Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Sign of Things to Come?

So goes California, so goes the country...

As it grows as a global technology hub, Silicon Valley has become one of the most polyglot places in the United States. Santa Clara County is on the brink of a linguistic milestone: Within the next few years, more people will speak a foreign language at home than the number who speak English, recently released census data shows. Given the statistical uncertainty, that threshold may already have been crossed.

Santa Clara County has the largest population of Hindi speakers among all counties in the United States, the second-largest population of Vietnamese speakers, the third-largest population of Persian/Farsi speakers, and the fifth biggest number of Chinese speakers, a Mercury News analysis of 2005 census data shows. In percentage terms, the county ranks first in Vietnamese speakers, second in Hindi, third in Chinese and fourth in Persian/Farsi.

Since 2000, Santa Clara County has passed Los Angeles and San Francisco to become the California county with the highest percentage of immigrants, with 36 percent of its population born outside of the United States. (Santa Clara and Los Angeles remain in a statistical tie.) Miami is the only metropolitan region in the United States with a higher percentage of immigrants than the San Jose area.

There are about a dozen large counties in the United States -- including Los Angeles, Miami-Dade and the New York City boroughs of Queens and the Bronx -- where English-speakers are in the minority. But perhaps only urban Queens has the global shuffle of suburban Santa Clara County, with its multiple South and East Asian languages, and a sizable Spanish-speaking population.

This is not America, not in any sense that an American would want to recognize it. As Silicon Valley grows more "diverse" it inevitably grows less American. That is the peril of the high legal/illegal immigration policies foisted on the American people by their government (without their consent). Being an American doesn't simply mean residing in the United States, working hard, being an entrepeneur, or believing in one man, one vote - though all of those are part of being an American. American culture is - or, rather, was - something much more complex. Americans had a language, a common set of customs, holidays and traditions, a common set of ideas and ideals. Though America absorbed many peoples, the presence of a dominant majority ethny kept the nation and its culture more or less unified. Everyone knew what it meant to be an American. The much revered - but also much misunderstood - notion of the "Melting Pot" is only possible when there is a dominant majority culture to force new immigrants to assimilate.

What is happening in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, is what happens when immigration becomes a tidal wave and the dominant culture is overwhelmed. Fragmentation and eventually balkanization occurs. The eclipse of English will divide the new immigrant communities from what remains of the common culture, and from each other. Assimilation will not proceed as it did in previous generations. Ethnic, religious and cultural conflict will rise - the emerging landscape of modern California, and eventually the entire U.S. The only remedy capable of saving the American republic is to end illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration to reasonable numbers. Cultural conservation should guide the minds of the nation's leaders, who need to be reminded that they were elected to tend to America's best interests, not the interests of other peoples in other nations.


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