Illustrating once again its well-deserved reputation for pointing out the bleeding obvious, the New York Times today informs its readers that people who share a common ancestry often take different approaches to life.
The paper’s case study du choix involves Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two Republicans of Cuban extraction who have had the downright temerity to live their lives in dissimilar ways. Marco Rubio, the Times records, was “nurtured” by Cubans in Miami and “bounces effortlessly between two cultures” and two languages. Ted Cruz, by contrast, is more of a Texan than anything else, and as such is “partial to cowboy boots, oversize belt buckles, hard-right politics and the fire-and-brimstone style of the Baptist church.” Unlike Rubio, Cruz had a relatively mono-cultural upbringing: He “attended overwhelmingly white Christian schools in Houston,” “prefers Spanglish to Spanish,” and “changed his Spanish-sounding name, Rafael Edward Cruz, as a teenager.” These decisions, the Times suggests, may hurt him come election time.
Voters are fickle creatures, and the Times may well be right in its electoral prognostications. If so, one will have to ask what this says about the manner in which we see race and culture in the 21st century. How long, I wonder, should Cruz have waited before more tightly binding himself to the culture of his home? What obligations do émigrés have to the countries that they have left? And at what point should the children of immigrants be permitted to shed the old country’s ways without upsetting their co-ethnic countrymen? Cruz, Texan state senator Jose Rodríguez complains, “doesn’t do anything to suggest to people that he is a Latino senator from Texas.” Okay. But why should he? Had Cruz’s parents come in through Ellis Island in 1906, I daresay that Rodriguez’s complaint would seem utterly comical. Nobody in his right mind would accuse the great-grandson of Irish immigrants of having “sold out” by adapting to his home state’s foibles, and nor would they wonder aloud why he eschewed the shamrock lapel pin in favor of everyday American dress. Is Cruz to be bound to his father’s culture because his father is still alive?
Elsewhere in the piece, the Times submits half-critically that, by changing the name he goes by to “Ted,” Cruz has “de-emphasized his Latino identity.” A similar complaint is often thrown at Bobby Jindal, whose given name, his enemies are fond of pointing out, is “Piyush.” What a tangled web this approach weaves. We are told ad infinitum that identity is little more than a socially and historically constructed concept, and that one is able to liberate oneself by controlling it. In consequence, one might ask what right anybody has to “assign” a set of cultural values to a person and then to complain when he rejects them? If Rafael wants to be Ted, he’s Ted. If Piyush wants to be Bobby, he’s Bobby — or, indeed, he is “Susan” or “Walrus” or “Mambo Number Five” or whatever exercise in patois-pushing is popular on the quadrangle this week. Once upon a time, swift assimilation was regarded as something to which new Americans should plainly aspire. In the age of limitless self-actualization, has it now become a liability?
#share#There is a certain perversity in the trajectory that America’s self-described arbiters of “tolerance” have taken over the last half-century. Quite rightly, the 1960s brought with them a revolution against the antiquated and illiberal belief that men should be judged by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character. From Detroit to Chicago to the streets of Selma, African Americans who were sick and tired of being lumped together in a single bloc insisted righteously that they be regarded on their own terms: as rational actors possessed of agency and worth and equal rights under the law. At the time, one might have assumed that this movement would serve as the overture to a genuinely individualistic culture. Unfortunately, it did not. Indeed, many of those who lionize the heroes of the Civil Rights era are engaged at present in an attempt to impose upon civil society the very walls that have been broken down within the law. Consider, if you will, the sort of language that progressive activists habitually use to describe minorities who do not agree with them. This story, from Tuesday’s Washington Post is illustrative:
Liberal Hispanic groups have launched a campaign designed to turn Latino voters against the two Cuban American Republicans who have risen to the top tier of the GOP presidential field — assailing Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as traitors to their own culture.
“Traitors,” incidentally, is not hyperbole. It’s a direct quote:
Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”
Huerta was joined in this assessment by the head of a Democratic party front-group:
“It’s not comfortable for us to do this, to call out members of our own community who don’t reflect our community values, but we have no choice,” said Cristóbal Alex, president of the Democratic-backed Latino Victory Project.
Put another way, Rubio and Cruz stand accused of being what in our current political parlance, would be termed “cucks” — that is, members of one group who are primarily concerned about the perceived interests of another.
To grasp just how ugly this way of thinking is, try replacing the words “Hispanic” and “Latino” in the excerpts above with “Anglo” or “Caucasian.” As might a dim white supremacist, Alex and Huerta are supposing there is only one legitimate way to be of their ethnicity and that is to agree with them. Worse, they are presuming that there exists a set of “community values” to which all members of the “Latino” tribe are expected uncritically to subscribe, and that because Cruz and Rubio have refused to fall into line they must be expelled. Had Alex argued instead that Rubio and Cruz might struggle with Hispanic voters because their political positions do not appeal to the majority, he would have been on solid ground. But he didn’t. Had Huerta noted that, statistically, most of her members preferred Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party, she would have been stating nothing more than an uncontroversial fact. But she didn’t. Instead, the pair appointed themselves as spokesmen for the volk, and began excommunicating the “cuckspanics” with extreme prejudice. Are we still moving forward?