Oversimplifying complex matters is the tweetingly simple tack of halfwits like our president, so at the risk of making the same error, I maintain that we in America have historically done a better job of assimilating other cultures than western Europe has.
It is an oversimplification. America has not always been welcoming—the Irish, the Italians, the Germans will verify the fact that the Statue of Liberty did not seem to beckon them at first. Asians were also turned away. Even African Americans, many of whom were born here, will attest to our inconsistency, as will, currently at least, Mexicans and Central Americans.
And Muslims. Executive orders lie waiting on desks to keep them out.
But here’s an important factor. In this country Muslims do not live in ghettos. They have become part of the American way of life, and though they may choose to dress traditionally and even honor traditional holidays and customs, they have become part of what it means to be an American.
This is, again, not to say that every American has been expansive and welcoming—prejudice continues to inform the lives of the ignorant, and racism will need further generations to eradicate. And neither is this to say that all Muslims living in the United States are sauntering merrily along on an undemanding flower-strewn path. But ghettos where disaffected Muslims—or any group—can easily fall into extremism and a loathing for this country do not exist in the same superfluity as they do in Europe…in France, in Belgium, and yes, in England.
Following Trump’s election there was a noticeable spike in hate crimes in this country, precisely the same problem that beset England after the Brexit vote. Theresa May promised a crackdown on anti-Muslim hate crimes, though the entire Brexit campaign centered on anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant leanings. When May was Home Secretary she stood four-square for the rights of Muslim women to dress as they chose, but as the apologist for England’s departure from the E.U., her position must appear more in line with the Brexit voters, many of whom were much less broadminded.
I’m not blaming May for England’s current misery: fanatics driving trucks into crowds speaks less of politics than derangement, but the cause and effect cannot be ignored. As Americans we can’t allow ourselves to buy into the Bannon-Trump racists nonsense but must continue to provide a welcoming environment to immigrants, regardless of religion. We are not, despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary, at war, no matter how badly he wants to take us there.
There will always be insanity and hatred, but as long as we continue to stand up for the democratic principles of the United States, we can at least forestall the forming of dangerous ghettos where lawlessness becomes the law.