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Dear Editor:

Dr. Baer's letter yesterday had a very sentimental view of "multiculturalism" which is at odds with the way it appears to be presented by its advocates and its practitioners.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong at all with remembering one's roots, or maintaining a sentimental attachment to one's homeland, but that's not "multiculturalism" or "cultural pluralism". Even though I never knew my grandparents, who immigrated about 1901, I learned Arabic in college, have visited their village in Lebanon, etc.

But I still identify myself primarily as an American. The problem is when we absolve immigrants of any responsibility to learn our language, our laws, and our customs. Of developing any sense of patriotism or loyalty to the U.S., of identifying first and foremost as "Americans". It seems that in multiculturalism everyone's culture is "respected" but our own. Ethnic advocacy groups demand "rights" to be taught in their own languages, and to have services, even welfare, delivered in those languages. Yet, language is a key manifestation of a culture, and being truly fluent in a language involves understanding the culture behind it. (Why do many ethnic advocates want so-called bilingual education? To maintain their cultures.) Rejection of English is, in effect, a rejection of our culture. However, even knowledge of English probably isn't necessarily sufficient for someone to truly identify as "American". After all, for example, many Indians are fluent in English, but continue to identify primarily as "Indian" and to prefer their customs even after years of living here, and even when these customs violate accepted norms here. Multiculturalists would have us ignore or excuse on "cultural" grounds violations of social norms, and especially laws, such as those against DUI and spousal abuse, or those regulating housing occupancy, intended for the protection of safety of our society. We are also supposed to accept the breaking of immigration laws by illegal immigrants, even though law and order (and "fairness") are important values in our society.

Just this morning, I was reading a column by Linda Chavez about American-born Palestinians in Northern Virginia who were not merely sympathizing with the suicide bombers in Israel, but who were willing to become bombers themselves. Then, there are people such as the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who placed his loyalty to Israel above that of his country, not to mention a Puerto Rican analyst for one of our intelligence agencies, born and raised in Germany, who was recently found to have been passing on intelligence to Cuba for a number of years. We also have the interesting problem of the prisoner of war captured in Afghanistan who may be an "American" simply because he was born here to Saudi parents. He was raised in Saudi Arabia, and apparently has never had anything to do with the US except to fight it. Is he an "American"? Does he share our core values as a society, or even want the US to survive as a nation? It is U.S. culture and interests which should be placed above those of other countries or groups if our society is to function as a cohesive whole, rather than a polyglot collection of ethnic, racial, and religious interests.

Ali Alexander