This is America–speak English."n Our compatriots growing up in the 1920s–30s–and 40s all speak of that cursed phrase and associated attitudes that so contributed to the loss of Armenian language usage in our communities.

Huntington fears the creation of a culturally (especially–but not exclusively–linguistically) bifurcated English and Spanish-based country. He cites that this has already happened to varying degrees in Miami–Los Angeles–Hartford–and New York.

In all this–he betrays a blithe disregard for the capitalism-induced decay of "white culture,"* that he says modern white nationalists fear–is being replaced by "black or brown cultures that are intellectually and morally inferior." *

Huntington would have us ignore the human costs of the enforced assimilation of past waves of immigran’s–not to mention the benefits accruing to the US elite. Cheap immigrant labor made many filthy rich. Meanwhile the racist promise of white America caused these immigran’s (largely European) to shed their national identity to perceive themselves as white–thus entitled to privilege over black America. Now that this unsustainible paradigm is gone–millions of people–immigran’s and their descendants–are very identity-confused. I firmly believe this is one of the underlying causes of societal disarray in the US today.

The earliest land-thieves arrived–disenfranchised the indigenous peoples–set up a system–and expected everybody arriving later to play by their rules. Now that the tables are being turned and the globalizing forces unleashed by American elite are coming home to roost–you can hear the whining clear out to Mars. Tough luck!

What Huntington describes–if true–and if implemented in Armenian communities–is beyond the wildest wet dream of even the most chauvinistic Armenian dwelling in the US. This is one reason why it probably behooves us to form alliances with Latino institutions and leadership so that when a bilingual state comes to be–we’re not left out in the cold. It stands to reason that if a non-English language achieves equal status–then others will have to be treated in like fashion. The same argument applies to cultural manifestations–from work ethics to holidays.

On the downside–we should be ready in case a white backlash strikes–as Huntington predicts/advocates. Once again–it would pay to be allied with our far more numerous Latino neighbors.

Food for thought.

* From boxed sidebar on page 41 of article


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