Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good Evening, Madam Speaker

On the whole, Mr. Bush did not perform especially poorly in his latest State of the Union Address. He said all of the standard cliches, made all the usual promises, and left us knowing little more than we knew before. But that's to be expected given the complexities of leading America and the low level of understanding in the populace. So I can't really fault him. The only thing of substance in the speech was the Health Insurance Tax Exemption, which sounds like a decent idea; probably becomes problematic when you look at the numbers: the money must come from somewhere. What kinda gets me is the President's dogmatic way of speaking, as if what he says is really true. He leaves no room in his rhetoric for the vicissitudes of the real world.

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. We must increase funds for students who struggle - and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children - and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

Could you get any more vague and still be inaccurate?

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America - with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country.

Should I accept that because You said it, Mr. Bush? Do you have any evidence that this indeed harms the interests of our country? Do you have one critical thinking cell left in your brain?

To secure our border, we're doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yah, that'll do it.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border - and that requires a temporary worker program.

Oh, so it won't be enough with the doubling Border Patrol thing?

We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists.

Oh, the joys of ignorant bliss. If we let them apply to Immigration and wait six years after filing a mountain of paperwork for a chance to come to the US for a year, maybe they won't try to sneak in. Come on, Mr. President!

(Notice how he throws in the line about the terrorists. They're his favorite.)

We'll enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers, so there's no excuse left for violating the law.

Just like in the movies.

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.

The melting pot dream of Thomas Paine, Herman Melville and others was essentially discarded in the United States some years back in favor of multiculturalism. Someone apparently forgot to inform our esteemed leader of this. Mr. Bush's concern for the "great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals" is not only anachronistic, however, it it also insulting. To the millions of American who are proud to be Dominican Americans, Chinese Americans, African Americans, Jewish Americans, American Indians, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Latino Americans, Pakistani Americans and so on, the melting pot is not a "great tradition". Bigotry is not a "great tradition". They are not interested in giving up our heritage to start over as assimilated new Americans. They cling to their individual history and ethnic origins, hold sacred their old traditions in their new country.

This country's dedication to freedom has secured for these groups their right to contribute their unique qualities to the broad mosaic of America. Unfortunately, our president fails to recognize and respect these hard-won rights. To Mr. Bush, immigrants must be "Americanized" to be worthy of the title "Americans". The implication that assimilation and Americanization is somehow an evolutionary process; that to be assimilated into the "great tradition" is somehow better than the culture of our ancestors is deeply disturbing. An individual in Mr. Bush's America is not to be accepted for who he or she is as a person, but only as a cog in his "great tradition"-al machine. This platform is not in the spirit of our country's current ideals. Our country's "great tradition" is marred by slavery, civil rights abuse, war, and crime. A speckled past. We can rise above this and learn to respect one another. Let's begin.

Some references on the death of Melting Pot America:

America's Melting Pot Reconsidered

Charles Hirschman. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 9, 1983 (1983), pp. 397-423

The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. (1998)

Melting Pot or Salad Bowl: Some Evidence from U.S. Investments Abroad
Utpal Bhattacharya, Peter Groznika.
EFA 2003 Annual Conference Paper, 2003

Constructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture
Joane Nagel. Social Problems, Vol. 41, No. 1, Special Issue on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America (Feb., 1994), pp. 152-176

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