by David Solway
It takes two to tango, goes the cliché, a truth so evident even the cliché must blush with embarrassment for expressing it. But what is true of the tango is no less the case for the complex immigration dance in which the newcomer is expected to partner with the cultural norms and usages of his adoptive country—or, to be precise, was expected to do so before the terpsichorean disaster of multiculturalism introduced the scrum we see daily enacted before our eyes.
The successful integration of the immigrant into society demands a series of intricate, syncopated steps: he (or she, as it goes without saying) must learn the language well enough to function in the marketplace and the public square; should acquire a familiarity with at least the rudiments of the country’s history; needs to seek employment so as not to become a burden on an overextended welfare system; and must abide by his oath of loyalty and assimilate peacefully into the life of nation.
The conventional metaphor regarding optimal immigration is what is known as the “melting pot,” the paradigm developed in the United States, not the “salad bowl” model prevalent in Canada and Europe. The melting pot works, more or less; the salad bowl, with its fragmented ingredients, plainly does not. A nation composed of immiscible elements is asking for trouble. To revert to my controlling metaphor, immigrants must learn to dance chest to chest and hip to hip with the partner they have agreed to tango with.
All too often, the synergy does not “take.” Indeed, an alternative form of tango has become popular in recent years. The tango nuevo, as it’s called, provides for an open embrace which permits the “leader” to perform all manner of figures and evolutions of his choosing. Similarly, the immigration dance has become “heteronormative,” that is, the “lead” falls to the arrivalist who creates a kind of hyphenated space in order to impose the motifs he prefers on the other.
The tango nuevo is fine and dandy on a Rioplatense dance floor, but it does not belong in the multicultural ballroom. This means, of course, that there is no room for the separating hyphen in forming one’s national identity. Responding to the current events in Egypt, an Egyptian-Canadian interviewed on CBC radio affirmed, without the slightest awareness of the discrepancy, “I am proud of my country.” The question that naturally arises is: which country? For this particular individual, who has been long settled in Canada, the answer is dismayingly clear. He is not dancing to Canada’s tune, but to the exotic strains of another cultural and political world.
One recalls, too, that during the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war, the Canadian government repatriated, at taxpayer largesse, several thousand Lebanese-Canadians caught in the midst of the turmoil. After hostilities had ceased and a year or so had passed, most of these hyphenated beneficiaries of what they considered their entitlement as Canadians returned to their sunny Mediterranean billet as native Lebanese.
What we are observing in all too many cases is not a dance in which two partners agree to enact the proper steps, but a razzia, a raid by one party upon the generosity of another while retaining what amounts to an alien and often parasitical identity. Canada is especially prone to such depredations. As Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, points out, “Canada has the highest relative level of immigration in the developed world” and is, additionally, saddled with a judiciary that is soft on refugee claims. Again, this is asking for trouble, and there has been plenty of it. Our position requires excessive caution and stringent rules of admission, both in the protocols governing the reception of illegals to our shores and the vetting of legitimate applications.Canadians who are proud to be Egyptian should be…Egyptian. Canadians who flee Lebanon at government expense and then return as soon as the coast is clear should be…Lebanese. Canadians of Muslim descent who attend radical mosques and plan jihad against the country that has welcomed them, and who have no compunction profiting from its social, medical and fiscal services, should not be tolerated but deported. They have no place in the dance hall. As Hungarian-born and National Post columnist George Jonas said somewhere, he came to Canada because Canada needed more Canadians, not because Canada needed more Hungarians.
Several European politicians have declared, however tardily, that multiculturalism is a failed social experiment. Whether they will act on their belated discovery or not is another issue, but Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy appear to have heard the beat. Certain rules apply if chaos is to be avoided and a measured harmony to prevail. You dance with the one who brung you and you dance to the music that is playing. There is a rhythm to the history, customs, practices and civic expectations of a country—what is loosely called the “national character—that needs to be honored in the observance and not in the breach, even if one is not, to cite Hamlet, “native here/And to the manner born.”
This is not to say that the newcomer must slavishly adhere to every single cultural demand and practice or that he or she cannot lobby for change and amelioration. Canada at one time refused women the vote. Before and during WW II, Jews were not welcome in this country—“None is too many,” advised a minister in the Mackenzie King government. Such aberrations should be—and were—addressed, and nothing prevents an immigrant from participating in the social discourse to bring about needed reformations.
But the point is that Canada, like other Western nations, comprises the sort of political environment in which gradual and meaningful improvement is possible and perhaps even inevitable, within the framework of the larger cultural parameters established by the tradition of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and the intellectual breakthroughs of the Enlightenment. And it is these traditions and advancements to which the newcomer must adapt and remain faithful, irrespective of the discrete imperfections that pertain at any given time. The orchestra may hit wrong notes or one’s native partner may stumble from time to time, but the pattern is discernible and needs to be followed.
In short, it takes two to tango; it takes only one to wreak havoc on the dance floor, especially if he is new to the dance and decides to cavort as he sees fit. The conclusion is obvious. The multiculti tango needs to be abolished or at the very least reconfigured, and the open space where the hyphen inserts itself closed. Will Canada’s leaders have the courage to adopt the necessary steps?
Otherwise, the eventual sequel does not seem especially promising. Last tango in Canada, anyone?
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