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Inculturating American Culture

May 7, 2009

I thought I would take a beak from my normal political ranting, and devote a subject yesterday to the tender subject of Catholic weddings. A rather uncontroversial subject, one might think, and indeed, the thread was a lot of fun with people sharing their different wedding liturgical experiences.

And this comes this, the return of the political. Dale Price responds with a mocking post entitled “Inculturation is only good if it’s not American culture.” The subject of that post is pellucid from the title. Mr. Price seems to be accusing me of deriding particularly American traditions, while being open to liturgical customs from other cultures. He says quite explicitly that while Filipino and Latino customs are praised (or at least tolerated), the problem is with the “blanket exclusion of American ones.” Of course, my post was mainly concerned with what I think is an inappropriate form of wedding procession — it was not focused on inculturation at all.

Think about this for a minute. I’m often accused of criticizing America, and I do criticize America, but one of its great strengths is its diversity, its multiculturalism, its catholicity. It has always been more open to immigrants and accepting of immigrant culture than European countries. This is a great boon. Of course, there has always been an ugly nativist undercurrent that swells and recedes with various political developments. Right now, it’s home is in the Republican party, which has (sadly) become the party of a dying white southern rural culture, a culture that feels highly vulnerable now white Americans will be a minority within a generation. Think of Sarah Palin’s “real America”. Think of the ugliness you see on Fox News.

So when Mr. Price accuses me of deriding American wedding traditions, what he really means is that I am deriding certain wedding traditions that originate in European culture. Filipinos with their own traditions, liturgical and otherwise, are also Americans in this country, and their traditions are equally American.  The same is true with Latinos, with African Americans, with Vietnamese. But no, Mr. Prices sets up a dichotomy between “American” and “others”. The implication is clear — the others are not really Americans at all, are they?

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44 Comments
  1. May 7, 2009 9:33 am

    No, the implication is NOT clear. Only someone who doesn’t know Dale Price, or worse, someone more interested in calumniating him as some sort of nativist, could write something as asinine about him as you just have.

  2. May 7, 2009 9:45 am

    You just keeping getting sadder and sadder. To turn Dale’s post into a some kind of nativist rant just shows how completely out of touch with reality you really are. What a joke this site is.

  3. May 7, 2009 9:57 am

    Paul

    Dale’s rant was what was sad, and out of touch. It had nothing to do with MM’s post, unless he thought that the Church should open up to some American cultural ideal of marriage which so far the Church does not allow? And then it is to asked, why and does this kind of inculturation fit with the liturgy itself? It’s one of the strangest posts I’ve read from Dale (who is quite bright).

    And to bring out Michael I’s point, the way people normally think of marriage, about the bride being given away by the father, indeed goes back to the idea that the bride IS the property of the father. This should make people ponder if it is a practice which needs to be continued — instead of mocking him for his legitimate point. I actually think there is room for changing the symbolic meaning behind the act, and adding to it, but I do think as it now stands, it does seem like an anachronism.

  4. May 7, 2009 9:57 am

    Frankly, accusing Dale of being a racist over his post is disgusing. And way off base, what you knock as the “American” wedding procession order is much enjoyed and found meaningful by many non-white Americans.

    I overally prefer the approach of having the bride and groom enter together as the current rubrics allow (though my wife and I had to back off on doing that because some family tensions would have made not having the usual order look like an intentional snub) but there is nothing sexist, Americanist or corrupt about the other order either, and that’s pretty clearly why the rubrics make it clear that the procession order is a pretty open option.

    If Dale reacted strongly to your tone, it’s probably because your tone about what you think of as the “Palin culture” has become increasingly derisive, hateful, and classist. That people come to dislike you when you constantly poke at them can hardly be a surprise.

  5. May 7, 2009 10:00 am

    Darwin

    What was the point of Dale’s text, and how did it connect to anything that MM himself wrote? Explain that; MM didn’t discuss anything about the “Palin culture” at all within it. If you are going to try to do some eisigesis to read into MM’s words what are not there, do not be surprised if he looks for the meaning behind that projection.

  6. M.Z. permalink
    May 7, 2009 10:06 am

    I may regret this, but the father giving the daughter away is not about treating her as property. He is surrendering his (the family’s) obligations of support and giving them to the family she is marrying into. It takes seeing families as more the nuclear units to understand this though. When wealth was more often landed this was easier to understand. If the husband were to unfortunately pass away, the husband’s family would still be expected to provide support to her.

  7. May 7, 2009 10:09 am

    You guys might like Dale a whole whole lot, but his post is clearly written and MM is right to criticize it.

  8. May 7, 2009 10:18 am

    Henry,

    Get your texts straight. Dale said nothing in his post about the Palin culture. But then in his post that we’re both commenting on MM accuses Dale of belonging to a increasingly angry and embittered culture exemplified by Fox News and Sarah Palin.

    Yes, Dale’s post showed that he felt quite offended by MM’s original post, but frankly MM’s original post had a pretty snippy tone. My initial reaction to reading it was to reply angrily, even though I overall prefer the couple processing together to the American tradition. (Though I think there’s very good and true symbolism in the father “giving the bride away” too.)

    I can sympathize with Dale’s reaction.

  9. May 7, 2009 10:26 am

    Darwin

    As I pointed out, MM only did so, after Dale’s insane rant, a rant which had no connection to MM’s post, a post which didn’t have a “snippy tone.” Why is it people are upset when MM points out the proper liturgical practice? Something strange in all of this.

  10. May 7, 2009 10:28 am

    M.Z.

    The fact that he had an obligation over her does not discount the property aspect involved — indeed, we must remember property is not given to us in absolute control and authority, but relative control with responsibilities. And that includes taking care of it. Giving one’s property also gives away one’s responsibility — and that also explains why there were things like a dowry in the middle of all this, too.

  11. May 7, 2009 10:28 am

    Whether I like Dale a “whole whole lot” or believe him to be a complete ass has no bearing whatsoever on Tony’s reckless disregard for the truth in drawing the inference from Dale’s post that Dale holds anti-immigrant or otherwise nativist views.

  12. May 7, 2009 10:28 am

    First of all, I have no idea who Dale Price is. He seems to be a good friend of some of you– so be it. If anybody wanted a debate on liturical deviation at Catholic weddings — what can be acceptable, what can not be acceptable, and why — then I’m happy to have that debate. And we did that yesterday, and it was a fun thread. I enjoyed it.

    And then this guy came along with his asinine posts about how I am oppposed to American culture in weddings, but not Filipino or Latino culture. My first reaction was — huh? That’s not what the post was about. But as I thought about it, the more offensive I found the response, setting up ‘American’ culture against the culture of newer immigrant groups.

    If you all want to feign outrage, then let me tell you what pisses me off. My wife is Asian American. She is constantly asked — nearly always by white males — where she is from. If she replies, “New Jersey”, the typical follow-up question is “where are you from originally?”. This is highly offensive. When is the last time a white American male was asked where he was from originally– England, Germany, Ireland?

    I know many of you above like Republicans. I’m also sure none of you are nativists, but, hey, you make your bed, you lie in it. At least become a little more attuned to the sensibilities of minorities — because in a generation, they will no longer be minorities. Get used to it.

  13. May 7, 2009 10:28 am

    I honestly couldn’t follow Dale’s post. What do the Filipino/Latino customs have to do with anything? I don’t remember MM bringing these things up? The “father given the bride away” tradition is note solely American, so I have NO IDEA where he is coming from. We have it in the Hispanic community too; as I said my family could not understand that I was either going to the altar alone or with my future husband.

    Why does Dale couple the unity candle and the flowers to the Blessed Mother when MM didn’t even mention them in his post? The unity candle, is my understanding, is done mainly in Protestant churches and is not a Catholic tradition as the flowers to the Virgin Mary may be.

  14. May 7, 2009 10:32 am

    Katerina:

    That was what I thought, but I wasn’t sure. My original post had NOTHING to do with different cultures in the United States. Dale Price made it so.

  15. May 7, 2009 10:34 am

    If she replies, “New Jersey”, the typical follow-up question is “where are you from originally?”. This is highly offensive.

    MM,

    If you don’t mind me asking, why is that offensive? I ask that to some of my friends who are British (born and raised) but are Asian and they happily tell me about their Chinese traditions. I get the question sometimes and I’m proud to say that I was born and raised in Venezuela, because my family is thoroughly Hispanic. My values are mainly Hispanic, not American. That being said, I don’t know if your wife’s family has been here long enough that they don’t have any ties back to where her family originally came from.

    I just think it is silly that, for instance, Michelle Malkin says that she is just “American” and in doing so she is dismissing her roots (I don’t know where she is from). It all goes back to being “communities of memory” instead of wiping our past when we come to this country. The Church encourages a “healthy integration” not a simple assimilation of immigrants.

  16. May 7, 2009 10:36 am

    Mr. Price seems to be accusing me of deriding particularly American traditions, while being open to liturgical customs from other cultures.

    Um…Iafrate is the one who started the “American” traditions part. If characterizing them as a American traditions is nativist, why didn’t you drop the hammer on Iafrate?

    Dale’s post is definitely not nativist in any sense of the word. It’s clearly mocking (more Iafrate then minion, from what I can see) the depiction of the father handing off the daughter as some capitalist/patriarchal exercise.

  17. May 7, 2009 10:36 am

    I had another quick look at Mr. Price’s blog. The first thing I saw was his characterization of Michael Sean Winters –a guy who loves the Church with a rare passion– as a “two-faced jackass” and “a brazenly dishonest shill”. Nice.

  18. Policraticus permalink*
    May 7, 2009 10:40 am

    First, MM’s original post did not explicitly indict any distinctive “American culture.” Price read this into MM’s post. Price’s post is a bit too emotionally charged (and, from his own admission, so would have been Darwin’s comment had he left one).

    Second, there is nothing I find to be objectionable in MM’s original post. Some of the wedding excesses he describes are, from a Catholic matrimonial perspective, superfluous and distracting. He merely relates his opinion back to the guidelines to which he links.

    Third, MM did not call Price a “racist” (which makes Darwin’s accusation really a mode of slander).

    So perhaps instead of letting emotions take over here (re: Darwin), we can point out that MM falsely attributes to Dale comments that were made by others at his blog. Then we can have a real, intellectually honest discussion of the explicit text instead of reading intentions into one another’s writings.

  19. May 7, 2009 10:43 am

    Minion:

    You might still disagree with Dale, but it may be that he’s responding to the comment thread. In that Iafrate comments on Filipino traditions. Later Katerina talks about Hispanic traditions, specifically in bringing together food.

    As far as being a minority, that’s fine with me. I’m a practicing orthodox Catholic, quite a minority position in today’s culture, a far more important minority aspect then my race.

  20. May 7, 2009 10:45 am

    Um…Iafrate is the one who started the “American” traditions part. If characterizing them as a American traditions is nativist, why didn’t you drop the hammer on Iafrate?

    Michael,

    In Michael I’s defense, he was referring to the excesses of reception parties, not to the actual traditions that people include in their wedding ceremonies. We were talking about the difference between having big parties with potlucks, where the community contributes and actively participate, and just having a big reception (catered) party. He also said that the “father giving away the bride” tradition was American but he also noted that it may be the case “(elsewhere, I imagine)”.

  21. May 7, 2009 10:46 am

    Tony,

    Did you read the post about Winters to which Dale was referring? I’m not sure what other terms than “two-faced” and “dishonest shill” should be used to describe someone who, when he thought Amb. Glendon was going to merrily go along with providing cover for Notre Dame’s decision to honor the President, was gushing about her worthiness:

    ”Of course, Dr. Glendon, like the University of Notre Dame, is a source of pride for all Catholics, not just for conservatives… I would be blind not to admire her accomplishments, her intellectual force, and her love for the Church…”

    … only to then do an about face once Amb. Glendon announced she would not accept the Laetare medal:

    ”Given the fact that her last employer, the Bush administration, committed torture which is, last time I checked, an intrinsic moral evil, it is rich to hear her lecturing about moral outrage. I do not doubt Dr. Glendon acted sincerely. She just acted as a sincere Republican. [ED.: Never mind that Amb. Glendon is, apparently, a Democrat.] I hope the bishops who are in such high dudgeon about Obama will demand that Dr. Glendon be forbidden from receiving any Catholic honors until she renounces her association with the Bush administration.”

    You may like Winters a “whole whole lot”, but let’s not pretend that he doesn’t have his own deeply-held set of poltical biases that often manifest themselves in his being critical of the Bishops and certain aspects of the Church’s teachings.

  22. May 7, 2009 10:54 am

    Kat:

    This is what I’m reading.

    I do want to caution about one danger — that of “guarding against” all “secular” cultural marriage traditions in an attempt to preserve a perceived “pure” Catholic culture. Not all cultural traditions should be opposed. In fact, many should be upheld and encouraged. I was a music minister at a wedding in WV this past weekend and the bride, a friend of mine, is Filipino and they incorporated some really powerful Filipino wedding traditions. The american procession tradition shouldn’t be opposed just because it’s american (and not “Catholic”), but because of what it communicates, or better, what it embodies.

    The fact is, though, that many american traditions (when it comes to weddings, sure, but also in the wider culture) are not compatible with Catholicism. The traditions of various indigenous cultures are often much more compatible. Discussions of “inculturation” should take place on a very particular, case-by-case basis.

    There he’s not talking about the excesses of receptions. That comes later in the thread, when you and Darwin exchange stories (in a very interesting way, I might add).

    Dale’s post then seems to be a response really to that comment by Iafrate and less to the post itself.

  23. May 7, 2009 10:57 am

    Michael D

    And yet, Michael I even suggests that the American form of procession is not to be opposed because it is “American” but because of what it communicates or embodies. In this way, he is saying that inculturation requires more than just borrowing symbols, but those which are actually compatible with the ceremony/Catholic teaching going on. He didn’t say nothing American could be adapted this way. He also didnt’ say everything from outside of the US is acceptable. That’s why Dale’s point is not even a proper response to MI.

  24. May 7, 2009 11:01 am

    Dale’s post then seems to be a response really to that comment by Iafrate and less to the post itself.

    Oh ok, I know what you’re referring to now. Thanks for the reference. Those are Michael I’s comments though, not directly related to MM’s post, so they should be addressed separately. Again, I couldn’t even follow Dale’s post: it’s sloppy and not conducive to dialogue. A good question for Michael I, for instance, would be “What kind of traditions did your Filipino friends have?” “Why do you think they were ‘powerful’?” And so on… that is how we dialogue with each other.

    I think there are some traditions that are worse than others. I don’t get too worked up about the procession. I think the flowers to the Blessed Mother is a nice tradition (we didn’t do it though; we both went by ourselves up to the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe after the Mass and left a rose after praying together). The unity candle has to go, but that’s just me. The Mexicans have a tradition of having a rosary made of flowers and the couple is wrapped by it. That’s nice, but then again, I don’t know much about it and whether it should take place in the Mass. In sum, each tradition needs to be considered separately.

  25. May 7, 2009 11:17 am

    I honestly couldn’t follow Dale’s post. What do the Filipino/Latino customs have to do with anything? I don’t remember MM bringing these things up?

    MM didn’t bring them up. I did. And I pointed that out to Dale, and encouraged him to get his bloggers sorted out before he goes on his rants, and the coward, of course, banned me from his site.

    Um…Iafrate is the one who started the “American” traditions part. If characterizing them as a American traditions is nativist, why didn’t you drop the hammer on Iafrate?

    Because while I did bring up “american” traditions and “Filipino” traditions, I never said anything remotely resembling this.

    What I said about inculturation, the dangers of “american” wedding traditions and the suitibility of various other cultural traditions was very clear. If you want to engage what I actually said, please do, in that thread and do not come to this thread seeking to distort what I have said, as Dale tends to do.

    Dale’s post then seems to be a response really to that comment by Iafrate and less to the post itself.

    Yes, this is obvious. And yet when I pointed this out to him, he denied it, clipped some quotes from MM’s post and claimed that he was saying the same thing I was, and banned me.

    Looking at his snappy blog post title (“Inculturation is only good if it’s not American culture”), Dale is obviously criticizing my comment and not MM’s post. But he either simply cannot read or he is willfully distorting what I wrote. His twisted title is a laughable attempt to represent my views in light of my very clearly worded position:

    “The american procession tradition shouldn’t be opposed just because it’s american (and not “Catholic”), but because of what it communicates, or better, what it embodies . . . . Discussions of “inculturation” should take place on a very particular, case-by-case basis.”

    Dale struck out and he is embarrassed. Thus, he has resorted to banning and letting his admirers come over here to defend him.

    I suggest we move on. Dale’s not worth the effort.

  26. May 7, 2009 11:36 am

    Poli,

    I think I’ve run into enough of MM’s attempts to paint someone as a racist without using the word that I can be pretty clear when he’s doing that — and his “oh, so you don’t think Filipinos are American” line of discussion fits the bill pretty neatly. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    MM,

    Here’s the thing: As I said, I agree with you on many of the liturgical merits. The thing is (and since you’re a smart guy and an experienced blogger, I’d assumed you knew this, but maybe it has to do with what circles one runs in) there’s a way to critique long held conventions and there’s a way not to.

    You could have come through with, “The USCCB has come through with a renewal of their existing marriage ceremondy guidelines… [blah, blah, blah] …although there’s tremendous pressure in many families connected with many of these tradions (my wife and I had to agree to her father “giving the bride away” due to familial pressure) I think there are valuable liturgical lessons that could be taught by adhering more closely to this form of the wedding procession… [explain the advantages of the other, without the “and the other way is sexist” implication]”

    Sure, it requires a light touch, but it’s unsurprising that one needs a light touch when attacking a custom which nearly everyone involved participated in and drew a lot of meaning from. A lot of women feel strongly about their fathers having given them away, not because they think they’re chattel or because they’re part of the insane princess posse, but because marriage is a major life milestone at which they have cause to think a lot (and very emotionally) about all that they were given by their familial upbringings — which the father symbolizes as head of the family.

    If one addresses the topic in a “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like these” kind of way, it’s bound to get a negative reaction rather than getting one’s point considered fairly.

  27. May 7, 2009 11:38 am

    Iafrate:

    Because while I did bring up “american” traditions and “Filipino” traditions, I never said anything remotely resembling this.

    What I said about inculturation, the dangers of “american” wedding traditions and the suitibility of various other cultural traditions was very clear. If you want to engage what I actually said, please do, in that thread and do not come to this thread seeking to distort what I have said, as Dale tends to do.

    In Minion’s post above, he implies that by Dale characterizing European traditions as American (the dichotomy between “American” and “others”) he shows his nativism. I thought it was fair to point out that that “dichotomy” was not his original, it was yours. I don’t think anyone here is being nativist.

    I am not trying to distort what you said. I responding to Minion’s original post on my own blog with my concerns, which are more centered around whether or not the traditions you advocate promote a Catholic understanding of the complementarity of the sexes. My goal in posting on this comment thread was simply to try to help people understanding what Dale was responding to as well as to challenge Minion on characterization of Dale, which I think is unfair.

    Yes, this is obvious. And yet when I pointed this out to him, he denied it, clipped some quotes from MM’s post and claimed that he was saying the same thing I was, and banned me.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say that Dale’s post has nothing to do with Minion’s, which is what you seem to suggest in Dale’s combox. Dale does seem to be emotionally reacting to the criticism of the father walking the daughter down the aisle.

    You being banned also seems to be a result of a long-standing feud from his comment. Whether or not this is fair I cannot say.

    On a final note, I am not an admirer. I don’t read the blog (and you will note its absence on my blogroll). I have no opinions about his blog, other than the post in question does not argue what Minion suggests it argues.

    Katerina & Henry:

    I will agree with the both of you that Dale’s response was a little too emotionally charged and a cooler response would have been much better.

  28. May 7, 2009 12:05 pm

    In Minion’s post above, he implies that by Dale characterizing European traditions as American (the dichotomy between “American” and “others”) he shows his nativism. I thought it was fair to point out that that “dichotomy” was not his original, it was yours.

    To identify two cultures (among many) is not the same thing as describing a “dichotomy.” In Dale’s usage, I think MM is right to say that he was speaking in dichotomous terms because in his post he opposes “american” cultures with others. But that has little to do with my mere mention of two particular cultures.

    You being banned also seems to be a result of a long-standing feud from his comment. Whether or not this is fair I cannot say.

    I think it is the result of some offense he took to something I said to him online some time ago. It was hardly a “long-standing feud.” It was probably more of a short emotional blow-up of his, like the one you have just witnessed. It was no skin off my nose, as Dale had to remind me of it. Like MM, I had no idea who the guy was when I posted the comment.

    On a final note, I am not an admire

    Rest easy. I wasn’t referring to you.

  29. Dale Price permalink
    May 7, 2009 12:34 pm

    Yes, Mike, I’m afraid of you. Which is why you’ve had my home phone number for months.

    I’m working on a response.

  30. Policraticus permalink*
    May 7, 2009 12:44 pm

    I think I’ve run into enough of MM’s attempts to paint someone as a racist without using the word that I can be pretty clear when he’s doing that — and his “oh, so you don’t think Filipinos are American” line of discussion fits the bill pretty neatly. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    Then you agree with me that you are reading into MM’s post. These little emotional games you are playing as to what and what is not the subtext are a bit ridiculous, especially since no one wins a debates on subtext. An intellectually respectable comment centers on the text in question so that all parties can intelligently discuss the matter. I invite you to join that discussion.

  31. Zak permalink
    May 7, 2009 12:50 pm

    Why do people opposed the unity candle, a common ceremony in America (if not, to use an apparently controversial term), and American ceremony? Is it not accord with Catholic teaching since the husband and wife should leave their families to cleave to each other, rather than uniting their families?

  32. May 7, 2009 12:53 pm

    Darwin:

    I have no problem with somebody arguing that point on substance (the father and daughter point). Look at MZ’s comment above — nothing wrong with that argument. But no, Dale Price did not address the point, he detoured into some nonsense about “American” culture. And calling him out for this nonsense is NOT calling him a racist. I would say his outlook is a little blinkered and he needs to be a bit more open-minded and sensitive about these issues, but that’s a far cry from calling him racist.

  33. May 7, 2009 12:57 pm

    But no, Mr. Prices sets up a dichotomy between “American” and “others”. The implication is clear — the others are not really Americans at all, are they?

    This is really quite unfair MM. It is a quintessentially American thing to observe traditions that originated in other countries. Observing Filipino traditions doesn’t make a person un-American; it makes them an American who observes customs that originate from another country.

    I think Dale’s response was a less charitable reconstruction of your argument than it deserved. This post, however, with its ugly and unwarranted accusation of nativism is several steps worse. If, as you suggest, you were trying to avoid political ranting, making incendiary charges like this one is a very poor way to go about it.

  34. May 7, 2009 1:00 pm

    Zak:

    I think one of the main reasons is that it denies the individuality of the persons. It is true that we become one flesh, but that is not the same as becoming the same thing. That is, the unity candle over-emphasizes unity to the point that it projects the participants becoming indistinguishable from one another. That’s not really what’s happening in the sacrament.

  35. May 7, 2009 1:06 pm

    I think one of the main reasons is that it denies the individuality of the persons. It is true that we become one flesh, but that is not the same as becoming the same thing. That is, the unity candle over-emphasizes unity to the point that it projects the participants becoming indistinguishable from one another. That’s not really what’s happening in the sacrament.

    On the contrary, I don’t think the unity candle bit is misplaced in a Catholic wedding because of something it “means,” but simply because it’s a quick import-job from Protestant traditions who generally do not perform the marriage rite in the context of Eucharist and therefore somewhat superfluous. There are plenty of signs of unity in the Catholic marriage rite, most especially the fact that it is usually performed in the context of Eucharist.

  36. May 7, 2009 1:25 pm

    Then you agree with me that you are reading into MM’s post. These little emotional games you are playing as to what and what is not the subtext are a bit ridiculous, especially since no one wins a debates on subtext. An intellectually respectable comment centers on the text in question so that all parties can intelligently discuss the matter. I invite you to join that discussion.

    MM’s post, with its suggestion that Dale believes other people aren’t real Americans, directly suggests racism/nativism on Dale’s part. To pretend otherwise, particularly by directing spurious accusations of ‘emotional games’ at anyone who points this out, is hardly ‘intellectually respectable.’ Why not respond to Darwin’s criticism with something other than a patronizing ad hominem?

  37. May 7, 2009 1:29 pm

    To be clear, Poli, if you think the post does not suggest racism/nativism on Dale’s part, which is what Darwin, I, and others have alleged, please explain how you interpret the text in question:

    But no, Mr. Prices sets up a dichotomy between “American” and “others”. The implication is clear — the others are not really Americans at all, are they?

    As I said, I think this would be a better method of response than the ad hominem above.

  38. May 7, 2009 1:57 pm

    Poli:

    I agree with John Henry & Darwin. I don’t see how that line can be interpreted as anything other than an accusation of racism. If I’m wrong, please let me know why I should interpret it differently.

  39. Sir Geoff permalink
    May 7, 2009 2:34 pm

    I acknowledge the substance of MM’s post and believe it to be correct.

    Sadly, the substance is embedded in a completely uncalled for sucker punch, lacking in charity, and shamefully disrepectful of white southerners as a group and Sarah Palin as a human being.

    Bottom line, the post is a net negative.

    You who are the more mature contributors of this blog, you ought to keep in mind that the cheap shots of some of your members reflect badly on all of you. This blog could become very influential, and I hope it does. Unfortunately, before that happens, you’ll have to decide whether you really want to be a serious resource, or merely the Catholic blog equivalent of a talking head shout-fest, which is how I perceive this place so far. The nastiness far overshadows the gems of thoughtful writing. This isn’t really fair to the thoughtful writers.

  40. Jeremy permalink
    May 7, 2009 3:07 pm

    This has been another episode of ‘As the Blog World Turns’ …

  41. Mike McG... permalink
    May 8, 2009 6:01 pm

    Could someone explain to me why virtually none of the contributors at VN, Katerina the sole exception, are willing to take on the issue of tone on this blog?

    The final paragraph of Sir Geoff’s comment is spot on. I wager that it is very representative of those who read but do not participate…or, sadly, once read but will never participate…in VN discourse.

    To follow this blog consistently is to recognize both the brilliance of many of its contributors and the toxicity of the tone. It is patently obvious that the derisive commentary is remarkably similar on both sides of the aisle.

    At this point, the well is poisoned. I have no doubt that, by now, all of the players can point to unfair characterizations which justify their responses in kind. We’ve learned, over the ages, how to defuse strained communications face-to-face. But in blogdom the contrempt grows and grows and grows.

    Bill Bishop’s “The Big Sort”…a very important book with huge implications for the Catholic culture wars…recounts research about bringing progressive Christians from Boulder together with conservative Christians from Colorado Springs. Prior to the gathering, a survey instrument measured individual participant opinions on cultural issues and the findings were predictably red and blue…but with considerable overlap. Then people gathered with the task of coversing on contended cultural issues.

    “The results were not encouraging for those who look to rational community discussion as an antidote to polarization…As the law of group polarization would predict, each like-minded collection of people became extreme after discussion. Moreover, the differences within the groups narrowed. Discussion didn’t spark free-thinking. Instead, each homogeneous community concluded community concluded its deliberations with greater conformity. People who were already like-minded grew more alike.” (287-288)

    Is that what’s happening here? If so, are we going to do something about it?

  42. May 18, 2009 12:56 am

    “When is the last time a white American male was asked where he was from originally– England, Germany, Ireland?”

    — actually I’ve been asked that or the equivalent fairly often, to which I reply “Scotland, Ulster and England, via Canada, with a slight dash of Amerindian.”

    So?

    >because in a generation, they will no longer be minorities. Get used to it.

    — no, that’s a demographic urban legend.

    There is, unfortunately, still a (thankfully much-diminished) racial divide in American society; it’s between those discernably(*)part sub-Saharan African and everyone else.

    Does anyone think of Keanu Reaves as a member of a “minority”? Or Ricky Martin or J-Lo? Or Mr. Richardson, the governor of my home state?

    Over a third of American-born Hispanics are married to non-Hispanics. Asian-American intermarriage rates are even higher, on the whole; hence Keanu.

    Just before WWI, a judge in the South dismissed a case against a Sicilian woman who’d married a black man; she couldn’t have violated the anti-miscegenation laws, he said, since as everyone knew Italians weren’t white.

    My wife’s foster-mother (born in 1899 in a New England mill town divided between Irish-Americans and more recent Apulians) used to say how the “black Eye-talians” wanted our “beautiful white Irish girls”.

    Her son married an Italian-American woman and moved to South Carolina.

    In other words Hispanics and Asians in the 21st century, like the Irish in the 19th century and the Italians in the 20th, are “becoming white”.

    By 2050, it will seem a bizzare historical curiosity that anyone ever thought of them as “minorities” and we will all be a great beige mass.

    “Whiteness” is a moving target because race is a social construct, not an objective reality. Humans are a singularly uniform species genetically.

    (*) as opposed to the 75,000,000 or so “white” Americans who have 2-20% of the common West African gene markers and hence are almost certainly descended from blacks who ‘passed for white’, but don’t show it in their appearance. You know, like the ‘white’ descendants of Sally Hemmings.

  43. May 18, 2009 1:36 am

    MI: “It [America] has always been more open to immigrants and accepting of immigrant culture than European countries.

    — yes to accepting of immigrants, not particularly so about accepting immigrant cultures, though it gladly loots them for interesting dishes and entertaining ideas. That’s why the motto is “From Many, One”.

    In the 1760’s, Ben Franklin expressed nativist fears that Pennsylvania would be “Germanized” by the influx of immigrants, thus becoming the originator of a long line of hand-wringers and viewers-with-alarm.

    For once his common sense deserted him — probably because he’d been raised in New England, which at that time was a new England, populated almost entirely by the descendants of 17th-century English people and more homogenous than England itself.

    And in terms of ancestry, Germans are indeed the single largest origin group, not merely of Pennsylvanians but of the American population as a whole.

    Have we been “Germanized” as Franklin feared?

    Not in the least. The Germans were Americanized, and America acquired headcheese and scrapple and the habit of saying “yeah” for “yes”, just as we later acquied bagels and “schmear” and stand-up comedy and sushi and karaoke and tacos and an infinite number of other aspects of our common culture.

    Most people of German/part-German ancestry aren’t even aware of it, and of those who are, it doesn’t mean much to the overwhelming majority.

    From many, one.

    Culture is not passed down with your genes; a newborn baby has no culture, laguage, religion or “heritage”. Culture is like your clothes, not your skin color. And people switch (and mix and match) cultures neary as easily as they do clothes.

    Hence the idiocy of using “multicultural” as if it meant “multiracial”.

    The Germans were assimilated — when was the last time you met a native-born American who spoke German at home, apart from the Amish and Hutterites? It was a long slow process, only really complete in the first half of the 20th century, but inexorably certain.

    Likewise with subsequent waves of immigration; Spanish survives no better in America than German or Magyar or Italian or Croat or Yiddish. The third generation is Anglophone.

    In the 1920’s, Sinclair Lewis wrote “Main Street”, one of the themes of which is the deep ethnic clash between the exclusive, bigoted middle class of Gopher Prairie and their alienated servants and laborers, who are… Swedish. “Scandahoofians”, as the Yankee bourgeois contemptuously refer to them. Gee, there’s a division that lasted like iron!

    Amerca is the 700-pound green amoeba of cultures. It absorbs everything. This is why the recurrent waves of nativist panic are so dumb. The grandchildren of one wave of immigrants panics at the sight of the next.

    The daughter of a friend of mine recently married; her father remarked to me that by descent her children would be 1/4 Ashkenazic Jewish, 1/4 Japanese, 1/4 generic mixed North European, and the remainder a complete melange including Greek, Croat and several others.

    As he said: “Ain’t America grand.”

    Doubtless in 2075, Mr. Generic Sanchez/Suzuki/Whatever will be doubting that all these Tibetans or Burmese can become “real Americans” like… well, for example, like him. And he’ll be just as wrong as Franklin and Lewis.

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