We have in town a store where clerks in hushed and reverent tones sell breviaries and Bibles, Holy Cards and St. Christopher medals, rosaries and coffee-table books of photographic scenes of Rome, Assisi, and the Holy Land. On the walls, and all for sale, are photos of the Pope and JFK and Mother Teresa, interspersed among the reproductions of da Vinci's Last Supper and other well-known paintings with religious themes. On the shelves, between the statues of the Blessed Virgin and the votive candles, are small framed posters espousing sweet and optimistic sentiments: a quotation from St. Francis inscribed on a photo of two kittens tumbled in a basket of yarn, a passage from the Psalms inscribed on a deliberately childish water-color of a rainbow and a dove. In the back they keep domestic pews and prie-dieus, heavy faux- Victorian things with heavy red faux-velvet cushions.
But what the clerks sell most of all are crucifixes-crucifixes and crosses, from three inches high to three feet, made of painted plaster, machine-carved wood, or chrome-plated pot-metal, overly realistic with a sickly sentimentalism or overly abstract with an indecipherable form: chintzy, ugly, cheap, and vulgar. Not inexpensive, however. The wall- mounted crucifixes are routinely priced above a hundred dollars, and their cost was the second thing that caught my eye when I went down this spring to buy a crucifix to hang up in the dining room.
But the first thing I noticed was their vulgarity and ugliness, and there followed hard upon my notice of their vulgarity and ugliness a host of awkward and distressing thoughts. Certainly one's sense of vulgarity, and possibly one's sense of ugliness, are products of one's class, and though to be an American may be to notice constantly the thousand subtle marks of class distinction, to be an American is also to be suddenly and overwhelmingly distressed by noticing that one is noticing the marks of class distinction. Even to mention class in any way that suggests there exists a class lower than one's own is to sound an antidemocratic, un-American snob.
And among the times when snobbery is out of place, the time when one goes down to buy a crucifix must surely rank high. Self-reflection is self-delusion if it shies from noticing the ways one's own judgments and feelings are class-bound, but to think about class is to step into the tar pits and to struggle to think clearly while sinking deeper in the unclean, sticky stuff of self-disgust. Standing there before the display case, watched silently by the reverent clerk, I began to think I ought to buy one of the insipid, uninspiring things in expiation of my distaste for them-and then began to think that such a thought was still class-bound, and then that the crucifixes were marks of a simpler, better faith than my own, and then that to buy one would be to indulge a sort of inverse snobbery. And behind all my thoughts stood the one fact that I found the crucifixes ugly, and behind that stood the unthinkable Crucifixion they sought to represent, and I fled out on to the loud and busy pavement, where good and everyday people strolled happily unthinking past the reassuring storefronts and reassuring shops.
Sociological studies commonly suggest that it is members of the lower middle class who feel the marks of class distinction most strongly, and yet I disbelieve the studies. One of the ways in which members of the upper middle class seek to distance themselves from the lower middle class is by affecting a cavalier disregard for class distinction. Thus the parvenu, who masters with infinite care the marks of a higher class, finds that his care is exactly the mark by which the higher class knows him for a parvenu. And thus, too, when slumming by, say, refusing to wear a coat and tie when he ought, the member of a higher class gets both the delicious thrill of indulging an anti-class rebellion and the secret self-congratulatory thought that such rebellion is actually a sign of his higher class.
And yet, sociological studies are right in one sense. If class in America is mostly about money, the marks of class distinction are particularly important for those without much. The financially comfortable and financially secure have less need to defend their status, and the declaration of a casual attitude toward class is one mark by which the comfortable and secure identify each other. The hold the lower middle class has on its place is much more tenuous, much more susceptible to financial collapse, much more pressured by migration from the neighboring lower classes, and thus the members of the lower middle class are forced to take the marks of class much more seriously. And thus, too, the members of professions that are for antique and nonfinancial reasons taken to indicate a certain class-the clergy, for example, or military officers or academics-are forced to observe the marks of class distinction in compensation for the lack of money corresponding to their cultural status.
It is possible that class is not entirely invidious. In an essay on Hawthorne's novels, Henry James famously sets a catalogue of all the British class institutions the lack of which makes it impossible for Americans to write real novels. But class is certainly mostly invidious, and if Henry James' own novels are in some sense a profound indictment of class, then his complaint is the curious one in which the complainer complains about the absence of the thing about which he wants to complain. Perhaps, however, James' actual complaint is that class in America is both real and invisible, lacking visible institutions other than money to give it intelligible form, and thus class in America is even more invidious than class in England.
To write about class in any way other than to deny its reality, particularly to write about the higher classes, is to risk being taken for a snob-as James often is, as F. Scott Fitzgerald often is. Like a boast of humility, like shouted praise of silence, the peculiar American snobbery is a self-proclaimed impatience with snobbery. There exist nonetheless in America marks by which class distinction is enforced. The well-paid, technologically competent elite recognize each other by certain marks, and, being good snobs, recognize the lower standing of those who lack these. Some of the marks are as minor as awareness of particular brand-names (of cars, of colleges, of computers), but three larger ones come immediately to mind: a conventional accent in speech, a conventional disbelief in established religion, and a conventional anti- Victorian preference for clean and simple visual lines. However much money they may have, the bumpkins find themselves betrayed by their strong regional accents, their church-going, and their crowded rooms of clunky furniture. The elite may recoil from the taste of the lower classes, or they may ignore it, or they may go slumming in it, but they always know it.
One result of the cultural marks of the elite is that American churches have never contained less class distinction than they do now. The presence of class feeling was perhaps inevitable in American churches through most of their history. And if the American churches sincerely struggled against it, and if class feeling had less powerful effect in the churches than in other American institutions-both possible propositions-nonetheless class played its part in the formation and development of American religion. The clergy of the established churches came primarily from the class of the educated elite, and though the church-built colleges gradually widened the class origin of their divinity students, the colleges also served to enforce class by forming students in the taste and manners of the educated. Like to like, the clergy through much of the nineteenth century could appeal for church funds to the wealthy, and through much of the nineteenth century, Americans of nearly all classes met in churches built and manned in the taste of the educated elite. And if the churches were nonetheless vulgar and provincial, it was with the vulgarity and provinciality that marked all things American.
As the election of Andrew Jackson signalled the approaching end of the educated classes' domination of American politics, so, by the end of the nineteenth century, easy money and antireligious intellectualism signalled the approaching end of the educated classes' domination of American religion. As the correspondence between the possession of money and cultural class began to break down, the cultural elite found themselves called upon less and less to direct the new religious institutions that were welling up from the lower classes. And as the members of the cultural elite gradually formed themselves into a class of technicians and advisors to expanding rival institutions-colleges, newspapers, the government-they became less and less interested in directing religious institutions.
By the 1920s, the cultural class distinction between believers and nonbelievers was firmly in place. When H. L. Mencken wrote his famous descriptions of the coarse, indecent, gibbering fundamentalists gathered in Dayton for the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, he was expressing no new thought, but giving at last exact expression to feelings of class distinction that had been building for fifty years. Educated people, the cultural elite, certainly did not want to go to church with the vulgar, unwashed hayseeds shouting Bible fundamentalism against science, progress, and liberal sentiment.
They did not, in fact, want to go to church at all. Some class distinction among churches developed in America through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it proved mostly transient. The mainline Protestant churches that at one time attracted the elite (and consequently found themselves identified with the elite) have in the last few decades suffered catastrophic losses in membership. The Catholic Church, with its older traditions, European associations, and sense of being kept outside American culture, may have maintained class plurality longer, as indeed may have American Judaism. But they too have suffered from the antireligious mark of class distinction. American churches have never contained less cultural class distinction than they do now, but that is because they now contain only a single class.
Cultural class distinction can be abused as a device for sociological explanation. One way, for instance, to explain the judicial activism of the last forty years might be by pointing out that the courts are the only branch of government still in the hands of the educated elite-left to the elite in their class role as educated advisors, but used by the elite to enforce their tastes and prejudices against the lower classes. Such explanations fail, however, if only because they are incomplete. Cultural class certainly forms a distinction among Americans, but it is a distinction in competition with a cloud of other distinctions-of financial class, of race, of locale, of gender, of language, of democratic feeling. No one's motives spring from a single source.
And yet, the fact remains that a low suburban taste pervades American religion. The spiritual life cares nothing for class, and too much awareness of class can only interfere with one's ability to enter the spiritual life. But religion has a public face in a secular nation; it performs its actions on a social stage, and actions on the social stage invariably indicate something about class. People who go to church build churches, and it is in the taste of people who go to church that churches get built. When the educated elite abandoned religion, they left the performance of religion to the vulgar and thereby lost all right to complain of the vulgarity of the result. Architects may identify themselves with the educated professional classes, and thus resist the taste of their clients for a while, but eventually the taste of the client wins out-as indeed it ought. So too the clergy may resist the taste of their rich parishioners for a while. But though (thanks to their education and the vestiges of old class distinction still clinging to them) the clergy tend to identify themselves with the educated class, they come nowadays mostly from the same class as their parishioners, whose taste and manners are their own. And though their education may have gentrified them in some ways, American suspicion of snobbery prevents the clergy from receiving in the course of their education much training in educated taste and manners.
In Latin Christendom, in Orthodox Greece, perhaps even on the revival circuit in the American Bible Belt, there is a festival vulgarity to religion that no one could call upper class, but that is nonetheless vibrant, earthy, dramatic, and strong-precisely because it does not stop to consider class. The worst thing about class distinction in America is that it poisons our ability to express aesthetic judgments. Without sounding like a snob, without being a snob, I do not know how to phrase my complaint that our parish church is built in the style of a Swiss skiing chalet, that it is festooned with pastel and paisley, that the abstract designs in its new stained-glass windows are ugly, poorly made, and meaningless.
And yet, the complaint needs to be made. The problem with the crucifixes for sale downtown is not just that they are vulgar, or just that they are ugly, or just that they are shoddy. The problem is that they, like most public performances of American religion, are suburban in the worst sense of the word: simultaneously vulgar and expensive, simultaneously class-conscious and class-bound, simultaneously timid and ornate.
The radical feminists are using the O. J. Simpson tragedy to trash their usual suspects: "patriarchal" men. Stimulated-perhaps overstimulated-by the fallen hero's case, Mariah Burton Nelson for one has gotten a good deal of media ink for charging that the patriarchal sports world "trains men to hate women." Though Simpson was the son of an abandoning father rather than a patriarch, his misogynistic violence is nevertheless blamed on the woman-hating culture that supposedly breeds in exclusively masculine redoubts: certain combat units, college fraternities, and ballplayers' locker rooms.
But even as the gender feminists accuse patriarchal men of the appetite for violence against women, they themselves, in their usual imperious fashion, want to have it all, including the right to hold, simultaneously, two mutually incompatible moral and political positions. On the one hand, they are justifiably outraged by the evidence of increasing domestic violence against women, but on the other hand they are utterly committed to bringing about, within the American family, and under the antiviolence banner, the conditions that underwrite and even guarantee male violence.
The feminists aver that the male tendency to violence is not innate, not a law of human nature, but a mutable product of our social nurture: it is a breakdown product of patriarchy (particularly white, Western patriarchy) and can be blunted and overcome only by implicit gynocracy, or by androgynous parenting arrangements-fathers and mothers as clones of one another. To this great end, the female presence must be injected into all the festering compost heaps of patriarchy and gynophobia: women must be enrolled in combat units, female reporters must have free access to men's locker rooms, and fraternities must either be disbanded or degendered. The "empowerment" of women and the concomitant disempowerment of men is the only cure for noxious patriarchy and the antiwoman violence that it presumably sponsors.
They don't get it. After decades of exposure to the social and psychological disasters, particularly those afflicting our inner cities, that have accompanied the deconstruction of American fatherhood, the gender feminists still don't get it. Though they insist that such cannot be the case, it becomes increasingly clear that the mayhem inflicted by violent men on women (and on other men, and on society as a whole) has its roots not in conventional patriarchy, but in the increasingly matriarchal nature of the American family. Ever since Philip Wylie wrote his angry text on American "Momism" back in the thirties, various astute commentators, including a number of women, have been telling us that American children, and especially boys, need more patriarchy-in the best sense of that term-and not more "empowered" matriarchs. These children particularly need fathers who are different from their estimable mothers in equally admirable ways: tough without being macho brutes, stern without being petty tyrants, and yes, affectionate-but on the whole, less nurturing than their wives.
I can write these heresies without fear of reprisal from the politically correct: I resigned long ago from the American Psychological Association, and at my age I no longer worry about building a career. It is, of course, not enough to be outrageous; unfashionable views must be bolstered by evidence, including a brief review of the young boy's psychological development in the two-parent nuclear family. We should consider the basic requirements for "good enough" masculine development, as well as the predictably bad consequences-for example, the strong likelihood of male violence against women-when certain bottom-line requirements are violated.
Thus, as we consider the new uniparental or bi-maternal parenting (for example: "Murphy Brown"/single mother households or lesbian couples) we have to evaluate not only the well-being, freedom, and rights of those engaged in these unorthodox arrangements, but also the developmental requirements of the children that they presume to raise. What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the country; and what feels good to new-style or homosexual mothers is not on that account necessarily good for their kids. Mother Nature may be female, but she is not, in the current sense of that term, a feminist. She does not accredit parenting arrangements that flout her laws, even if they are promoted-in thunder-by a self-anointed Sisterhood.
Let us begin with one of Mother Nature's clear ordinances, a developmental imperative that is recognized, in both ritual and common practice, by all successful human societies. It is this: in order to mature as distinct individuals and as future fathers, at some culturally recognized point boys have to separate, in the psychological sense, from their mothers-whose biological destiny they do not share. Men's work is done on the communal periphery; thus, before they can become creatures of the perimeter, and long before they can begin to think of themselves as reliable parents, boys have to free themselves from the sense that they are extensions of the mother-that they are no more than their mothers' home-hugging little sons.
At the proper season, patriarchal fathers-fathers, that is, who are different from admirable mothers in their own impressive ways-play a unique role in fostering their sons' psychological migration away from the Magna Mater and towards some worthy role on the periphery. The competent father, seemingly adequate to all challenges (very much including provocations from his son), stands forth in the son's eyes as enviable but also admirable: a pillar of strength. As such, he spreads an umbrella of security under which the son can temporarily shelter, even as he slowly declares himself to be a distinct person, separate from the mother. Thus the father whose special, "patriarchal" virtues distinguish him from the mother becomes at the proper season what the psychoanalysts call a "transitional object": standing apart from the mother, he provides a secure way station on the son's psychological voyage away from her, and allows that risky evolution to go forward.
Traditional societies typically organize rights of passage, ordeals of one sort or another, to mark the boy's passage from the status of "mother's son" to that of "father's son." The ordeal, whether it entails penile sub-incision with cowrie shells, or being responsible at age thirteen for the day's Torah portion, is usually managed by the community's collective fathers, who closely monitor the candidate for signs of weakness. If the boy breaks and cries under the ordeal, then he is still his mother's son, not ready to join the male collectivity of fathers and age-mates of the community's perimeter. But if he endures with some grace the punishment that the fathers mete out, then he has earned the right to be their son, the apprentice who will some day inherit their special powers. Under that sign, he can continue the process of individuation, and separate from the father-just as he had earlier on separated from the mother-to become finally his own man.
Besides sponsoring the boy's symbolic rebirth as a father's son, "patriarchal" dramas of this sort also sponsor the boy's growing mastery over his violent drives-the destructive impulses that place him, early in life, in opposition to the father and the father's law. Despite their many faults, patriarchal fathers are the best means that our species has devised for managing a very grave threat to any organized social life: male-particularly young male-violence. Our streets have been "Beirut- ized" by violence from sons without fathers, and without superegos.
The fathers' role in bringing civilization in the form of the superego to their sons has been clarified by many psychoanalysts, the leading students of what is known as the "Oedipal" track in child development. In their narrative, little boys, charged up with untested illusions of omnipotence, are driven early on to challenge the prerogatives and possessions of the father. If they come up against true patriarchs, fathers who are neither antagonized nor intimidated by their small sons' enmity, these same little boys are quickly (and with real relief on their part) introduced to some basic propositions of the masculine reality principle: "You are not big, powerful, and supremely competent; instead, you are small, puny, and completely unready. However, matters can change; and if you pay him proper respect, your father will help you escape from your unfortunate condition."
Thus, when the small sons of patriarchal fathers realize-however grudgingly-that they cannot win the father's prerogatives and powers by force, they are ready to receive another bulletin from reality: "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em." Young sons give up infantile fantasies of coopting the father's powers by violence in favor of a disciplined filial apprenticeship. From then on, a boy's self-esteem will be based increasingly on experiences of real mastery, rather than on hectic fantasies of omnipotence.
The boy concedes his own omnipotence to his father; and through the intervention of his father, gives his potentially antisocial aggression a positive, pro-social sign. In effect, the boy's aggression follows the general line of masculine evolution: as he becomes a "father's son" and moves his sights beyond the mother's home, his aggressive potentialities track with him, and find new targets. From now on, his enemies will not be found in his own house or significant community, but will come to him from the outside, from beyond the periphery. Fathers' sons can be very good killers, but not of their kin, or their neighbors. Mothers' sons by contrast are indiscriminate: they are murderously aggressive within the home as well as outside of it-they are apt to abuse their aging relatives, their wives, and their children. But while the admittedly square and even priggish sons of patriarchal fathers may grow up to patronize the women of their house and town, they very rarely assault them. Instead, they are protective (sometimes overly protective) of their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and daughters: when killing is involved, they kill the men who come from the outside to hurt their women and children.
In short, the boy comes out of the Oedipal engagement with a built-in internal presence: the superego, the sometimes harsh inner monitor that will not let him hurt-or even think of hurting-those whom he either loves or should love. But restriction is not the whole story. Via the superego the father's son also gains an internal (and therefore trustworthy) sense of resource: so long as he acts in the service of his community, and against the enemies of his loved ones, he will have access to his own vital energies, his own iron rations of the psyche. Now he can make and fill his own bottles; he is, in the psychological sense, weaned. Thus assured, the boy is ready to slip the psychic umbilicus and graduate from "mother's son" to "father's son." It does not much matter whether this transition is accomplished informally within the home, or formally, via rites of passage, in the larger society; in either case, the son is launched, under the father's aegis, on the journey away from the mother and into maturity.
This is not an ideal outcome-after all, as the feminists remind us, the father's son is still quite capable of violence against foreign women- but considering the usual alternatives it is about the best that we can expect. But what of the boys who grow up under the ambiguous familial conditions that are rapidly replacing normal patriarchy? What is the fate of sons who grow up without a father, or with a father who is little more than an androgynous, often ineffectual, clone of the mother?
One consequence is clear: in the absence of a compelling father, the mother's presence fills not only the outer domestic frame, but also her son's interior psychic space. These boys-the offspring of single women, lesbian couples, or devalued "pops"-will not, in the proper season, attain psychological distance from their mothers. But children without fathers will usually find alternative, though less trustworthy ways to cut the golden cord. Boys who cannot achieve psychological distance from their mothers fall back instead on unreliable substitutes: physical distance and social distance.
Physical distance they achieve by flight: from the mother's home to the streets, to the fighting gangs that rule them and, at the end of the day, to the all-male fraternity of the penitentiary. Social distance they achieve by moving out of the mother's cultural world, and off her scale of values; unable finally to split from the mother, they provoke her-through criminality, addiction, sexual exploitation, and physical violence against women within the domestic space-into throwing them out of her decent house. Finally, they turn to booze and drugs to get the transient soothing, the comfort that they can no longer take (or expect) from their mother's hand. Through such desperate means, fatherless sons demonstrate-to the world, to their mothers, and to themselves-that they are Men. Finally, by their physical and verbal assaults on women they try to kill off the unrelinquished "woman"-the psychic after-image of the mother-within themselves.
In its essence, this could be the story of O. J. Simpson, whose case is being litigated as I write. Simpson is certainly not a typical product of misogynist patriarchy, taught by his seniors and locker-room companions to bash women. Quite the contrary: at age forty-seven, he seems to be the prototypical "mother's son," now wrecked by the troublesome passage into midlife. We have been studying casualties of his sort-black and white, rich and poor- in my clinical service for middle-aged and older adults for the past fifteen years.
Despite his celebrity O. J.'s history is in no way atypical of the syndrome. for starters, the father, known in the neighborhood as "Sweet Jimmy" Simpson, was hardly your stereotypical patriarch. Instead, he was a reported homosexual, who apparently left O. J.'s mother for a man when his son was three years old, and who died, probably of AIDS, in 1986. Left alone, O. J.'s tough and devoted mother overcomes daunting odds to raise him. Nevertheless, as a teen-ager he predictably splits from her into the world of gangs and dope. Far from being corrupted by patriarchy, he is rescued by a celebrated black man: hearing that a potentially great athlete is screwing up, Willie Mays shows O. J. the exciting world that could be his. Thus sponsored by a "father figure," O. J. finds a route away from the mother's world that does not lead through the dangerous streets. He accepts the patriarchal discipline of coaches and locker rooms, goes on to win the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the legendary "Juice."
Pace Ms. Mariah Burton Nelson, Simpson's violent urges towards women do not really bloom until he retires from football, when he quits the locker room. Having lost the masculine cosmetic of the sports world-the fatherly coaches, the male allies, of the NFL-Simpson (like many of our midlife patients) is then probably threatened anew by his unsundered ties to the mother within, and to her feminine exemplars in the outside world. Once again he is in danger of becoming a "Mama's boy." Having lost the "patriarchal" or sportsman's route away from the feminine, he seems to fall back on his last-ditch, emergency buffers: behaving much like a threatened teenager, he interposes physical and social distance between himself and the dangerous women. Thus he divorces two wives, he is certainly violent towards Nicole Simpson, and driven by his pathological jealousy-the usual fears of a man insecure about his masculinity-he may have killed her. The troubles of a poorly fathered son can afflict not only his childhood and adolescence, but his later years as well.
Most reasonable adult human beings-including the fathers that I have interviewed in peasant societies around the world-are quite aware of the psychological need for patriarchy along the lines that I have described. It is only news to the gender feminists, who have ruled out the very idea of an essential human nature. Thus, the Murphy Browns of this world can for a while demonstrate their independence by having babies out of wedlock, raising them without fathers while holding down taxing professional jobs. They can play the narcissistic game of having it all: career, independence from exploitative men, and babies.
But while the parental imperative can be temporarily violated, the transgressors eventually run afoul of the most stringent rule in nature: that of unintended and often catastrophic consequences. Thus, even as these new-wave mothers congratulate themselves on their own boldness and "growth," their sons, and eventually they themselves, will be at risk. The child-rearing revolutions that, in the name of women's liberation from patriarchy, diminish the fathers lead paradoxically but inevitably to the loss of women's freedom that results from desperate male violence.
Loud blasts from the trumpets of ideology temporarily drown out the muted but insistent voice of the reality principle, but nature denied eventually returns, usually in its most primitive forms. "Take Back the Night" protests will neither repair the damage nor reverse the social entropy that causes it. A measure of patriarchy in the home is, paradoxically, the major guarantor of democracy in our public life. We may still have a choice: either recognize the special grace and status of the father within the family, or eventually suffer-and probably in this order-criminal anarchy, then the Police State, and finally the iron rule of Big Brother over our domestic and public affairs.
Peter L. Berger
The current debate over immigration policy cuts across the conventional political and ideological divides. It is also multifaceted. Probably the most important facet has to do with disagreements over the economic impact of both legal and illegal immigration: Are immigrants, in the aggregate, an asset or a liability to the economy? Do immigrants constitute an intolerable burden on the institutions of the welfare state? And, depending on how one answers the foregoing two questions, what would be a reasonable level of immigration and what should be the criteria by which immigrants are admitted? Then there is the civil liberties facet: would effective measures to curb illegal immigration endanger the civil liberties of everyone, citizens and noncitizens alike? I will not address these questions here (though I should freely admit that all my instincts are pro-immigration-hardly surprising in someone who came to this country as an immigrant himself). Rather I want to comment on another, also very important, aspect of the debate-namely, the cultural aspect.
An argument is being made that, given the massiveness and the ethnic character of immigration today, the traditional pattern of Americanization can no longer be relied upon to absorb all these people into the culture. In consequence, there is a real danger of American society being increasingly balkanized and overwhelmed by the social pathologies flourishing in a multiplicity of ethnic subcultures. This argument frequently has a repulsive racist undertone, but that fact should not lead one to dismiss it out of hand. On the face of it, the argument is not without intellectual merit; nevertheless, I believe, it is thoroughly mistaken.
The alleged problem here is the presence of large numbers of non- Americanized people. Their numbers should be reduced. Beyond that, however, the implied solution is Americanization. Whatever number of immigrants remain, every effort should be made to Americanize them (notably through the educational system). In this way, supposedly, political balkanization and a miscellany of social pathologies will be contained. I propose the opposite: Americanization is the problem, not the solution.
Contemporary American culture suffers from two (possibly, though not necessarily, related) pathologies. One is based in the so-called underclass. It is the one that is most prominent in public opinion. It includes crime, drugs, illegitimacy, and a chaotic breakdown of moral order. The other pathology, arguably much more serious because much more difficult to contain, is grounded in the elite culture (or, if you prefer, in the New Class). It is animated by an assemblage of more or less demented ideologies derived from the 1960s that have now completed their "long march through the institutions," debasing the educational system from top to bottom, politics and the law, the communications media, and increasingly the very fabric of everyday life.
The large majority of Americans is squeezed in by these two spreading "tangles of pathology" (to use Kenneth Clark's apt metaphor). There can be little doubt as to which of the two is spreading more insidiously. People from the underclass may steal one's car, disfigure the city streets, and burden one's tax bill with the unfortunate consequences of their lifestyle. But it is people from the cultural elite who are miseducating one's children, imposing intolerable burdens of government interference on the economy, institutionalizing a strange American replica of the Hindu caste system in politics and law, and creating a joyless world in which the most fundamental human relations, those between the sexes and the generations, are more and more poisoned.
The point to be made here is exceedingly simple: Both of these pathologies are thoroughly homegrown. It is native-born Americans who constitute the bulk of the underclass. It is native-born Americans who man the "commanding heights" and virtually all the lesser echelons of the elite culture. If lower-income immigrants fail to make it in America, it is not they but their children and grandchildren who steal the cars and deal in drugs-young people who were born here and who have become Americanized to the point where many of them no longer speak the language of their parents. And if immigrants successfully reach comfortable middle-class incomes, it is not they but their children and grandchildren who absorb and internalize the genuinely American lunacies of the elite culture.
I would even go one step further in this argument: If immigration were to stop completely, these twin pathologies would not diminish but intensify. As things are today, at least there are sizable numbers of people coming into this country who have strong beliefs about not stealing cars, about working hard and having strong families, and who have not yet learned that every encounter between a man and a woman is an exercise in power politics. Perhaps there is some hope in the expectation that at least some of them will slow down the Americanization of their offspring to the extent of transmitting these values to the latter. One should remember, too, that the balkanization of America-through a twisted logic of affirmative action, through quotas, multiculturalism run amok, and a perverse application of bilingual education-is driven, not by immigrants (who typically want none of these things), but by the graduates of the higher reaches of the American university system.
A modest proposal suggests itself here. Perhaps immigration policy should include a measured exchange of population. Any country from which large numbers of people want to come to America should be offered a deal. Its immigrant quota will be based on the number of Americans it will in turn admit as immigrants to it. For every American criminal deported to, say, Bangladesh, two Bangladeshis will be admitted to the United States. And for every professor of postmodernist literary theory that the University of Dacca can entice to move there (USAID could subsidize his or her salary), twenty Bangladeshis could come here. I can see a few constitutional problems that will have to be sorted out. But then America has no shortage of lawyers who can figure out ways to get around the details.