Wednesday, October 12, 2011
America's Boiling Pot -- Writer's Poke #326
According to popular legend, if you try to place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately leap out. If, on the other hand, you place that same frog in a pot of lukewarm water and increase the temperature to the boiling point ever-so-slowly, it will remain in its bath until cooked.
For some reason, the lesson of the frog came into my mind when I was thinking about the American melting pot metaphor. Traditionally, the melting pot has been seen as a positive image, but over the past 30 years or so, more and more people have pondered just how positive having previous cultural identities melted down into one truly is.
Do we really want the same strip-mall culture from sea to shining sea? When I was in Denver over the weekend, I was able to make a Target run, and the Target was set-up exactly like my local Target. When we ate at Cracker Barrel, it had the same “local store” and the same menu as any Cracker Barrel anywhere. Granted, strip-malls and branding isn’t what people usually are referring to when they mention “melting pot,” but it bothers me that it is now possible to go virtually anywhere in the United States and, at least to a large extent, never feel as though you’ve left home.
A sense of home is vitally important. I get that. But when we allow ourselves the opportunity to expand our comfort zones, we give ourselves chances to learn and grow. In other words, we probably should be concerned that different ethnic “niches” and “enclaves” are developing in our country, but instead of always assuming that others should elect to be “more like us,” what would be run with flipping the question around? Why can’t we encourage all peoples to hold on to what is most valuable about their cultures and identities? Would that really be so “un-American”?
What should the future America look like?
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln