The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Self-refuting and unsubstantiated

Please note: I’m not giving a negative review on the basis of the thesis of the argument. I’m giving a negative review because of how bafflingly self-refuting the author’s arguments were.

Reading this book, I held no real opinions on the matter. I was, to the best of my knowledge, impartial to the thesis being made. What I found bizarre was how inconsistent, arbitrary, and unfounded much of his arguments were.
I’ll just begin with the examples;

The most glaring self-contradiction is when he quoted an argument in favor of recognizing Shakespeare, the Bible, and Huckleberry Finn as part of the US canon . . . and one page later, he argues that the US canon is an evolving and diverse canon and that new books will replace old ones. Within the context of the argument, he was trying to dismiss arguments that any other culture should have their books as part of the US canon besides the aforementioned books, and that they had no significant impact in Western culture . . . but then lists noteworthy philosophers who expressed viewpoints that they themselves claimed were influenced by reading Hindu and Buddhist schools of thought from translations during the 1800s. Nietzsche, in particular, studied philology and based a lot of his views from assessing the pros and cons of Buddhism which he labeled as superior to Christianity and it’s known that the 1800s philology departments of Germany were translating and studying Indian languages and comparing them to Western languages to translate books from the East. The most baffling part of this is that he quoted several of the founders who claimed their connection to Western culture is dead and that the US culture will be distinct and separate from Western schools of thought as an argument in favor for a unique US culture, but seemed to confuse himself on what that meant since he’s then making arguments in contradiction to the founders intentions by arguing the US is a western culture.

What’s peculiar is that this author claims that US culture is heterogeneous but that any other culture that adapts to foreign influenced, especially Eastern culture making adaptions, is really just imitating the Western influences and shouldn’t reflect positively on those cultures. So, evidently, when the US is suppose to be heterogeneous and adaptable to other cultures, but shouldn’t adapt Eastern culture. And, if Eastern culture adapts and enjoys Western schools of thought, then it proves their inferior? Keep in mind, this man claims to be a historian but seems to be utterly ignorant of the systematic removal of “heathen” ideas of the East throughout several cultural campaigns in the West.

He claims ethnic studies should be taught . . . but then claims that ethnic studies aren’t needed except for Native Americans, because kids get their cultural background understandings from their families and he doesn’t seem to consider the timeframe of how long these families toil at work or have the chance to make a living. He celebrates West African children not knowing their cultural heritage or understanding their families native languages as proof of being more oriented towards US culture, but seems to ignore the fact this badly damages his previous argument that people maintain their cultural backgrounds from their families.

He claims Black Americans are the most inculcated in US culture because of the dislocation from native Africa, the destruction of their previous heritages, and the force fed adaption to whatever culture the White slave-owners forced upon them. He clearly states that Black Americans could be regarded as the most American. Then, he decries the horrors of teaching this false history in New York schools. The problem is though, having grown-up in New York State, I can freely say that he’s wrong about all this racial overemphasis without regard for history. The only international class we had was focused on European history exclusively. We never learned anything about Africa besides their relation to the slave trade with Europe. His arguments about this anti-intellectual falsehood of Black history supposedly began in 1987 . . . but if that’s the case, then I never once experienced it in the early 2000s. Looking back at it, all the author really did was cherrypick stupid quotes to make sweeping generalizations. It is genuinely untrue that any of this farce that he talks about ever happened in NY State high schools. All I learned was European history and that was it. He made such a big deal out of this, quoting stupid comments over and over, and none of it had any truth to it or any impact on the educational system. What I found particularly disgusting was that he’s unwilling to condemn or recognize human genocides of multiple ethnic groups who want their trials and tribulations recognized in history books, but there is a strong rejection of this in favor of a stupid set of half-truths and outright falsehoods being taught in the education system today about US history. Half of the work is basically telling kids they’re wrong about what the education system taught them in first grade. It’s pathetic.

Much like his argument against the person who made the film Roots, he criticizes him for only going by his mother’s genealogy and not his father’s, who led all the way back to Irish descent. Yet, that isn’t a good argument against racism by the West. The Irish were forced into slavery and sold to South America under British rule, suffered a horrible genocidal famine orchestrated by a racist lunatic who oversaw the problems with the corn and potato famine, and purposefully killed 2 million Irish people with their terrible policies. And, then the surviving refugees in the US suffered racist policies by anti-Catholics who discriminated them for their Irish heritage. The author, yet again, refuted their own argument.

The last portion made me raise an eyebrow. He argues that the Left has gone too far with ethnic issues . . . and then makes a total non-sequitur argument using ableism as an example of the Left taking social justice too far. Ableism is the discrimination against people with handicap issues in jobs, school facilities, shopping centers, and tourism. I honestly began shaking my head over the callous disregard for the plight of handicap people and wondered why he would list this as a trite and worthless issue. Disabled people, especially children, most assuredly need to have areas that help assist with their disabilities.

Overall, the thesis is unsubstantiated, and I honestly have no idea how someone could write a book that contradicted itself with no ability to make discernible or meaningful points on what they’re arguing or what the end product of his ideas would even look like. Finally, if it’s wrong to have an ethnocentric cult-like culture – which I don’t disagree with – why then emphasize the West’s ethnocentricity to rebuke the ethnocentric narrative?

Please comment! Comments and criticism are welcome.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s