Democracy Symposium: Cantamos los Estados Unidos

Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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54 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    Rather predictably I’m going to ask if the erosion of ties is sufficiently a bad thing that liberalism should somehow be contained.Report

  2. I rather enjoyed this post, and not just because I’ve been thinking along similar lines of late.Report

  3. This is an absolutely fantastic post.Report

  4. James Vonder Haar says:

    The difference between the traditions that are indispensable for common ground and those that can be thrown off in the name of freedom in my experience generally comes down to whether one’s own freedom is the freedom being restrained by the tradition.

    More importantly, I think this analysis buys a little too much into pluralism’s PR. It isn’t universal, and it’s not the absence of tradition, it is a tradition unto itself, and therein lies it’s strength. The civic commitment to allowing as many different ways of life and modes of flourishing to fully participate in civic, cultural, and commercial life can do all the heavy lifting in producing democratic consensus. Our choice is not between parohiLism that binds and universalism that dissolves, but between one tradition that needlessly robs minorities of the ability to live their lives as they see fit and one that allows the widest latitude for individual freedom.Report

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    The worst kind of rootless cosmopolitan is one with dark skin.Report

  6. Pat Cahalan says:

    Now I don’t need to write a post for the symposium.Report

  7. Kazzy says:

    “Ours is a country that’s admired not only as a land of economic opportunity, but also as a nation where pluralism has pride of place. At its best, America is a country that celebrates difference (of all sorts) as part of the national identity binding us together. In other words, our national core is a bridge from the parochial to the cosmopolitan. To be American is to partake in a particular tradition, but it is not a fixed or static stream. Ours is as fluid and changing as it is inclusive. Whatever else we are, we Americans are all voices in “the varied carols” that Whitman heard when he heard America singing.”

    While I appreciate the sentiment expressed here, it is hard to accept as a widespread truth when many of us greeted our first African-American President with accusations of not actually being American.Report

  8. b-psycho says:

    This has a TON I did not realize about Univision and soccer coverage. Never would’ve thought it’d be like that. Well, except for the fine women, which I know about from years of occasionally flipping to the channel* just to see them dating back to when I first started thinking like that…

    On a more serious note though, the ethnic pride/solidarity part can easily backfire into something way more harmful than cheering. Lots of blood has been spilled over such already throughout history, and I can’t help but at least flinch at the concept, even though I’ve come to see it as both inevitable and in some hands an adaptive social defense mechanism (to translate that: when others use their ethnicity as excuse to run you over, many come to respond with such ethnic pride out of reaction as opposed to more individualized reply). It’s understandable why this attitude exists, but I question whether its balance of social utility can ever decisively remain positive.

    (* – Sometimes even now I have friends who’ll send me links to YouTube clips of Spanish-language TV w/ attractive Latinas. Even weather reports.)Report

  9. Tom Van Dyke says:

    As long as “multiculturalism” sticks with holidays, food and football, viva la difference. otherwise, it’s poisonous to a polity, as our friends the Dutch have learned the hard way.

    Multiculturalism has failed: Verhagen

    Tuesday 15 February 2011

    Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen on Monday said the multicultural society has failed. He was speaking during the recording of tv show Nova College Tour, reports the Algemeen Dagblad.

    Verhagen told the programme the Dutch no longer feel at home in their own country and immigrants are not entirely happy here either.

    The minister wants the Dutch to be prouder of their country like people in the US where they first say they are American and then where they originally come from, says the paper.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      I wish the people who complained about “multiculturalism” would be at least slightly specific about what it is, whether or not it is being implemented and to what degree, and what its effects are. In Europe, multiculturalism mostly seems to mean “allowing Muslims and other brown people to move to Europe.”Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Don Zeko says:

        “The minister wants the Dutch to be prouder of their country like people in the US where they first say they are American and then where they originally come from, says the paper.”

        E pluribus unum, baby.

        As for Europe’s problems, the problems of culture are not racial, hence cannot be nuked with the charge of “racism,” The “brown people” riff. Not any longer, anyway.

        “Democracy” is a means, not an end. Palestinians suffer because their culture sucks, not their form of government. Egypt will be Egypt regardless of what kind of government they come up with, although sharia could make it a lot tougher on, well, you know who.

        Steyn on liberals and democracy, if not “kliberal democracy”:

        In the “most tolerant nation in Europe,” there’s still plenty of tolerance. What won’t the Dutch tolerate? In 2006, the justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, suggested there would be nothing wrong with sharia if a majority of Dutch people voted in favor of it — as, indeed, they’re doing very enthusiastically in Egypt and other polities blessed by the Arab Spring. Mr. Donner’s previous response to “Islamic radicalism” was (as the author recalls in the pages ahead) to propose a new blasphemy law for the Netherlands.

        But a few weeks back Mijnheer Donner started singing a different tune. No more Sharia and Islamic blasphemy laws. Instead, “the Dutch Interior Minister is sounding an awful lot like Geert Wilders”:

        The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.

        A new integration bill (covering letter and 15-page action plan), which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads: “The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society…”

        The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, “it is not the government’s job to integrate immigrants.” The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.

        If necessary, the government will introduce extra measures to allow the removal of residence permits from immigrants who fail their integration course…Report

        • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          your entire comment is meaningless once you understand that there certainly is racism in Europe. in fact there is a bit of a history of that kind of thing in Europe. you might have heard about bigotry in europe, it was in all the papers for a while.Report

        • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Palestinians suffer because their culture sucks, not their form of government.

          …the extent to which a neighboring government acting as occupying force restricts their everyday lives has absolutely nothing to do with it?Report

    • b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Whenever appeals are made by people slamming “multiculturalism” to melting into a common culture, the next comment should be “how much?”.

      There is a point where the complaint reaches absurdity: “You, immigrant! Why are you not just like me yet!?”.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

        Actually, we need more diversity in our immigrant pool! More Hindus, fewer Christians, for one. 😉Report

      • Morat20 in reply to b-psycho says:

        My (first generation German immigrant, elderly) relative once complained loudly about a pair of people speaking Spanish in the mall.

        She complained in German, to her sister — also a first generation immigrant.

        Obviously those kids speaking Spanish knew no English, and were up to no good.

        Slamming multiculturalism is nothing new. It just used to be flat out “hating whatever the immigrant of the decade” was. The Irish had their turn as whipping boys, the Germans did as well. Mexicans are getting it now.

        It’s frankly the refuge of whiny old farts, in spirit if not in flesh, who hate when anything changes — even if it’s adding a strange foreign food to the menu at their local resteraunt.

        “Damn you, Multiculuralism!” they cry “Now they’re serving breakfast tacos with my kolaches and donuts!”Report

  10. Peter says:

    My favorite Univision joke: if you didn’t know any better, and just watched the women on the network, you would assume that Mexico is part of Scandinavia.Report

  11. BlaiseP says:

    Heh. You’re completely missing the meaning of “uno de los nuestros”. In street Spanish, it means a gangster, specifically it’s a reference to the movie Goodfellas.Report

    • I’m bilingual. This isn’t true.Report

      • I mean, sure, it’s true that it’s idiomatic the same way that “he’s one of ours” is idiomatic. They’re available for appropriation, but they’re too short to actually carry the implication you’re suggesting—at least in this context.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Conor P. Williams says:

          Y pues, soy maestro y dueño de una escuela de Español en Quetzaltenango en Guatemala por ya 26 años. Vos, escuchame, “uno de los nuestros” es decir un gangito. No me digas otra cosa.Report

          • Da igual, tío. El mundo hispánico no se cabe dentro de Guatemala—y las implicaciones de una frase tan corta no son las mismas en todas partes. Además, este no tiene nada que ver con el argumento.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Conor P. Williams says:

              Quizas Guatemaltecos no hablan como Vd. Pero sabemos de futbol y de gangitos además. Tal vez podrias enseñarnos nuestra idioma. Tienes que ver mas peliculas en español. Asi puedes aprender como hablan los indios, Don Quixote.Report

              • Look, BlaiseP, based upon your IP address(es) and past comments (references to a 20-year marriage to a teacher in Illinois, your work—”Extreme Programming and Agile methodologies,” etc), I severely doubt that you’ve spent 26 years teaching in a school you own in Guatemala. This doesn’t mean you’re wrong about the phrase. It just means you’re arguing disingenuously.

                But, hey, snark away. The thread’s all yours. If you have anything substantive to add about the post, go for it.Report

  12. Thanks for all of the encouragement! Glad it worked!Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Conor P. Williams says:

      It did work. I don’t have anything substantive to add. A great take on the tensions within liberalism. I remember some very leftist grad students arguing that liberalism required an “other” to define its standard human, to whom liberalism applied. I.e. originally, the standard was white Euro males. I never actually understood the argument, but it always seemed to me that to whatever extent it was true, liberalism inherent undermined it’s own alleged need by stating a universal equality, by which successively each group of “others” could readily demonstrate their common humanity, hat they weren’t really others at all.Report

  13. Koz says:

    This is the sort of topic, while modestly interesting, is absolutely worthless for those who haven’t read a significant amount of Steve Sailer’s work.

    Eg, here:

    • b-psycho in reply to Koz says:

      Geez, even when he approaches a reasonable comment (in this case, that the sample used in the article he refers to isn’t representative) he can’t resist an outright racist implication from it (that Hispanics don’t watch shows like Modern Family because they’re too dumb to get it)…Report

      • Koz in reply to b-psycho says:

        That’s just epistemic closure. Libs (and left-libertarians) never need to worry about whether this or that is racist, they should just do their best and learn something. In this case, it’s not so much that the various spokespeople weren’t representative of Mexicans or Hispanic-Americans in general, it’s the specific way they are not representative and how that affects the media representation of Hispanics as a whole.

        I don’t care too much about any particular item of the OP but the inductive leaps in it are really really weak. Among other things, if you’re really willing to look there’s fairly obvious things to be said about the cultural resonance of soccer as it relates to the US, Latin America, and Europe. And among others, Steve Sailer has written them. But if you’re just going to be ignorant of the whole thing, what’s the point?Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Koz says:

          Okay, disclaimer: first impressions, and all that. That said, dude… that guy is a quack.

          That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in my life. “Well, apparently, we’d be best off not thinking too much about this fact. Better yet, we should avoid even noticing any of these curious details. ”

          Better yet, you should build an actual data set from which to start your hypothesis building phase.

          The closing line is the topper.Report

          • Koz in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Well, if this really is your first impression of Steve Sailer I think that explains a fair bit of the problem right there.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Koz says:

              I think Mr. Sailer probably knows within epsilon of zero gay people. His entire list of observations (in a post that is supposedly about stereotypes) looks like performance art of what an actual gay person would write up as a caricature of a conservative person’s observations about gay people.Report

              • Koz in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t know about that one way or the other. I don’t know why you supposed that you do, it seem to me to be a spectacularly evidence-free conclusion.

                In any event, it’s not really relevant to Steve Sailer’s cultural sophistication regarding Hispanics in America, or soccer in America, both of which are very sharp and make the OP seem completely superficial.Report

        • b-psycho in reply to Koz says:

          The way they weren’t representative was being activists and professionals, which most aren’t. That much is obvious. But this shit:

          …due to white racists who fail to perceive how sophisticated the burgeoning Latino audience is, Hispanics viewers just stick with watching Sabado Gigante, where they are sure to see a fat mestizo guy with a droopy Pancho Villa mustache and a giant sombrero leer at some dyed blonde spicy senorita and fall down.

          …and the crack about “throw in some explosions” as if Hispanics are uniquely attracted to mindless entertainment, that is racist. When you take something you don’t like that is actually applicable across ethnic groups (the popularity of dumb shit — “Jersey Shore” is still running, btw) and act like it is just Those People, that’s not some kind of brave truth-telling about ethnicity and culture, it’s just taking an assumption that Those People are inferior and giving it a pseudo-academic gloss.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

      I read the Sailer piece. I have to go shower now.Report

  14. Burt Likko says:

    Conor, this post cooks with gas. You may well have just won the symposium.

    To the extent that there is a tension between the norms of liberalism and the norms of democracy, doesn’t the idea of a culture that melds and assimilates a variety of traditions over time (tritely expressed as “the melting pot”) mediate between those and provide something of a middle path?

    And on a somewhat more superficial level, is it fair to say that Univision defines “los Nuestros” roughly congruently with “los Americanos“? America, after all, is two continents large. Are Canadians and Phillipinos included in “los Nuestros“?Report

    • Thanks a lot!

      1) I think that the slow acculturation model is absolutely the right one. The trouble is in the shades of gray—when do we, as a polity, insist on melding and when can we tolerate less assimilation? Is it necessary that all naturalizing citizens speak English? Do we need all school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? (I really want to come up with a wittier example, but I’m short on time and sleep. Apologies!)

      2) I’ve never heard Univisión make the call on those examples, so this is pure speculation: I’d guess that they’d be sympathetic to Canada in matches against teams from beyond the Americas, but wouldn’t include them in “los nuestros.” The Philippines might be more likely to make the cut on linguistic grounds.Report

      • Acc to Pew, this pan-Hispanic feeling is about 25%*. I don’t like it any more than I’d like a pan-Caucasoid thing.

        OTOH, I confess a great affection for the Anglosphere. Australia vs. France? That’s a duh.

        So if it’s race, later for that. Language & culture? OK.


        But ever cheering for the Azzurri over the Red, White & Blue? Deport ’em immediately, sez I.Report

        • Watch yourself, there, TVD. You never know who might manifest offense to such gentle teasing.

          Now, in the XXX Olympiad, the Azzuri and their female counterparts both failed to qualify (as did the USMNT, disappointingly) so there is no chance of a conflict of interest. But in 2014, it’ll be a different story.

          We’ll revisit the issue then.

          Until then, the U.S. women play Japan for the Gold today. And when the men from Brazil play the men from Mexico, I’ll be rooting for the underdog Mexican team, how about you? Either way, los Nuestros traerán casa el oro y la plata.Report

  15. Will Truman says:

    This post has me rethinking what my contribution to the symposium will be. If I can find the words. That’s a good thing, btw.

    The conflict between liberalism, democracy, and national identity is one of the biggest struggles going forward. The desire of some to move away from nationality actually has a rather dark underbelly. Those (at least within the US) most likely to preach the need for one-worldism are those who do not actually need nationality. They have the luxury to say that we should not treat our own citizenry different than those from abroad because they don’t need citizenship to maintain their status. Beneath the thin cloak of egalitarianism is in fact a great sorting. American meritocracy, writ global, and not in the good way.

    Mexican-Americans need us to look at them differently than we do Mexicans. Rochester needs greater association with New York City than has London. Fresno needs greater association with Silicon Valley than has Singapore. The result of doing away with these things is these people leaving those people behind. That’s problematic.

    As far as the American identity is concerned, I think you mostly get it right. I can’t point to a specific disagreement, other than the sense that we might disagree on the precise balance of push and pull.

    I have mixed feelings about our inclusion in Los Nuestros. My initial response is a quite warm one, though I also recognize that the Hispanic wave of immigration does – compared to previous generations of immigration – represent a newer and specific set of challenges both on the push and the pull. I believe it will all work out in the end, ironically in part because of the free, secular market upon which the US culture is so irresistably seductive. Who would want to be here and not be able to partake due in the carnival due to, say, a language barrier? But some sort of Americanism (as in United States of) is required to seal the deal.Report