No, I’m not talking about a chain of restaurants that specializes in fondue. And I love fondue. This is a reference to the phrase used for many years to describe what the United States of America has been in the World for centuries. Even though the famous phrase inscribed on the Statue of Liberty was not originally on the Statue when sent from France, “give me your tired…..” has been the epitome of what most Americans think this country is about since its founding, it seems today that people from various nations and cultures that find themselves living in the U.S. either do not understand “The Melting Pot” description or reject its meaning being applicable to them. So where did the phrase come from?
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the metaphor of a “crucible” or “smelting pot” was used to describe the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. It was used together with concepts of the United States as an ideal republic and a “city upon a hill” or new promised land. It was a metaphor for the idealized process of immigration and colonization by which different nationalities, cultures and “races” (a term that could encompass nationality, ethnicity and race proper) were to blend into a new, virtuous community, and it was connected to utopian visions of the emergence of an American “new man.” While “melting” was in common use the exact term “melting pot” came into general usage in 1908, after the premiere of the play The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill.
The first use in American literature of the concept of immigrants “melting” into the receiving culture are found in the writings of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782) Crevecoeur writes, in response to his own question, “What then is the American, this new man?” that the American is one who “leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”
One of my favorite dishes is pizza. And I’m not really into red sauce cooked into any dish, but I love cheese — lots of cheese. I eat occasionally at a restaurant that has a phenomenal 5 cheese pizza. I order it with “no red sauce and no tomatoes;” no meat either.
When the chef prepares that pizza he takes out five different blocks of cheese, shreds some of all five, and puts them on on that pizza dough that is comprised of flour, baking soda, water, special spices and seasoning. The dough is rolled out and the 5 cheeses are spread around on top. It’s then put in a brick oven to bake.
When finished, it’s an amazing dish and it’s comprised of 5 cheeses, flour, water, special spices and seasoning, and baking soda. But I don’t tell people “I just ate a plate of dough that included flour, baking soda, and water and piled on top of it was mozzarella, gouda, cheddar, swiss, and colby cheese.” I tell them “I just ate my favorite pizza.” I’m pretty sure if you consider all of the pizza stuff being cooked in a pot instead of on a pizza pan the pizza meaning parallels that of “The Melting Pot.”
The founding Fathers of the United States and many generations of Americans that followed considered their nation proudly to be the place where from everywhere on Earth people could come and assimilate with others just like them and others different from them to make a “new man” as the U.S. became (and remained) “The Melting Pot” of the world. The intention of the use of the term “The Melting Pot” is really clear: “…leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.”
Immigration and immigrants in America has changed and has changed drastically. I personally am continually miffed by immigrants who rant about the unfairness of government, housing, education, healthcare, economics, and just about everything that is part of everyday life in the U.S. and for that matter in every country. When I see and hear this what immediately comes to mind is, “Why did you come here if you feel that way?” I have received no answer to that question.
In fact exactly the opposite is true: immigrants almost all spurn assimilation which was formerly actually a requirement for American citizenship. They prefer to create, live and work in communities full of others with the same or similar ethnicities, religious beliefs, and countries of origin. They in many cases reach out and push for government, laws and regulations, that are not part of American law, but are all together the structure of those same parts of life they brought to America from their countries of origin.
I have no issue whatsoever with retaining culture and the history of race, ethnicity, language, etc. But knowing that even with our problems, the U.S. is still the greatest country on Earth and the one most desired as a permanent residence by immigrants, I still expect immigrants to assimilate in the U.S. not just with those like them, but with Americans of all kinds — all 5 cheeses.
That’s one reason why I abhor terms used by people to describe themselves: African American, Italian American, Euro American, Native American (who are NOT immigrants), Hispanic American, etc. Most Americans agree that immigrants — if they voluntarily want to and do come to the U.S. — are here because they want to make a better life for them and their families, and to do so they MUST assimilate into American culture and become simply “Americans.” That is NOT saying they should turn their backs on any of their past or the history of their origins. Those are precious to all those who actually immigrate and pass down to generations to follow them.
In summary, it seems that immigrants are running as fast as possible to get away from all those things immigrants for two centuries have fought to come to the U.S. and actually are here for. The pendulum has swung rapidly the other way. And the cry of most immigrants and immigrant communities is no longer to be allowed to be part of all those American things and groups they so desire, but to maintain immigrant community closeness and segregation building and diligently working hard to maintain significant barriers between their communities and others in America. Differences rather than similarities seem to matter most to American immigrants. And it’s sad and a bit scary.
No other nation on Earth rejoices in the diversity of its citizens more than the U.S. That spirit did not just “happen.” It was created through the love of Americans for other people from other countries less fortunate than those born within U.S. borders. And in spite of the Leftist media determination to falsely trumpet about all the differences between those here not born here and immigrants and the acceptance problems by Americans, immigrants from around the World still fight to make the U.S. their home.
Don’t believe the critics or the media. Listen to your wife, guys. Our wives typically have far more perception of the realities of social justice in our communities than guys. Believe it or not: we are MUCH closer to learning to live with our diversities in effective ways that teach us and our children to take joy in the differences of others while thanking God for putting us all together.