Note for the Integrationists

AFTER any given terrorist attack here in Europe comes the inevitable justification from some mouth or other—at least here in Italy—to the effect that the attack in question was surely due to a failure of integration. As though it were the fault of the host nation that its guests should assault it; as though the natural result of a country’s not being perfectly welcoming to strangers, is that these same strangers strap bombs to their chests, drive semi-trucks through Christmas fairs, or attempt to stab their way into government buildings.
      The term “integration” is one of those pleasant modern words, like “pluralism” or “multiculturalism,” that contains enormities within a few simple syllables, and thus seems to reduce impossible complexities to all the ease of an utterance. “What is the solution to the immigration crisis? Why, integration!” And so one washes one’s hands of the entire affair—and moreover one knows exactly who to blame when something goes wrong.
     But let us for a moment ponder this question from the other side: not what integration means to foreigners come to our nations, but what it would mean to us, if the roles were reversed. Consider this hypothetical: on account of some war or famine or other devastating calamity of our Western nations, we and our families were forced to seek political asylum or economic possibilities in, say, an Islamic Middle Eastern country. For the purposes of our hypothetical, let us assume that the generally strict immigration policies of these countries were for the moment loosened, to permit our entry and residency. Imagine this well, and answer me, in all frankness, the following questions:
      Would you, upon arriving amongst these very different customs, seek to adopt them as your own? or would you persist in those customs which you have grown old in? Would you cook, for instance, in the style of your host nation? or in that of your native country? Would you cease to eat all pig meat, or, supposing such could be got, would you prefer to continue eating pork, ham, bacon, prosciutto, though it were detestable to your new neighbors? Whose clothes would you prefer to wear? What way of physical greeting would you choose, and which prefer? Would you strive, with all the enormities of time and effort it requires, to learn the language of your new country fluently and to perfection? or would you rest content to speak it well enough for most practical purposes? And even if you wished to learn it fluently—would you be able to?
      So much for the superficial. A little deeper now. Where would you live? Would you prefer to insert yourself and your family, utterly alone, in the midst of some native community, despite the fact that you should be obvious outsiders, salient to all eyes, perhaps resented or distrusted, perhaps disliked or even hated? or would you rather form up some community of persons from your own country and your own customs, in which you could speak your own language and live fearlessly in the way you were used to living, without worrying about trespassing some perfectly invisible boundary of consuetude? Would you teach your children the tongue of your mother country, in which you are fluent? or the tongue of your adopted country, which you know but imperfectly and speak with countless unconscious errors and a foreigner’s accent? Would you purchase your food, your goods, your services, from the salespersons and vendors and shopkeepers of your adopted country, who perchance look on you with suspicion and distaste? or from persons of your own nationality and ethnicity, the shops they begin to establish in your community? Would you prefer to work for a person of your host country, who speaks to you rapidly and imperiously in a language you understand imperfectly, maybe even in a dialect of the same, and who holds you accountable to standards you do not even halfway understand? or would you rather prefer to work for someone of your own nationality, with whom a more implicit understanding is not only possible, but is a given?
      Would you become a Muslim, and pray in the mosques? or would you hold to your present faith, or lack thereof? Would you adopt Sharia law, and submit your women to treatment by its precepts, and your daughters to marriage and impregnation when they are but children? or would you prefer to establish some enclave of Western values, even if this is not strictly according to the law, in which your wives need not veil their faces and heads, in which freedom of speech is protected, in which each person may worship the god they choose, in which a homosexual does not need to fear for his life? And what would you prefer for your children—that they come of age in the intolerance and closure of these Islamic ways? or that they learn your own? And would you prefer to send your children to school and to the mosque? or would you prefer to establish informal schools of your own, in which to raise them according to the values you know and love? Would you be pleased or troubled to see them adopting the practices and the beliefs of your host country, when these are counter your own? And if your host country, finding your community living in this way, should begin to complain of the immorality and perhaps even illegality of your customs, would you meekly bow to its judgement, and overhaul your habits, and change your lifestyle to please it? or would you not view its meddling with hostility, as an infringement of your self-determination? Would you not seek, in the face of such oppression, to render your community more independent of it?
      And should it happen that your host country and your native country go to war with each other, on which side of the conflict would you choose to fight? which would have your sympathies, your hopes, your convictions? And on which side would you want your children to fight? And supposing some moral authority from one of your own nations began to speak of the necessity of persuading your host country to adopt liberal ways—supposing he began to speak of you and your little community as the inauguration of such a process—supposing he began to exhort you to spread Occidental traditions like a beneficial influence in your host country—would you not heed him, and do what you could to aid in the enlightenment of your illiberal neighbors?
      In short: would you integrate easily into this world, so different from anything you have ever known? or would you prove a little refractory, a little tenaciously, self-righteously, and justly Western?
      Very well. This is no far-fetched hypothetical, foreign to every reality: these are the very questions which hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year must confront seriously in their own lives, on a day to day basis, amongst us, in our European and American, in our Occidental, nations. These are the issues—nor even half of them!—that are hidden in the background, each time we utter that innocuous-sounding little four-syllable word and pass it off as the simple solution to our ills.
      I therefore beg you recall these questions the next time you propose integration as a nostrum for all the manifold troubles of immigration.

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