Cameron praises America’s sense of identity

Joe
Joseph Willits writes from London:

Conservative Party leader David Cameron spoke of his aspiration of social cohesion in Britain yesterday.
The impression that Britain sometimes lacks the necessary harmony to
provide a cohesive society was articulated fervently, with the hope of
such unity being idealised.  Cameron openly encouraged Britain to
humbly maintain and enhance cohesion, particularly with relation to
British Muslims.  “Alienation”, “disillusionment”, and the “ambiguity”
between faith and nation, he said, were plaguing the nation, and
disabling a frequently shared ambition.

As the US, places in the forefront of its mind, the prospect of a
post-Bush America, and the UK contemplates the return of a Conservative
government, a differing relationship waits to be forged between the
two countries.  Cameron’s speech insinuated huge implications of the
cohesion held by Britain and America, a strengthened relationship, and
the need to enhance it further.  He made it clear, that if Britain’s
aspiration was its own social cohesion, then it had to look towards
America for advice, principle and a sense of pride.  Cameron asks us to:

"Think of America. Of course America is not perfect. But it does
succeed in creating, to an extent far more evident that we have
achieved here, a real sense of common identity – about what it means to
be an American. Freedom. Family. Opportunity and community."

Everyone is made aware of the American dream, or at least American identity, and it may be with reluctant respect that we express it, but somewhere in our mindset, we recognise the need to be slightly more American, and take seriously the notion that in some British circles is so fashionable to criticise:

“The difference is that in America, this identity is positively and actively embraced by nearly everyone, regardless of his or her ethnic background and religious affiliation. You can see it in daily rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance. In the strong sense of emotional attachment and reverence towards Mount Rushmore and Arlington Cemetery.  And you can see it in America’s coming together on Independence Day and Thanksgiving.  It is this strong sense of inclusive identity that has helped make so many people feel part of American society.”

Apart from merely explaining a certain admiration for the US, Cameron provides a very British reality:

“In Britain, we have to be honest: we have failed to do the same. We have not opened up our sense of citizenship to all those that have come to live here.”

Britain, at previous opportunities, has struggled to acknowledge its national identity.  Many would argue that British society has become so diluted, and influenced from outside the confines of the island state, that it cannot possibly return to a stage where a sense of common identity is paramount to our value system.  Such a denial of potential would even go so far as to deny any history of ever having been held together in unity.  The British, like the Americans, are not all carved from the same rock, we do not always pray to the same God, or to any God at all, nor do we wrap the Union Jack around us with the same affection each time.  However, we are severely lacking, or perhaps misplacing the prospect of social cohesion that can occur from the problematic dangers of the past. 

Whether it be terrorism, fundamentalism, or just a general sense of ghettoising ethnic groups, social cohesion has been lost, or dispersed with cynicism and a lack of faith.  With David Cameron publicly recognising American success with social solidarity, he asserts the great need for renewed social cohesion that a desperate, tired, and all too compromising Britain is crying out for.  As Cameron stated America isn’t perfect, but Britain can engage its community once again by applying certain American values to our current social discord.

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27 Responses to Cameron praises America’s sense of identity

  1. Mary Fernandez says:

    Actually, a recent Pew Poll found American Muslims very assimilated compared to their British counterparts:.

    Finding Include:

    1. Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.
    A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the United States can make it if they are willing to work hard.

    2. The survey shows that although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

    3. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.

    4. Based on data from this survey, along with available Census Bureau data on immigrants’ nativity and nationality, the Pew Research Center estimates the total population of Muslims in the United States at 2.35 million.

    5. Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. Absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world.
    ___________________

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/483/muslim-americans

  2. Mary Fernandez says:

    As for David Cameron, after his speech on 9/11 wherein he basically pissed on the graves of 3000 murdered, I keep waiting for him to find the distance from America he says he wants.

  3. Mary Fernandez says:

    Cameron’s basically an empty suit.

    Poor Britain, I fear, is suffering from years of the deliberate breakdown of its sovereignty in order to fit into the EU project. Borders make a nation.

  4. Steevo says:

    Cameron’s view of America is partially idealized. There’s more symbolism than substance that meets the eye. You have to live here to know.

    Simon’s view America is idealized by what seems to me to be ego and prejudice. Its the BBC and Guardian mentality, skewed and with nationalism. Muslims are not the problem here as in the UK, they have accepted American ideals better. Better but not good enough, and we have to be very diligent to control the potential for their intolerance and hate. It is by and large the Muslim mentality that is the problem: they cannot readily accept and respect Democracy and freedom.

    “Anything but face reaility. Unchecked immigration fractures society and undermines the values and social assumptions that once held us together.” Agreed John.

    I don’t blame the UK for its Muslim problem with the exception of an attitude as if its the fault of the non-Muslim British for not ‘reaching out’ enough. This PC self-criticism is destructive and causes Muslims to further separate and exert their self-centered ‘rights’ be Muslim at the expense of not having to respect the culture and values of a nation they chose to live in.

  5. JF says:

    Perdix, no doubt about it, Blair has been a disaster in terms of domestic policy. But Cameron will be at least as bad, and he’ll alienate the United States in addition. Will the UK replace France as the American object of scorn in the next decade? Hopefully not, but we’ll see how the Tories perform once in office. Let’s hope that the speech given by DC on September 11 was a one-time event.

  6. Mary Fernandez says:

    JF, (I don’t know if your an American, if you, are you might relate to this), I haven’t said the pledge of allegiance since first grade in 1975 and Mt. Rushmore might be a nice place to visit (I haven’t been there), but I don’t associate it with reverence. I associate it with a Hitchcock/Gary Grant movie. The Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial, yes; Mt. Rushmore, no. I think the BBC portrays Americans doing the Pledge of Allegiance like Nazis doing ‘Heil Hitler’.

    Christopher Meyer in his book ‘D.C. Confidential’ went on about Brits who could speak ‘American’ and those that can’t. Mo Mowlan (fmr. No. Ireland Secretary) could. (She apparently replied, “Up yours, King” to Congressman Peter King and endeared herself to the entire Congressional delegation thereafter). Peter Mandleson couldn’t. I suspect that Tony Blair can instinctively communicate to Americans. Dave Cameron, I don’t think ‘gets’ America. I don’t know about Brown (except that socialist bunk he’s selling won’t go down well here).

  7. Mary Fernandez says:

    Perdix – Thanks!

  8. Mary Fernandez says:

    JF – Just to clarify, I don’t have a lack of identification with the national symbols (I’m an Army Captain), but I just don’t see Mt. Rushmore high amongst them. I’d put the Alamo, Ft. Sumnter, Gettysburg or the Grand Canyon higher than Mt. Rushmore.

    I agree with you that Cameron’s view of America is a bit idealized (Sort of like an outsider reading a Lonely Planet guide about America rather than having an instinctive feel for the place.)

    I’m predicting a Republican winner next year. The Democrats have painted themselves so far left, I can’t see them winning a general election. The polls keep showing the top three Repubicans beating any combination of Democrats. [And mild mannered George Bush must be a dream to work with next to cranky John McCain!]

  9. JF says:

    Mary, agreed on all points, apologies for the misunderstanding. That said, from what I’ve read, DC has been having some trouble of late even in relating to his own constituency, so perhaps his stance on the US isn’t personal. He’s starting to look almost like the British John McCain: alienate the base, blur the lines between parties, and court the press. So far it’s working, but it is a long road until elections.

    I’m very proud of our GOP lineup and have high hopes for next year. McCain would be a great commander in chief, and his performance in the most recent debate rekindled my hope that he will turn things around, but I hope he comes to see the light on immigration before it sinks him. Otherwise, I’m satisfied that any of our front runners would make a good president.

    And let me say, G-d bless you for your service.

  10. KevinV says:

    One of the things that really struck me when I moved to Britain from the States in the late 80’s was that, unlike the common American folks I knew, the common, every day British person I got to know didn’t have any pride in their country.

    This was the difference: when presented with an opportunity to comment on or demonstrate how they feel about their country, the “default” position of Americans is positive while the “default” position of the Britons was decidedly negative.

    In either case the “default” position could be overcome given personal opinion on any given issue or persuasion, but that knee-jerk first impression was there.

    What was worse, was that the average Britons I got to know seemingly never passed up a chance to pass along a cynical remark about their country.

    I really got the impression by the time I returned to Los Angeles that I was leaving a place too deeply soaked in old world cynicism to pull itself out. I’m very afraid that diagnosis may, in fact, have been correct.

    Americans can be disturbingly optimistic and postive, and I can certainly see how all the fake-cheery “have a nice day” crap can wear on a person with British sensibilities.

    But any people who have no pride in who they are collectively are going the way of the T. Rex.

  11. JH says:

    I strongly agree with Mary F’s contention that borders make a nation and that the European project has weakened Britain’s idea of itself and its true identity. Reading Andrew Roberts’ ‘History of the English Speaking peoples Since 1900’, recently published I am reminded that geographical location does not make for national identity. Rather culture, language and constitution are clearer pointers to affinity. In this case Britain is not European at all and should have continued to develop its traditional links with the English speaking world – US, Canada, Australia etc.

    As a Naval Officer I am well aware that our gretaest achievements during my career such as winning the cold war, the Falklands, Gulf war 1 etc were against a background of close bilateral co operation or through Atlantic institutions such as NATO. The EU had nothing to do with it. Until the UK recognises taht its true friends and family are unlikely to be found in Europe our decline is likely to continue.

  12. Simon Newman says:

    JF:
    “Simon Newman, why control for social status? It’s precisely because our Muslims have a better social status (through better integration) that we have fewer problems.”

    I meant: if you statistically control for the higher median status (income/education/class) of Muslim American immigrants, they are arguably no better integrated than in UK. Although the main problem is arguably not with the immigrants per se but with the largely Saudi-funded radicalisation of the mosques in both UK and USA over the past 15 years, I saw an estimate that at least 80% of US mosques are now radicalised.

  13. JF says:

    Simon, I’m not sure what you’re getting at with your controls, exactly (if you control for socioeconomic status, I would guess that in general, our poor/uneducated engage in crime as much as your poor/uneducated), but I agree that Saudi interference is alarming.

    I think the major problem with Britain (and the continent) is this idea of setting up government-sponsored central Muslim councils in the hope of influencing the Muslims and creating a European form of Islam. The American way, as with many other things, has been to encourage individualism and local solutions, which I believe are more helpful than a single central authority ruling from on high, which only plays to the Wahhabi model. It also essentially forces Muslims to conform to that single authority, which creates peer pressure. However, if each locale has its own interpretation, then competition will come into play; some radicals will of course gravitate to the most orthodox form of Islam, but I think many would prefer a more mild and permissive (and modern, if I may say) form. It is when the radicals bully the silent majority of moderates that these integration issues arise, and that cycle must be broken.

    It’s been said that Islam needs its own Reformation, and the undiplomatic conclusion by that analogy is that Islam is too much like the old Catholicism. When Muslims are given more freedom to make their religion personal, rather than listen to their imams’ various fatwas and restrictions, that will have a moderating influence.

  14. JF says:

    Simon, you’re right that the US may start to suffer the same effects, but I don’t think we’ve seen that yet. CAIR isn’t given much respect here in the US. Indeed, it is recognized as a front for Hamas (one of its founders is Mousa Abu Marzook, one of the highest ranking members of Hamas) and has been subject to several lawsuits across the US and has been forced to abandon plans in several major cities to construct mosques. There is a certain level of residual anger here over September 11 that keeps Muslim activism very low profile, and I’m not sure that Brits have the same attitude in the wake of 7/7.

    The weakness of these central Muslim groups in the US is manifested in the results of the Pew poll described by Mary Fernandez above–better integration and more satisfaction with their place in American society. It’s a virtuous circle: better integration means less need for (and less support for) these activist groups, and having weaker activist groups means that the Muslims are able to integrate better. Still, we must remain vigilant.

    It can’t be a coincidence that the Muslim Council of Britain was established by Labour in 1997 and radicalism has dramatically increased since then. France is different because of its bloody history in North Africa, of course.

  15. tired and emotional says:

    JF, CAIR seems to be treated with a great deal of respect by US news organizations and indeed by the FBI, Ibrahim Hooper pops up everywhere and CAIR are all over anyone who criticises Islam with lawsuits and accusations of Islamophobia, viz. the six imams dry runs and innumerable other incidents.

    We both have a severe problem with these guys.

  16. Simon Newman says:

    “CAIR seems to be treated with a great deal of respect by US news organizations and indeed by the FBI, Ibrahim Hooper pops up everywhere and CAIR are all over anyone who criticises Islam with lawsuits and accusations of Islamophobia, viz. the six imams dry runs and innumerable other incidents. ”

    Yes, this is what I meant – the FBI don’t seem to know they’re a Brotherhood/Hamas* front and if the MSM know, they don’t care.

    *Hamas is the subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood in West Bank & Gaza.

  17. TomTom says:

    TomTom, I’m afraid your conclusion is not quite correct. 79% of the US population lives in urban areas and 80% of the UK population lives in urban areas.

    JF, having lived in both countries I cannot accept your point. Mine was that an area the size of Louisiana has 50 million people…..there ios no US state with the population of England which equals California + Texas in an area the size of Louisiana whereas Texas and Californa are 8.5 times bigger than England in land area…..so quite simply the congestion of one city touching another does not exist.

    If you could travel from Los Angeles to New York without leaving an urbanised area you might have a valid point but even between Dallas and Houston there is no major city and you cannot say that between the shorter distance between Leeds and London.

    The USA would need another 2 billion people to equal England’s population density

  18. Steevo says:

    “No, I love America, I’m married to an American from Tennessee, I’ve travelled a lot across the South and Southwest USA, and I hate (or at least strongly dislike) the BBC & Guardian!
    But I think it would be foolish of anyone to deny that the USA has a serious problem of racial hostility, especially black-white hostility, made worse by the disastrous affirmative action policies since the 1960s. The attitudes of many US whites to the Katrina disaster was genuinely shocking to many Brits, and black hostility to whites also seems much higher than in the UK.

    “Of course this is not an immigration problem; the USA does now have an immigration problem with non-assimilating Hispanic immigrants but this is recent, dating from the 1986 amnesty and subsequent flood of illegal immigrants.”

    I appreciate your response Simon. Sorry for being overly suspicious.

    Just a couple of comments. I’m in full agreement over the negative consequences of affirmative action although when initially implemented I think it was an honorable cause. Maybe its where I have lived in our Pacific Northwest but I don’t think black/white tensions are very bad. And I think the media such as your BBC covered the Katrina disaster from a very biased perspective intentionally creating the ugly-American conclusion. I mean, look at most of the volunteers (and they were many)… they were white. I just don’t see where racism came in except from agenda-driven media at home and abroad.

  19. Steevo says:

    If you go back to BBC archives on the coverage I think you would even find it is very, very distorted. After having found out what happened later I and many could see the media picked up on one another and got a lot of it wrong or gave quite a distortion. Just a couple of examples: there were no rapes in the Superdome and it was a black mayor who refused the use of buses to bring the folks out. It was a disaster but racism didn’t play a major role by the people on the ground.

    Washington DC and Detroit are indeed 2 cities where racism can rear its ugly head. Seattle and Portland over here on the other hand don’t have nearly the problem. We’re a big country it just depends, but a broad brush usually cannot apply when discerning traits of our population. I still respect all of your experience when drawing impressions. You’re not an outsider.

  20. Frogg (USA) says:

    You may also be interested in this article about American Nationalism. It’s not what you think it is:

    ************************

    The Paradoxes of
    American Nationalism

    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/pdf/files/Pei_Paradoxes_of_American_Nationalism.pdf

    excerpt:

    As befits a nation of immigrants, American nationalism is defined not by notions
    of ethnic superiority, but by a belief in the supremacy of U.S. democratic ideals.
    This disdain for Old World nationalism creates a dual paradox in the American
    psyche: First, although the United States is highly nationalistic, it doesn’t see itself as such. Second, despite this nationalistic fervor, U.S. policymakers generally fail to appreciate the power of nationalism abroad.

    excerpt:

    Why does a highly nationalistic society consistently view itself as anything but? The source of this paradox lies in the forces that sustain nationalism in the United States. Achievements in science and technology, military strength, economic wealth, and unrivaled global political influence can no doubt generate strong national pride. But what makes American
    nationalism truly exceptional are the many ways in which it is naturally expressed in daily life.

    One of the most powerful wellsprings of American nationalism is civic voluntarism—the willingness of ordinary citizens to contribute to the public good, either through individual initiatives or civic associations.

    excerpt:

    “Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations,” noted Tocqueville, who credited Americans for relying on themselves, instead of government, to solve society’s problems.

    excerpt:

    The same grass-roots activism that animates the country’s social life also makes American nationalism vibrant and alluring, for most of the institutions and practices that promote and sustain American nationalism are civic, not political; the rituals are voluntary rather than imposed; and the values inculcated are willingly embraced, not artificially indoctrinated. Elsewhere in the world, the state plays an indispensable role in promoting nationalism, which is frequently a product of political manipulation by elites and consequently has a manufactured quality to it. But in the United States, although individual politicians often try to exploit nationalism for political gains, the state is conspicuously absent.

    excerpt:

    Indeed, any blunt attempt to use the power of the state to institutionalize U.S. nationalism has been met with strong resistance because of popular suspicion
    that the government may be encroaching on Americans’ individual liberties.

  21. TomTom says:

    Steevo – the worst place I’ve seen for racial tensions was Washington DC and I expect that’s an outlier,

    It is only 30% White so I suppose they feel themselves an endangered minority – it also has a significant crime and drugs problem even though most jobs seem to be GS jobs there.

  22. winston says:

    One of the reasons for the relative ease with which the US assimilates immigrants is the US Constitution. Americans look upon the Constitution with an almost sacred reverence.

    In the United States the Federal Constitution acts as a surrogate national religion. A short, simple, easy to read document that literally defines the nation. All naturalized Americans pledge to support and defend the constitution. Its secular nature means it can be accepted by members of different faiths, thereby avoiding the divisive qualities while keeping the inclusive qualities of a national religion. It provides an important common denominator to help congeal very different groups of Americans.

    The simplicity of THE founding document along with the “hoi polli” nature of American popular culture might explain part of the success at assimilation.

  23. JF says:

    Winston, don’t forget about the Declaration of Independence, which I personally find to be the most awe-inspiring founding document. The concise and easy to understand case put forward for forming a new government appeals to everyone, from the new immigrant to the descendant of the first settlers. When the “international community” condemns neoconservatives for urging intervention to bring democracy to the world, it forgets that while the neoconservatives best represent these ideals today, they aren’t new. As Thomas Jefferson said, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

  24. JF says:

    Janus, I was based out of Tokyo for a few years for some business and had to make several trips to South Korea. Thank G-d I had my blood pressure pills handy, what with the anti-American attitude there; I had to keep double checking to make sure I wasn’t in North Korea. It just boggles the mind they way they think of us (and indeed, the rest of the world).

  25. JF says:

    Winston, the Constitution details the structure and technical processes to run the government (election requirements, etc.) and the rights guaranteed by the government. So yes, it does define what the government is, but it’s less of an insight into the values of what drive America than the Declaration of Independence, at least in my view. Still, the Constitution obviously holds a special place in history for its effectiveness even centuries later.

    Nevertheless, I agree with you that Britain needs more explicit symbols by which to encourage assimilation. I think Britain would benefit from a codified Constitution, at least as far as helping to protect its sovereignty from Brussels, which is the first step in restoring a national identity.

  26. Mark says:

    Could Britain’s relative lack of nationalism be more attributed to them perceiving themselves as English, Scottish, or Welsh rather than British? That in regards to their own ‘kingdoms’, they are nationalististic enough?

  27. Simon Newman says:

    pak152:
    “‘Racial antagonism seems a lot worse in the USA than in the UK. ”

    Based upon what? the stories that MSM continues to publish about every perceive slight made to a minority.

    You may not know it but there are professional hucksters in this country who do nothing but scream “racism” at the drop of a hat. Folks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to name just two.”

    I certainly agree that the likes of Sharpton & Jackson help foment black hostility to whites, and thus reactive white hostility to blacks. The ‘liberal’ US MSM’s adherence to cultural-Marxist dialectic (ie that everything is the fault of white ‘oppressors’) promotes black & Hispanic hostility to whites, and I’d say that was the biggest problem in US race relations. The UK MSM does the same thing to promote black (Caribbean) & south-Asian (Pakistani) hostility to whites, but they seem to have been less successful at least with black-white relations here; probably because black Britons are voluntary immigrants & descendants of immigrants.

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