Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lode 11-16

The historian Carl N. Degler once wrote, "The metaphor of the melting pot is unfortunate and misleading. A more accurate analogy would be a salad bowl, for, though the salad is an entity, the lettuce can still be distinguished from the chicory, the tomatoes from the cabbage." He does not say what to do when the tomatoes make war on the lettuce who have always lived there.

The riots have died down in France, but in their terrible wake they have left an important lesson. Assimilation is always spoken of in ugly tones, with diversity being the catch phrase du jour. Yet it was nothing more than the beautiful diversity of largely Muslim immigrants which caused peaceful France to become tumultuous for over two weeks.

Consider: there are an estimated five to seven million muslim immigrants in France, mostly from North Africa. The riots occurred in immigrant neigborhoods, where the unemployment rate surpasses forty percent in some areas. In other words, there are a great many angry immigrants who reside in France. It is equally safe to say, they do not regard France as a comfortable home. After all, only an irrational man would start a fire in his living room. It is more likely that the man who started the fire was not doing do so in his own home.

The whole irony of the melting pot debate is that assimilation is not only good for the host country—ask bleeding France—but for the immigrants as well. Having not lived in France, it is unclear to what extent xenophobia and racism have effected the employment rate of muslim immigrants. Yet some blame rests with the rioters. "Liberté, égalité, and fraternité" apply only for those who are, in fact, French.

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