The Corner

The Assimilation Vacuum and the Boston Bombers

We know very little of the marathon bombers and their motives thus far, but what we know points to some very obvious points. Some of these points are so obvious, moreover, that commentators and politicians are already saying that we shouldn’t even consider them.

The first point that strikes me is that these young men should have had every reason to be happy in the United States and grateful to the country for its giving them sanctuary. Their uncle seems to have developed just such a loyalty. In addition, the young men were apparently well-integrated into American life locally. They had been to good schools, taken part in voluntary activities, and were regarded by Americans who knew them as bright kids and potentially productive citizens.

These early descriptions remind me of the four young Yorkshiremen who killed more than 50 people in the London subway bombings on July 7, 2005. Local people were amazed that these kids, three of them the sons of successful immigrants and local businessmen, who played cricket and soccer and drank adolescent quantities of beer, should have joined together in a pact to murder innocent people they had never met.

In that case — and I suspect we shall find also in the case of the marathon bombers — the explanation was (or included the fact) that they had been assimilated into a nullity. For almost the entire youth of the 7/7 bombers, the British had acted as if they were ashamed of their national identity and history. So young men, with the usual propensity of young men to want to identify with patriotic and idealistic causes, had been told that there was nothing admirable or heroic about being British. It was a sort of swindle, and one, moreover, that had been perpretated especially upon people of their ethnic backgrounds. They had therefore looked around for a heroic cause they could identify with. The radical Islamists provided them with the cause of radical Islamism — and they embarked on the relatively short road to mass murder.

When that happened, several British commentators argued that this wouldn’t happen in America because America, with its public and private ceremonies of Americanization, had solved the conundrum of how to turn immigrants into loyal and patriotic Americans.

Alas, I had to tell them sadly that they were a generation behind the times. America now bore all the marks of a society that had been subjected to sevral decades of relentless indoctrination in the dogmas of multiculturalism and bilingualism. And the results are now in.

Ten days ago the Hudson Institute published an important paper, “America’s Patriotic Immigrations System is Broken,” by John Fonte and Althea Nagai, which drew on a massive new Harris Interactive survey of native-born Americans and immigrants (which Fonte discussed on the Corner).

This study shows beyond any doubt that, as John Fonte puts it, the patriotic attachment of naturalized citizens is much weaker than that of the native-born. For example, by 30 percentage points (67.3 percent to 37 percent) native-born citizens are more likely to believe that the U.S. Constitution should be a higher legal authority than international law if there is a conflict between the two. But that is only one example — the strength of Fonte-Nagai paper is the cumulative evidence that a relatively weak love of country persists across a large range of issues. But read the study for yourself.

Into this moral and patriotic vacuum seeps what Orwell called “transferred nationalism.” In his day this was usually some variety of Marxism; today it often often a variation on radical Islam. But it is adopted and sparks violent thoughts in the minds of young men whom official America has shielded from the old Americanization.

Getting patriotic assimilation right is as vital — perhaps more vital — than getting border security right. It is an essential part of any comprehensive immigration reform worth the name. To propose opening the country to millions of new immigrants until we have solved this problem is simply to invite more violence from more young men whom we have disoriented and left victim to the worse impulses.

Are we then to blame for the Boston bombings? No, the two brothers are. They did it. Like the British, however, we didn’t take the most obvious steps to immunize them from the ideological poisons that led them to these terrible crimes.

The fact that Senator Schumer has declared ex cathedra that the Boston bombings have no significance for the immigration bill before Congres merely shows that folly has no natural internal limit.

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