It is easy for many of us to think that pluralism is a new thing, that there is some uniform and static American culture only recently being encroached and threaded through by outside cultures. I fall to that temptation sometimes, despite having come here as an immigrant myself some 35 years ago. Yet, throughout our history, “pluralism was the native condition of American society. It was not, as in Europe and in England, the result of a disruption or decay of a previously existent religious unity,” as John Courtney Murray wrote in “We Hold These Truths.”
There have always been American immigrants, and there have always been very public conversations in America about immigration. There has also always been a commonality to the immigrant mind, because immigration does not happen by accident. Something has to motivate someone to make those choices: what to take and what to leave of one’s life, when to leave, and where to go. In our country, we only see those immigrants who have the spirit to make those decisions, and those who have arrived at similar conclusions. There is variety, of course, and as many stories as there are immigrants, but I would argue there is some element I will call “the immigrant mind.”
If we as a nation believe ourselves to be defined by our founding principles, we should ask: how does the immigrant mind engage with these principles, with American pluralistic society, with American government structure and function, and Western classical political philosophy and society? How and what does the immigrant mind think about current cultural issues like religious liberty, abortion, feminism, and the effects of the sexual revolution? How and what does the immigrant mind think about economic liberty and education?
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