Whenever people in the media speak about the integration of immigrants into our society, you will sometimes hear the phrase “melting pot” used to express the ability to combine disparate forms into something new, which is meant to conjure up an image of how iron and coal can be forged together to make steel. The problem is, quite literally, mixing people together from different backgrounds and cultures more often creates nothing more than crayons, waxy substances that can paint a thousand different pretty pictures of fantasy but doesn’t hold together well at all with the slightest heat.
It’s a deceptive metaphor, so today I offer a different view of how people from different cultures interact based upon thinking about America as a salad bowl. We all understand what salad is and what makes it healthy.
The foundation of any salad is one ingredient: Lettuce. It is the foundation upon which everything else rests and the basic identity that makes a salad itself. If you had a bowl of just different types of lettuce: Romaine, Iceberg, Leaf Lettuce, then you would still have a salad although it might be a little basic.
Racial identity works the same way. It’s the foundation upon which a people build their nation: Shared genetic background which is realized across generations of family networks through which culture is transmitted. For America, our lettuce is white people, and a healthy salad is built upon a lush foundation of lettuce. Whether it is one of lettuce or different varieties, the basic identity remains and even alone, would be enough to complete the bowl.
Consider this the ethno-nationalist position: Just lettuce, no toppings: Healthy and the foundation of any salad just as a single united people must be the foundation of nation.
From this starting point, we can add features if we want for the salad to have a certain flavor. Many people like tomatoes. Some like cucumbers or carrots. The choice about what to add depends upon how one wants their salad to taste. No one just indiscriminately dumps everything on a salad or it would taste like a confused mess, but instead we selectively pick and choose the best ingredients to be the supplements because we realize how much even just a little bit can alter the flavor of the salad.
It’s the same with guests who come into our countries. We have the right to pick and choose whomever we want, recognizing their unique experiences can radically change our homes. If there are exceptional people, we may choose to include them because of what they add to our foundation, but the idea that we will be made better by taking anyone or allowing people to be chosen at random does not make for a stable nation and common culture anymore than dumping rotten tomatoes on a healthy bed of lettuce would make for a tasty salad. It only takes one piece of rotten food to spoil the entire salad, and we would be wise to avoid adding that which is clearly unhealthy.
Expressed properly, civic nationalism realizes the salad needs lettuce as the foundation, but can selectively add ingredients in measured portions to complement the base flavor of the salad. Done with measure and balance, the tastiest salads can emerge from the right combination, and in the right proportion, the flavor becomes unique and memorable, just like the culture of a nation.
Either of these two examples is healthy and those who support either position can be committed nationalists. Some people like lots of toppings and some people like to stick to fundamentals, but both recognize inherently that to maintain a salad, certain basic conditions are inescapable. You start with healthy lettuce, and you don’t put so much other stuff in there the bowl is no longer a salad and you can’t just put everything together unless you want to get sick.
That’s not what the left offers and how they would make a salad. They would give you a bowl of ranch dressing and let the lettuce drown in a soup that would make it wilt. As any chef knows, a salad is more than just a list of ingredients, but rather what you combine, in what order, in what quantity, and with what preparation. But the cooks we have had in our kitchen for too long just seem willing to dump everything in, and then they shove their concoction down our throats. Should we complain, their solution is to fix the mess by throwing more into the mess they’ve created, only further distressing the problem.
So the next time someone says America is a melting pot, stop them from eating a crayon and help them understand they need to eat their greens instead. We will be healthy when we think healthy, recognizing at the moment lettuce is no longer the base of our salad, there might still be food, but we’ll no longer be a salad: We will be something else.
I’d rather to stick to having the salad I know is good, allowing my friends to have what condiments they think are best in terms of people who can be shown to have some virtue and excellence as a measured addition, but all of us recognizing together that we cannot simply say anyone, anytime, and hope to avoid paying the consequences.