This morning, I’ll be in the MPR studio with Kerri Miller during the first hour of Midmorning, live-blogging as she examines the nature of citizenship, national identity, and what it means to be an American.
Here guests are Stanley Renshon,professor of political science at the City University of New York and a certified psychoanalyst. He’s the author of 13 books, including “The 50% American: Immigration and National Identity in an Age of Terrorism,” and William Hing, professor of law at the University of California-Davis School of Law. He is the author of “Deporting Our Souls: Values, Morality, and Immigration Policy” and “Defining America Through Immigration Policy.”
This all stems from Kerri’s interview last month with Howard Fineman on his book, The Thirteen American Arguments (this was rebroadcast last week).
These are some of the particular questions:
Feel free to offer your commentary in the section below, and/or ask your questions. I’ll pick the best ones — as time allows, of course — and we’ll make you part of the show.
9:10 Fineman says “we are different.”: How is that different from other countries and how they were founded. Renshon says it’s not all the difference that matters. We made the decision early on on how to handle immigration. We took the position if people would adhere to the U.S. creed, they’d be acceptable candidates. But it’s a fairly common sense to say that’s all there is to becoming an American. There are ways you can identify s an American but it’s a common mistake to believe democracy is all there is to it.
Renshon says Fineman makes the mistake on this point.
9:14 Q: Have values we use to define American character changed?
A: Renshon: There’s a good line of continuity because things like liberty, justice, and democracy are large terms. It’s easy to have changes within large categories and change the category to a large degree.
9:17 Hing talking about the perception immigrants have before they come to America.
Good observation in comments:
I was in Greece a few weeks ago and when I came home, it was obvious to me that American’s feel they are entitled to many material goods in their lives. We are entitled to a car, a house, flat screen tv, even a pet. The majority of people in Greece don’t have cars, they live in a small apartment, or with their parents in the family home, they go out to the local tavern to watch a football game, and why would they keep an animal for companionship if they can’t farm it, or eat it! Perhaps it’s our consumerism and materialistic culture, but American’s think they deserve certain items in life and they aspire to attain them.
Do you agree? And do you think immigrants pick up this culture? And if so, do they pick it up when they get here? Or did they have it before?
9:22 Renshon says there’s a difference between “deserve” and “expect.” America is a dynamic country economically, he says. Over time, we had lower expectations earlier in our history and as our ability to produce, those experiences (expectations?) go up.
9:25 Caller interested in how we talk about being an American. Fineman saying “we’re not here because of a geographic accident,” she says, negates all the people who were here before the Europeans came.
9:26 Via Twitter (I’m at @bcollinsmn) @ten7 says “I am a 1st gen immigrant to the USA. I consider myself American, and proudly so. Can’t wait to vote in Nov!
9:30 Caller: Who is this “we”? Renshon reacts to Hing on immigration policy history here. “You can look at what we did in the past and beat it over the head, or you can see how it developed.” Says the promise of America is it tries to live up with its ideals.” He says “the we” is all of us over time.
Hing and Renshon get into it pretty good over whether we’re more exclusionary now than we (there’s that word!) were before.
9:34 I just messed up jbnimble’s “name.” Sorry jbnimble. One comment of his/hers is worth chewing on, though:
This whole discussion of national identity reminds me of Mark Twain: “Loyalty to the country always; loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”
It does seem that politicians — and a lot of others in the public arena — confuse the country with the government.
— News break —
9:40 Caller: A Hmong American says it’s the 30th anniversary of his family coming here. Says Americans think of Americans as European extract. He serves in the military and says when he’s not in uniform, Americans think he’s “an alien.” “I think we still have quite a ways to go before the world sees non-white Americans as Americans.
Hing agrees. “If you ask Americans to draw a picture of an American, most of them will draw a picture of a white person.” He talks about a protest outside a mosque in Chicago with people telling people inside to “go home.”
Renshon says he’s concerned when people relay individual stories. He cites Pew survey on Hispanics. He says the survey showed discrimination of HIspanics is often at the hands of other Hispanics.
(Renshon and Hing clearly disagree on things. “May I finish my sentence” is always the first clue.)
9:48 Just read “Joel’s” definition of an American (free speech and freedom to express). Renshon, given the opportunity to react, goes back to an earlier caller, instead. Shoot.
9:54 Renshon says some people think going into Iraq was foolish, some think it was a matter of national security. “Which represents democracy?” he asks.
9:58 “Jeff” — in comments — leaves us (on the air) with an opportunity for something to do during the coming holiday (or any other time)
Given the crrent anti-immigrant tide, whenever I meet an immigrant, I make a point of saying “Welcome.”
Many are surprised and pleased by my statement and then often tell short stories about how they enjoy being here.
Keep the conversation going online! Midmorning is the show that never ends!