July 22, 2008
Dear Senator McCain:
As the November election approaches, the political, economic and social values of American voters will grow stronger and those who hold them will grow more passionate and vocal. Because some of these values conflict, you will not have any easy time addressing every American’s concerns. Yet, if you are chosen as the nation’s leader, it will be your duty to represent the values of your countrymen. It will also be your job to find common ground for the American people to stand on. As Americans cast their votes, they will want to know that you understand and care about their values. Therefore, I hope you will take the following analysis of American values to heart.
American values are as diverse as America’s people. America’s original, traditional and modern values have many similarities and many differences. Originally, Americans valued unity, defense of their fellows, loyalty, liberty, life and equality. These things are evinced by some of America’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, which highlights the importance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Traditionally, Americans value these things, along with God, justice and nationalism. This is evinced by America’s Pledge of Allegiance, under which Americans swear to be loyal to their country, which is one nation, “under god,” and “indivisible.” They voice that they believe in “liberty and justice for all.”
Meanwhile, America’s oath of citizenship shows the importance Americans have traditionally placed on national defense and bearing arms.
Contemporary values or, at least, the contemporary values of some Americans are quite different. Many now place more importance on values such as diversity than they do on bearing arms. Most place a great deal of emphasis in the freedom of expression. High school and college students exercise this right daily, on articles of clothing, tattoos, piercings, and art or school projects. Adults and teenagers alike express their political and social views without fear of retribution. The media actively criticizes the policies of its own government, and is sometimes praised for doing so. This is very different from nations like Iran, where the newspapers champion their rulers and take their side in each dispute.
Americans value love. Indeed, they are obsessed with it. From books, to magazines, to the news, Americans are focused on loving one another, or understanding how love works scientifically. They write advice column after advice column on how to act when one is in love. They fill their movie theaters with romantic films. While many disagree on the definition of love or how to act when one is in love, most Americans seem to enjoy the concept of it. They want to believe in something more than selfishness.
Americans also value entertainment. Even Americans who are not well-off will spend money on movies and electronics. With Ipods, High-Definition Televisions, DVDs and Blu-Rays, Radio shows and Television News, Multimedia Internet sites, paperback novels, board games, card games, sports games, and video games, Americans keep up a steady stream of personal entertainment. Americans also value food. They have a plethora of fast food joints, from All American food, to grilled chicken at places like El Pollo Loco and Chic Fillet. Americans frequent Mexican, Italian, Thai, and Chinese Restaurants all over the United States. Although, on the surface, this is a trivial thing to value, it reflects the value Americans place on diversity and their ethnic roots. It also reflects the willingness of Americans to not merely tolerate, but also to participate in the customs of other nations.
Indeed, Americans value tolerance more than citizens of other nations might expect. Even as Americans fight battles against terrorists who generally subscribe to Islam, American girls are converting to the religion. Muslim professors teach in American classrooms. To be sure, since September 11th, many Americans have adopted an anti-Muslim attitude, and American Muslims have suffered because of it, but the majority of Americans regard islam with respect and interest.
Today’s Americans also value education. Indeed, according to USA Today, eighty per cent of Americans had earned at least a high school diploma (Henry, 2002). Meanwhile, many senators are pushing for universal pre-kindergarten education. Representatives, eager to provide non-affluent Americans with opportunities to succeed, have expanded community colleges and pushed for more government funds for education. Meanwhile, in order to compete with Europe and Japan in the field of education, many politicians have tried to increase teacher accountability by ensuring that students pass tests on core math, science and reading. Although America still lags behind other nations, it cares enough to try to catch up.
Although American expressions of loyalty have declined since the time of the Revolution, patriotism tends to spike before wartime (Huntington, 2004). And, indeed, when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001, Americans came out to support their fellows, who had lost their lives. There was tremendous, bi-partisan support for the war in Afghanistan, immediately after the attack. At the same time, the value many Americans place on religion emerged. Those who generally do not invoke the name of God, used it liberally after the attacks. Indeed, Congress came out and sang God Bless America on the capitol steps, to show unity and, perhaps, to comfort the American people, by mentioning God’s name. “Senators and House Members, Democrats and Republicans will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to fight this evil that has perpetrated on this nation,” said House Speaker, Denny Hastert in 2001. And, indeed, for a time, they did.
But Democrats and Republicans hold very different values. Many Democrats value peace, almost as much as patriotism and in some cases more. Meanwhile, Republicans tend to value nationalism and strong defense more than peace. Other nations have, thus, accused America of being imperialistic and pushy. Those who value international relations wish to change the world’s view of America and, indeed, wish that America would change the way it behaves, so that it would better fit into the international community. Republicans and Democrats alike value religious freedom, though Republicans are more likely to want religion to be practiced freely and Democrats are more likely to want to be free of religion.
Many Americans value charity. It is for this reason that they have set up government-run healthcare plans for the needy and the elderly. Americans may participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs if they meet certain income or age requirements. Some states offer even greater benefits, or expand medical benefits to other groups. Most states, for instance, will help poor, pregnant women pay for their pregnancies.
Some Americans are idealistic. They have grown up believing that Democracy is the best form of government and that it ought to be spread throughout the world. They believe in equality, liberty and social justice. Many believe that the United States is a force for good, which is meant to stop evil in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, other Americans have come to identify more with foreign nations. They would, for instance, agree with Russia’s criticism of American values, which are to the Russians, Michael Jackson, Coca-Cola and materialism. These, they say, are in Contrast to Russia’s values of collective care, charity and kindness.
There is one group of Americans who see America as oppressive, imperialistic and materialistic. They have criticized their own leadership for going to war in pursuit of oil. On the other hand, there is another side of America, which is fiercely patriotic. These Americans believe that America is a shining city, that America’s aid to other countries is more than generous, and that much of the rest of the world owes America a debt for its aid in war time and famine. One group wants America to be more like the rest of the world; the other believes that the rest of the world ought to be more like America. Conflicts do not merely exist between two different groups. Even those who cherish American values find that their values conflict. De Tocqueville, for instance, found that liberty and egalitarianism do not work well together. Although most Americans profess to believe in equality, most of these would not like to have their homes taken away so that they would be equal with the homeless. Meanwhile, while most Americans profess to believe in liberty, most of them also believe in laws.
Meanwhile, Many Americans believe in “The American Dream” which involves owning a house of one’s own, having a family and prospering. It sometimes includes a person achieving whatever he wants to, no matter what his status. Whereas, in the old British system, the elite often came from the same bloodline, in America, at least theoretically, anyone has the chance to become president. America considers itself a “meritocracy”, rather than an aristocracy. However, some have pointed out that the gap between rich people and poor people has increased in America in recent years (Wessel, 2005).
Indeed, according to Sawhill and Condon (1992), well over half of Americans studied moved into a new income bracket in two years. Americans, therefore, do value merit and mobility. Nevertheless, Americans do value family ties as well. It has elected two Adamses, two Roosevelts and two Bushes as president. America’s magazines have repeatedly featured England’s royal family on their covers, and Paris Hilton, the socialite daughter of a wealthy hote owner, is followed closely by the media and her fans.
With such diverse and sometimes conflicting values, it is hard, sometimes, for the people’s representatives to know how to act. Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s criteria might make it a little easier. According to Roosevelt, anyone who claimed to be an American and something else, was not an American at all (Huntington, 2004). Therefore, the ideals of those who are ashamed of America or who claim to be Americans but also internationalists are not American values. American values, are, instead, the values of those who are proud to be Americans and who are unified in their love of their country. The values displayed when the members of congress stood together on the capitol steps are real American values. Yet, some argue that America’s ability to stand unified, is being threatened by increased immigration (Huntington, 2004).
Immigration is becoming an increasingly important issue to American voters and to future voters as well. Your stance, therefore, on the issue may not only determine who will vote for you during this term, but who may in your next, should you win. Indeed, throughout American history, the issue of immigration has divided voters. Before the civil war, for instance, anti-catholic groups, like the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, wielded a great deal of political power, which they used to try to prevent Catholics from immigrating to America. They opposed Catholicism, because it threatened their national identity, which included Protestantism and faith in Democracy. Catholicism, they thought, was pro-monarchy and anti-democratic. While the Catholicism has been largely accepted by Americans, immigration is causing similar division today (Huntington, 2004).
Many worry that illegal immigration is damaging the economy of the United States. Even when the U.S. was economically prosperous, American wages did not go up. This is due, in part, to the tendency of employers in many fields to break unions by hiring workers from foreign countries, who will not demand higher wages. While this is happening, many have pushed for America to accept more immigrants, which would mean even greater unemployment rates for Americans wishing to earn a fair wage. This push for allowing more immigrants into the United States began in the mid 1960s, when Americans began to try to right the wrongs of racism. Today, many push for complete acceptance of all immigrants, and to remove limitations. This is because many of the laws restricting immigration in the past were painfully racist. For instance, in the late 1800s, Americans passed laws forbidding Chinese immigration, based on the fact that they did not think the Chinese would assimilate, because they kept to themselves and held on to their own cultural practices (Huntington, 2004).
That sort of racist reasoning and wording has lead to a backlash, particularly among American liberals, who, wishing to combat racism, would like to go to the other extreme to right the wrong. Yet, their efforts to reduce racism might have backfired. As American jobs are given to foreign nationals who will work for much lower wages (Bean & Gillian, 2003), American workers begin to resent them more. While some may have friends of another race, they might still resent the fact that members of that race are preventing them from having the opportunities they need to succeed. Increased immigration, therefore, might increase racism, rather than lead to its eradication.
Americans must compete with foreign nationals on a number of other levels as well. Some immigrants receive better, less expensive health care than poor Americans. But the prices for healthcare are artificially low. They are paid for by taxpayers. Illegal immigrants do not pay taxes, therefore, many American taxpayers resent illegal immigrants, because they reap the benefits of the labor of others.
Americans also resent Mexican immigrants, because they feel that they are retaining their culture, rather than fitting in. While, initially, this seems racist, there is some real danger to allowing large groups of people from other cultures and races to settle in a land, but not assimilate. Even America’s forefathers cautioned against it, recommending that members of one culture or race be dispersed throughout America, rather than left to congregate in one area. Some also warned against letting too many immigrants who had lived under monarchial rule enter the United States, because, they thought, this sort of person would either bring with him the ideas propagated by dictators, or, he would be so much against tyrannical rule, that he would embrace “licentiousness.” (Huntington, 2004)
While Mexico does have a president, its government is seen by Americans as oppressive. Many immigrants who cross into America have, indeed, shown licentiousness, breaking America’s immigration laws and encouraging students to participate in civil disobedience for pro-immigration protests. Rather than simply trying to move to America for a better life, many Mexican immigrants wave Mexican flags. Mexico’s president, Vincente Fox has declared him president of 23 million Mexicans in the United States. He has demanded that the United States adopt liberal policies toward Mexican immigrants. The United States was prepared to adopt such policies, before September 11th, when Americans began to pay more attention to national security (Bean & Gillian, 2003)..
This is troubling in a number of ways. Firstly, Mr. Fox claims to have authority over 23 million residents of a country other than his own. Secondly, because he is trying to bully the rest of America into adopting the policies he is in favor of. If allowed to have his way, Vincente Fox will usurp not only America’s president, but America’s people. He is a threat to Democracy in America. Those residing in America, who still consider themselves Mexican threaten American democracy as well. Rather than forswearing loyalty to foreign princes, as those who legally enter do, many illegal immigrants still feel loyalty to the government and families they leave behind. They do not feel obliged to uphold America’s laws and constitution. It is perhaps for this reason that America’s legal immigrants are campaigning for stricter laws and sanctions against illegal immigrants. Indeed, many boycott businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
In the midst of all of this confusion, you, if you are to be president, you must choose which of your people’s values will be considered American. If you wish to be president of the United States, you must ensure that there is a United States and that your authority is respected and enforced. If America is not a sovereign nation, than being president of it means little. If you allow a non-elected president to rule over the will of your people, you will be merely a puppet. If you allow America to become divided, you pay lose the power you have. If you allow lawlessness, chaos may ensue. Therefore, as president, you must define American values as those values that portray America in a positive light. You must focus on the things that make your nation stronger, rather than weaker. You must take stances that bring about unification of the American people, rather than increased division.
There are three options you may consider when dealing with immigration to America.
One is to do nothing. Another is to lift the caps on immigration. The third is to restrict immigration. Doing nothing will allow current tensions (Bean & Gillian, 2003) to rise. This could result in a situation like that in Canada, where two, distinct cultures live in a country, apart from each other. Alternatively, the split could turn violent, and pit people agains teach other, creating a second American civil war (Huntington, 2004).
Legalizing all immigrants would upset many Americans and might speed up America’s move toward a civil war. On the other hand, it could speed up unification, but it would change the face of American culture and values. Restricting immigration might anger Vincente Fox, and might subject a number of foreign nationals to unpleasant conditions. Meanwhile, it would help prevent increased racism, help to ensure that American workers are paid the wages they deserve, and improve national security. It would give immigrants who already reside in the United States a chance to disperse and assimiilate. This might mean that the best and most noble American values will be maintained (Huntington, 2004).
It is tempting to look toward Europe to see how foreign nations handle the problem of immigration, but the American situation is different from the European dilemma. Europe is facing problems with decreasing population, due to less fertility and fewer births. At the same time, the elderly in Europe are beginning to outnumber the young who are taxed to support them. In order, then, to survive, Europe must either increase the number of births its women have, or it must accept more immigrants. This is not the scenario in the United States, where fertility levels have not decreased. Even if it were, an increase in illegal immigration would not solve the problem. Because illegal immigrants are not taxed, they do not pay into social security, which America is already struggling to support. Increasing the number of legal immigrants, on the other hand, might help America, however, if these immigrants do not assimilate, the nation still faces a change in face (Bean ; Gillian, 2003).
In order to maintain the greatest, most American values, you must find a way to limit and discourage illegal immigration. The American economy cannot support it and the American people – whether native or foreign born – cannot stand it. Many states are taking measures to build a border fence. This would be a good measure for America to support. While, it is likely that many illegal immigrants will still pass through the border, it is important that the American people and the rest of the world know that the United States is against illegal immigration. Vincente Fox must be made aware that he does not control the United States. Another measure you should consider supporting, is creating stricter restrictions on the medical benefits illegal immigrants receive. Some states are requiring proof of citizenship for government funded medical care. While some poorer Americans have run into problems paying for identification, a fund could be set up, specifically to provide lower income Americans with copies of citizenship documents. If illegal immigration is properly restricted, more legal immigrants can be allowed into the country. Meanwhile, the American economy will benefit, and racism will decrease. Therefore, the next American president ought to consider supporting these measures.
Bean, F. D., ; Gillian, S. (2003). America’s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity. New York: Russell Sage.
Henry, T. (2002, June 5). Report: Greater Percentage of Americans educated. USA Today .
Huntington, S. P. (2004). Who are we: The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Wessel, D. (2005). As Rich-Poor Gap Widens in the US, Class Mobility Stalls. The Wall Street Journal .