I was formulating a post in my mind earlier about Romney’s comments in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel….
….He said culture matters in terms of the success of a society. But before I sat down to write this Romney had written a piece called Culture Does Matter. He makes the same case I would have, though he’s far more pleasant and general than I would have been. No doubt this pleasantness comes from the culture of the LDS. There are very few unpleasant Mormons in my experience, Harry Reid being the glaring exception. Odd? Yes. Unpleasant? Not often. The missionary boys I see volunteering at the library are unfailingly kind and helpful, though I imagine my chunk of Los Angeles must be jarring at best. L.A. is often jarring to me and I’ve been here for most life.
Romney’s remarks in the Middle East caused an uproar with some. The truth often does. Culture DOES matter. It’s not the only thing that matters. Other factors play a part. Certainly the Palestinians are less “successful” in the Middle East for a number of reasons, some of them unfair and ugly. This doesn’t mean that one should avoid self-evident truths. Some cultural assumptions and attitudes are helpful, some are not.
The success of the Irish in the U.S. – against long odds – wasn’t because of their charming accents. One can see the success of Mexican and Central American immigrants in Los Angeles everywhere – if success if quantified by willingness to work – by which I mean labor. Walk 20 feet in any direction in my town and you’ll find brown people doing jobs that many white and black Americans would consider demeaning.
It’s also worth pondering why the Jews are so consistently successful across the centuries. It’s not because they are “chosen” or because they are devious. It’s because where ever they land – and they’ve been forced to “land” many times – they bring the elements of success with them. This is true whether they’re creating a nation in the desert or creating a world dominating business in Southern California because the WASP culture of the time thought it too vulgar to bother with.
Any honest public school teacher in a culturally diverse city knows that after parental involvement, cultural biases may be the biggest factor in determining success in a classroom. Gender plays a role here. But gender attitudes are cultural attitudes. Economic factors matter – but again – generation after generation of poverty is often cultural. Asians suffered unreal bigotry in California – and yet they are in many ways a wild success story now. The Chinese population of Chinatown has greatly diminished. Why? They made a go of it and move to the suburbs.
Romney’s comments causing an uproar with some is more proof of the “liberal” establishment’s disconnect from the reality most of us live in. On some level we all know culture matters. Even those who wear the “diversity” talisman (as long as it’s pre approved, thought policed diversity) know it. I suspect Romney’s “gaffe” will actually help him politically. He hit on a truth we are not allowed to discuss currently, but deep down we desperately want to. That is: We need to stop pretending that all cultures are created equal or that we even want elements of some cultures in ours.
Via the backdoor Romney is hitting on the same truth Barack Obama hit on in 2004 when he said “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” This statement is about our cultural values. Read the entire speech here. It is a love song to our culture and our values.
Values matter. Culture matters. They make a difference. Romney said it. Out loud. Good for him.