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Author Topic: The balkanization of America
Mariner
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Yes, this is related to the American t-shirt thread. No, I don't want to put it in there.

Forget about the question of freedom of speech vs the responsibility of principles to avoid violence. Focus instead on what Aris and Adam and Tom are stating. Basically, they claim that the flag and what it represents is offensive to Hispanics based on racism from white America. Step back and think about that for a second.

What sort of a country do we live in where large swaths of people get upset and offended about the country they live in?

How can such a nation survive?

Forget about the validity of these statements for a moment. I could fire back with the inflammatory statements some Hispanics make against America as justification, but that would bog things down into useless arguing. Instead, just focus on those two questions above. Forget about who's at fault. How can we possibly move forward to avoid this?

We as a society have balkanized America. We have set race against race, American against American. The whites hate the blacks and the blacks hate the whites. The whites hate the browns, the browns hate the white. The blacks hate the browns, the browns hate the blacks. We're constantly reminded by the media of the attacks on minorities, but it swings both ways, even though the media ignores the other part. John Lewis was a civil rights hero, standing up for what is good and decent in the world. And yet now, he fans the flames of racial hatred, who has no problems cynically accusing his political opponents of racism for political gain. I've seen Detroit politics, and how despicably racist it is. Monica Conyers famously shouted to a group trying to get funding to repair Detroit's convention center (union folk, no less, so solidly on her political "team") that she doesn't care if they don't get a job because they don't look like her.

Aren't we all in this together?

And no, I'm not trying to minimize the white on colored attacks. Yes, the Arizona immigration law fans the flames of balkanization. How could it not? But so does our incompetently lax immigration policy already. We have one that sets a law and then purposely ignores it. This causes resentment among those that follow the law, resentment among those that the lawbreakers hurt, and resentment among those that try to fix things. And because our legal immigration policy is so arcane, those that take the illegal path can't assimilate, which of course leads to further mistrust and distance among all sides.

But it's not just the politics, it's the education as well. We as a society have fallen head over heels for the concept of diversity. Naturally, diversity is a good thing, up to a certain point. Because along with diversity, there is still an overriding uniting principle among us, or at least there should be. For if there is no unifying culture, no unifying ethos, how can we live next to each other? Yet our society - and especially our education system - promote only the diversity aspect and ignore the unification. Why would those Hispanics get upset at American symbols? They are as much American as the ones who wore it (I'd say whites, but at least one of those teens was Hispanic as well). Why do we know so little about civics? Why do people not have pride in our nation?

Recently, in Ann Arbor, a school decided to take a group of black students on a field trip to visit a (black) scientist, leaving the white students behind. The principal defended this action by stating that they wanted to inspire these students specifically. Implicit in that statement is that black students cannot be inspired by successful whites, and that white students cannot be inspired by successful blacks. Is that really the case?

Allow me to quote from my favorite speech, that given by a certain Illinois Senatorial candidate in the 1850s:

quote:
Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometimes about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

...We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men; they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity which we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time, of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves, we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age and race and country in which we live, for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have--besides these, men descended by blood from our ancestors--among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men; they are men who have come from Europe, German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian,--men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us; but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"; and then they feel that that moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

This is not England or France or Mexico or Japan or any other nation on earth. We are unique in that we were founded, not due to ethnic heritage, but on a founding principle. To be an American, to be proud to be American, does not require one to be white; I am no more descended from Washington or Jefferson as the next guy. It requires one to believe that all are created equal, to believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to believe that all should be free to better themselves as they see fit, and that no outside force can take that away from them.

Is this something that only whites can believe in? Is this something that those Hispanic students don't like? Because that is what America stands for. That is what the flag stands for.

And before Adam or Aris or Tom or someone comes in with a long laundry list of America's evils, allow me to say "no [excrement], Sherlock". No institution is perfect, no institution ideal. America does not always live up to American ideals. Heck, the whole point of that quote above was that Lincoln wanted to apply this ideal to the group that the Founders didn't. If Hispanics want to complain about the way America treated them, get in line behind the Iroquois, the Cherokee, the Africans, the Japanese...

The truth is we aren't perfect, but our ideals remain true. So we have a choice. We can abandon those ideals, tear up the Declaration, and splinter off into warring ethnic factions like the rest of the world. Or we can swallow our complaints, come together, and try to do better. But we can't have it both ways. We can't live in America, claim to be Americans, and hate the country and a portion of its citizens. That requires a modicum of respect, on both sides of the equation.

And that requires us to demand that respect. Stop making excuses, stop looking the other way, stop promoting diversity even when it is clearly harmful. This needs to be added to every level of our discourse: politics, the media (yes, both Fox News and the traditional liberal media), and our schools.

I may not live in a community surrounded by the poorer minority groups, so some may say that I'm not entitled to speak. But I do live and work in an environment where whites are definitely not a majority (yay, engineering!). This evil racist white conservative bigoted Tea Partier bitterly clinging to guns and religion or whatever has no problem getting along with the Chinese, Indians, and other assorted nationalities, regardless of their cultural, political, or religious beliefs. I certainly don't agree with them on everything, and they certainly don't think America is perfect, but we get along fine. If I wore an American flag shirt on Chinese New Year, no one would have been offended. I can speak my mind and be open about my love of America, and it doesn't cause problems. For that matter, everyone else can profess their love for their own cultural heritage without me getting upset either.

Of course, it's not a perfect analogy. For one, there's only the temporary poverty of being grad students there, not the serious poverty that inflicts so many other places. And for two, many of my neighbors are only temporary visitors to our fine country. But the same principle holds true. As long as there's a common cause, we can live with cultural differences. But from what I'm seeing coming out of the black inner cities and in the Hispanic southwest, the common cause is dying.

And a house divided against itself cannot stand.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Forget about the question of freedom of speech vs the responsibility of principles to avoid violence. Focus instead on what Aris and Adam and Tom are stating. Basically, they claim that the flag and what it represents is offensive to Hispanics based on racism from white America. Step back and think about that for a second.
No. That's not the point at all. As was pointed out in the same thread, the flag worn at other times didn't cause any problems; it's only when the US Flag was worn explicitly as an anti-Mexican statement that it became a problem.

The flag itself wasn't the issue at all- it was the people that wanted to intentionally use it to promote a fundamentally racist message.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Basically, they claim that the flag and what it represents is offensive to Hispanics based on racism from white America.
No, I claimed it was seen as intended to be offensive.

I believe that anything intended to be offensive can be taken at its intent. E.g. my understanding is that if you go to black neighborhood and start asking people if they want some watermelon, some of them will end up offended.

Is those people's problem with the fruit itself, or with the intended offense?

People wanting to be offensive will have some people so offended. Then they'll whine about people getting offended, even though it was their intent from the start.

quote:
The whites hate the blacks and the blacks hate the whites.
I only have an outsider's view of America, but I'm guessing that this occurs less now than any other point in American history. Or are you gonna claims that slavery-era blacks or segregation-era blacks hated white people less than now?
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scifibum
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Mariner, I tend to agree that it is a problem we need to look at seriously. I don't know how seriously you are looking at it when you knock down leftist straw men (laundry list of historical evils, for instance) in the OP.
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sfallmann
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Forget about the question of freedom of speech vs the responsibility of principles to avoid violence. Focus instead on what Aris and Adam and Tom are stating. Basically, they claim that the flag and what it represents is offensive to Hispanics based on racism from white America. Step back and think about that for a second.
No. That's not the point at all. As was pointed out in the same thread, the flag worn at other times didn't cause any problems; it's only when the US Flag was worn explicitly as an anti-Mexican statement that it became a problem.

The flag itself wasn't the issue at all- it was the people that wanted to intentionally use it to promote a fundamentally racist message.

Maybe we all need to carry around a special PC calendar so we make sure that we don't offend someone by wearing the wrong things on the wrong day.

Better yet. We all need to wear an agreed upon neutral color every day of the year and use only agreed upon words, lest someone interpret anything they hear or see as a racist message.

Hell - let's amend the Constitution to include a right not to be offended.

I suppose if the kids were wearing a shirt mocking Jesus and some christians were offended you would be on the side of the christians.

An American flag shirt on May 5th - RACISM!

Maybe we need to waterboard those kids to get the intend behind wearing the shirts.

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flydye
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Mariner, it goes farther then mere race.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Focus instead on what Aris and Adam and Tom are stating. Basically, they claim that the flag and what it represents is offensive to Hispanics based on racism from white America.
No, you dork.
The flag itself is not offensive to Hispanics. Wearing the flag with the intention of offending Hispanics is offensive.

In other words: merely being patriotic about America is not offensive to (most) people, whatever their heritage or nationality. Demonstrating that you're proud of your culture, whatever that culture is, is not in and itself offensive except to the worst bigots. However, making a show of cultural pride as a reply to another show of cultural pride -- or as a way of saying, "I am proud of my culture despite all these things you dislike about it," or (as was the case in this episode) "I want to remind you what country you're in, before you start celebrating some other cultural holiday" -- is expressly confrontational, and unwanted confrontation by its very nature risks offense.

I have difficulty understanding why you don't perceive this.

--------

quote:
I suppose if the kids were wearing a shirt mocking Jesus and some christians were offended you would be on the side of the christians.
Here in Madison, a student wore a shirt saying "Proud to be an Atheist" on the National Day of Prayer. The administration forced him to remove it, because (rightly) it perceived that the shirt was making a confrontational political statement about the validity of a National Day of Prayer when worn in that context, and it didn't (rightly or wrongly) think it was appropriate to permit that statement in school.

[ May 07, 2010, 04:01 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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TomDavidson
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Here's a question: in a lot of small rural communities, you'll see signs on the windows of local stores that say something like "One nation UNDER GOD, BY GOD!"

Is it your opinion that the owner has put up that sign simply to express how much he personally loves God? Or is there perhaps something else being communicated?

(Answer: it's the latter.)

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Mariner
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Well, I have difficulty in understanding why you don't play well with others, Tom, but you don't see me complaining about it.

For everyone else that responded civilly, my apologies if I misconstrued your argument. But this post is only inspired by T-shirtgate, not a specific commentary on it. Allow me to only say two more things on the matter:

1) My intent was to point out that, even if there was malicious intent in displaying the US flag, the flag represents not an ethnicity, but rather an ideal, and one that all Americans (Hispanics included) should believe in. Thus, even if the most obnoxious rednecks possible wade in there, the flag itself should not be a problem. If the students actions or speech was offensive, then so be it. But the American flag is not the White American flag, and can be proudly flown on Cinco de Mayo, St Patrick's Day, or any other day.

Basically, I'm saying that, in my view of the world, the flag CAN'T be anti-Mexican (to use Pyrtolin's phrase), regardless of the intent of those teens. Obviously, the students in this high school (on one or both sides) disagree with this view.

2) The door swings both ways. I certainly don't discount the possibility that these students were meant to be offensive to others. And yet, is it not possible that some of these celebrations are also offensive to these students? Perhaps the celebration of Mexico also included demonization of America? Look at some of the pro-immigration rallies; among the extremes are those that want to literally conquer the Southwest US. Needless to say, I find that particular bit of Hispanic celebration just a wee bit offensive.

Or, to bring it back to my own situation, it's one thing if my Chinese colleagues celebrate the Chinese New Year, it's another if they brought in the new year by toasting the dominance of China over the US. If they did that in my presence at a US institution, can you blame me if I push back?

Note, I am NOT saying that that is definitely what happened in this school. It is a possibility though.

And I only say this because that is the inevitable endgame of this whole one-upping each other, regardless of who was initially at fault. I don't want to fan the flames of racial hatred either.

Scifi, that wasn't meant to be a straw man; I agreed with it after all! All too often, Ornery threads devolve into nitpicky details that ignore the main point. I was trying to avoid the debate of what America's track record is (which is not relevant to this thread) in hopes that we are all in agreement of what it should be.

This isn't a partisan thread. I don't want a balkanization of America. I want to stop it. Why can't we all just get along [Smile]

Seriously, I want to know if it's possible to have a unifying culture in the US, rather than us all just happening to live inside a random border. I've told you all the basics of what I think it should be. I've told you, from the white conservative side, what I perceive the problems to be. So, is this a good place to start?

1) Do we agree that America should be defined, not by race, but rather by the ideals of the Declaration?
2) Does the "diversity movement" (for lack of a better word) hinder that definition, and hinder our sense of cultural unity?
3) Can we bridge that gap?
4) If so, how?

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PSRT
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quote:
Basically, I'm saying that, in my view of the world, the flag CAN'T be anti-Mexican (to use Pyrtolin's phrase), regardless of the intent of those teens.
You're view of the world is wrong. Symbols have meaning based on the context those symbols are put in. The intent behind how we utilize any symbol will determine the type of context we put it into, and if the context if of an appropriate sort, can be anti-anything.

In much of India, the swastica is still used as a mark of good luck. Even in India, however, if painted onto a Jewish temple, the swastica would be, rightly, seen as anti-Jew.

Or, another way. Symbols are attempts to communicate meaning, visually. When we alter what we are attempting to communicate, we use symbols differently, and what we are attempting to communicate comes across.

Just because the message of "You're a no-good pile of crap," was wrapped in the American flag does not mean the message was not "You're a no good pile of crap."

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Maybe we all need to carry around a special PC calendar so we make sure that we don't offend someone by wearing the wrong things on the wrong day.
Or you can just stop carrying the special anti-PC calendar that makes sure you find the proper way to offend people so that you can have an excuse to complain that they're being PC.

I don't expect you to make an effort to be sensitive, but can you just stop making an effort to be intentionally *in*sensitive?

quote:
My intent was to point out that, even if there was malicious intent in displaying the US flag, the flag represents not an ethnicity, but rather an ideal, and one that all Americans (Hispanics included) should believe in.
No, the flag in *general* may represent a country or an ideal. The flag in that specific case was probably representing a "F--- you, Mexicans!"

quote:
1) Do we agree that America should be defined, not by race, but rather by the ideals of the Declaration?
2) Does the "diversity movement" (for lack of a better word) hinder that definition, and hinder our sense of cultural unity?
3) Can we bridge that gap?
4) If so, how?

1) Yes.
2) No.
3) Yes.
4) I'm guessing that the more black and hispanic people you elect in high places, the more the fact that the previous 43 president were white guys will start getting ignored.

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TCB
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From the original post:
quote:
We as a society have balkanized America. We have set race against race, American against American. The whites hate the blacks and the blacks hate the whites. The whites hate the browns, the browns hate the white. The blacks hate the browns, the browns hate the blacks.
Is this really true in your part of the country? Race relations are problematic, sure, but it seems to me that things are getting better, not worse. I wouldn't read too much into kids squabbling with each other. Mexican immigrants are clearly adaptable to US culture - it's not like they're religious fundamentalists who zealously keep to themselves.

I do worry about political balkanization in a country where liberals and conservatives increasingly get their news from different sources. That has implications on racial balkanization to the extent that whites tend to vote Republican and minorities of all colors tend to vote Democratic.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Basically, I'm saying that, in my view of the world, the flag CAN'T be anti-Mexican (to use Pyrtolin's phrase), regardless of the intent of those teens. Obviously, the students in this high school (on one or both sides) disagree with this view.
Context is everything. There is no word or symbol whose meaning cannot be influenced by the context in which it is used.

If a pirate ship was flying the US flag as a way to trick other ships into letting down their guard so they could get close, insisting that the flag could only mean positive things and not be a tool of deception in that case would only lead to better plunder for the pirates.

If you say "should not" on the other hand, then I agree with you, and that's part of why we have a flag code in the first place; to ensure they the flag is treated with the proper reverence required to ensure that it only projects that message.

To the more general points- I strongly disagree on number two. The diversity movement enhances that culture that you speak of by adding more aspects to it. Even more, it is and active expression of the principles of personal freedom- there is no way to create a completely uniform culture, especially over such a large area, without using oppressive tactics- be they explicitly law or heavy handed social pressure. American culture has always grown by fusing in new and different people- by taking what they bring and adding it to the mix, not by forcing them to conform to a codified American ideal. (Look to France if you want to see what it means to try to protect an idealized culture, and that's over a much smaller area.)

I have a friend who grew up in the south (I'm not sure exactly where) that repeatedly boggles over the industriousness of people in the rust belt- she actively can't understand why people would value work for its own sake rather than simply as a means to make the money that you need to pay the bills.

Race has nothing to do with it at all. We have different cultures all over the place already, and there's no way that we can pick any particular aspect of it as "The Real American Culture(tm)" It's only when people start trying to express their superiority and forcing others to conform to those ideals that you start to see the Balkanization emerge. The differences aren't at fault, but the people who can't accept and roll with the differences, and thus begin to draw lines between Us and Them.

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KidB
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Leaving aside the whole t-shirt thing, I just don't accept the fundamental premise -- that America is now more "balkanized" than it was in the past. I would argue the opposite. We are now more unified to the ideal of individualism transcending race and ethnicity more than at any point in our history.

I won't go into the dreaded "laundry list," but will point out that said list is the definitive proof of what I'm arguing. Society was legally "balkanized" for centuries as a matter of social policy. Whites only think the process is reversing because everything they've worked so hard to keep out of sight in past generations is now in plain view.

For instance -- the only reason we have these little Hispanic/Latino v. Whitey arguments in the first place is because it is now perfectly common for them to attend the same schools and live in the same neighborthoods. Perspective, people, perspective.

[ May 07, 2010, 05:39 PM: Message edited by: KidB ]

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DonaldD
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quote:
the flag represents not an ethnicity, but rather an ideal, and one that all Americans (Hispanics included) should believe in.
Well, no. The flag represents, among other things, what the flag's wielder wants it to represent. Sometimes it's a thing of beauty, symbolizing the freedom that some people associate with the best principles of the country. Sometimes, it is used as a shibboleth when attempting to gain points over political opponents. Sometimes it means 'you don't belong here'.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Here in Madison, a student wore a shirt saying "Proud to be an Atheist" on the National Day of Prayer. The administration forced him to remove it, because (rightly) it perceived that the shirt was making a confrontational political statement about the validity of a National Day of Prayer when worn in that context, and it didn't (rightly or wrongly) think it was appropriate to permit that statement in school.

The student shouldn't have been forced to remove it and the administration should be held accountable for making the student do so. If a fight was brewing it would be acceptable for someone to disperse the crowd or to just talk to everyone involved about the free speech issue.

Squelching free speech should be the last option.

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edgmatt
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Mariner, it's no wonder you hardly post anymore. I wouldn't either if I wrote a concise, uplifting, accurate post, and got the dung heap of responses you have been getting.

quote:
The truth is we aren't perfect, but our ideals remain true. So we have a choice. We can abandon those ideals, tear up the Declaration, and splinter off into warring ethnic factions like the rest of the world. Or we can swallow our complaints, come together, and try to do better.
That, in my opinion, was the money quote, and I am 100% right with you. We are a country created by our ideals, and those ideals are being forgotten.

It is my hope that there will be more people, like yourself, who are able to look past the pettiness of some things. I also hope these people will get voted into an office somewhere and do some good. ( Chris Christie in New Jersey is one of these people )

In any case, thank you for reminding me what this country and the people in it are really about.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Squelching free speech should be the last option.
You're about thirty years too late. There is no free speech in high school.

quote:
We are a country created by our ideals, and those ideals are being forgotten.
Who's forgetting those ideals? And which ideals? These are not irrelevant questions. America has never been a country consistent in adhering to its stated ideologies.

[ May 07, 2010, 10:49 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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MattP
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quote:
There is no free speech in high school.
It's not all that bad. The ACLU regularly goes after cases of abridgment of free speech in high school situations and they win fairly often. The school certainly has more power here than the government typically has over the public in other settings, but it's not absolute.
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Viking_Longship
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So far as I can tell a lot of the racial tension now is less severe than I remember it being during the 90s, but that's based soley on what I remember from the time around the Rodney King and OJ trials and when Ice Cube and Ice T weren't making movies for Nickelodeon.

As to the immigration issue, it's motif which repeats every time we have a massive influx of immigrants from one particular area. Can you believe there was time when Germans were regarded in the same way Mexicans are now?

I think the problem right now is political polarization and I think the solution may be more diversity, for example Greens disconection fro the Dems and Paleo Conservatives and Libertarians getting cutting their ties to Fox News "conservatives" coupled with the realizion that there is no "victory" on the horizon for any of the political factions other than temporary ones.

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Greg Davidson
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There have been different waves of "Balkanization" across American history, with subsequent groups of immigrants moving through the demonized category (Germans, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Mexican, etc.). The targeting of African Americans has not been so linear, there were some real improvements after the Civil War and then a violent backlash whose effects were only reversed in the 1950's and 1960's.

These tensions get exacerbated in tough economic times, in part because people are competing over a more limited pie (see 1880's-1890's labor unions and the efforts to get lower-cost immigrant labor to compete) and in part because it is always tempting for politicians to enlist a movement by playing up fear of the "other" rather than deal with the fact the the economy is in bad shape (see Slobodan Milosevich in the former Yugoslavia).

I don't see things as being worse now than they have been at other similar times in the past, but that does not make things good.

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