Bryan Fischer, blogging at the American Family Association, has taken the Fort Hood shootings as the point of departure to call for a ban on Muslim Americans serving their country in the military.* near the end of his rant, he remarks that ‘The military is not about social engineering or diversity or multiculturalism or about proving what open-minded people we are. It's about being ready to break things and kill people so that Americans can sleep securely in their beds at night.’
this reminds me of something that's been bothering me for a while. there's this idea that's popular on the right in the United States that people showing up here and persisting in maintaining their own cultures and speaking their own languages is somehow a threat to American and the American way of life. putting aside for the moment the fact that people doing that is one of the most important distinguishing characterics of the American way of life, i think that the policies that this kind of attitude spawns actively weaken America. i don't mean this ‘strength through diversity’ thing in some abstract hippie academic way - i mean that our diversity has a long and proud history as an important resource that, when the situation calls for it, makes us better equipped to break things and kill people.
you see, a sufficient level of diversity and inclusion can put us in a position to offer this threat to potential enemies: no matter who you are, where you live, what gods you worship, or what language you speak, there is somebody on our team who speaks your language and understands your ways. somebody willing and able to meet you across a negotiating table, yes, but also willing and able to work as an intelligence analyst, a propagandist, an infiltrator, or an assassin - someone who has what it takes to turn your neighbors against you and kill you in your sleep. oh, and we also have somebody on our team about whose language and ways you know nothing, and we might just find a way to use them against you too. our diversity allows us to understand you much better than you understand us.
our ability to credibly make this threat in the past, and to follow through with it, has been spotty exactly because of our uneven track record when it comes to being inclusive and diversity-friendly - because of our frequent failure to recognize and cultivate this incredible strategic resource.
with its English-only, aggressively assimilationist, and generally obnoxiously exclusionary ways, the American right has undermined - and threatens to destroy - one of our most distinctive strategic resources for the killing of bad guys.
why do they want us to lose?
*this has been inaccurately described as the AFA calling for such a ban. it doesn't look to me like this is the case, and in fact another AFA blogger has already posted to emphatically disagree with Fischer and to offer a statement of gratitude to ‘our soldiers - whether Christian, Jew, Atheist, Wiccan, or Muslim’. i generally think the AFA is a pretty unpleasant organization, but I still think that their involvement in this particular piece of stupid is being characterized in a way that's unfair to them.
(η: there are certain respects in which the above is a bit over the top - it was necessary for rhetorical effect, and i don't regret it, but, to clarify:
1. i don't think American conservatives actually want America to lose. one of the things this post is about is the absurdity of the ‘they disagree with me about how to win so they must want us to lose’ category of arguments. i don't even believe most American conservatives are as bad as the one post i linked to suggests. hell, i'm not even sure the guy who wrote the post is that bad. he's obviously (and understandably) pretty shook up about the whole senseless shooting thing, and when people get shook up they sometimes say stupid-ass things. i'm certainly not immune to this effect, and i'm guessing you aren't either. of course, he also very well may be that bad. in any case, the pro-tolerance AFA post is very much recommended reading.
2. i actually think there are some good reasons to be reluctant to use assassination as a means of getting things done, and that the attitude that reduces every problem to the problem of killing bad guys is a dangerous one. there lots of problems in this world that are difficult or impossible to solve without killing bad guys, but there are precious few that can be solved by just killing bad guys, and also quite a few where getting stuck in the ‘kill the bad guys’ mindset can make you miss an opportunity to solve things in a less death-oriented manner. nevertheless, my point is that even when we do generally find ourselves in a situation where breaking things and killing people is a big part of the solution, this stuff about freedom and diversity an tolerance is still important - and is in some ways even more important than it was before.)