During a discussion on immigration assimilation and multinationalism on the November 10 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Dobbs said of St. Patrick's Day and Columbus Day: "[P]eople [are] celebrating a distant history and their lineage ... that has nothing to do with celebrating America, and I find that astonishing. Frankly, I resent those kinds of holidays." Dobbs continued: "[T]his is a country that is so focused on the differences among our 300 million citizens, we don't celebrate enough our commonality, our similarities, our bond. And I become very sensitive to this."
Dobbs's guest, City University of New York professor Stanley A. Renshon, author of the new book The 50% American: Immigration and National Identity in an Age of Terror (Georgetown University Press, October 2005), disagreed with the first statement, saying, “I think it's perfectly all right for people to have connections to their ancestors and to their own countries.” But then, concurring with the latter statement, he said: “We make a lot of room for ethnic holidays, but we don't make room for America.”
Apparently Dobbs doesn't “resent” all holidays: In December 2004, as Media Matters documented at the time, Dobbs argued that the seasonal greeting “Happy Holidays” excludes “everyone who is celebrating Christmas” and argued that there is nothing wrong with people of faith celebrating their own holidays:
DOBBS: But as we celebrate each one of those [holidays] -- and each of us in this very diverse society does celebrate -- my Jewish friends say to me “Happy Hanukkah,” I say to them “Merry Christmas,” none of us is offended. I don't understand the reluctance to use Christmas.
The U.S. government recognizes eleven federal holidays, including Columbus Day; according to the Congressional Research Service, each federal holiday “emphasizes particular aspects of the American heritage that molded the United States as a people and a nation.” St. Patrick's Day (March 17), a holiday celebrating Ireland's patron saint, is not a federal holiday; however, March is Irish-American Heritage Month, as proclaimed by the U.S. Congress in 1995. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Because many Americans celebrate their Irish lineage on St. Patrick's Day, March was picked as Irish-American Heritage Month.” The president annually proclaims March as Irish-American Heritage Month.
From the November 10 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Well, joining me now to discuss our nation's growing immigration and assimilation issues, the growing problem of dual citizenship, author Stanley Renshon. His new book is called The 50% American: Immigration and National Identity in an Age of Terror. It is good to have you with us.
RENSHON: Thank you for having me.
DOBBS: The idea that there is a diminishing national identity, to hear Peter Spiro [a University of Georgia law professor who made the comment in an earlier segment on the program] say that, I mean, that just slams into your ear?
RENSHON: Well, he is one of those people who believes that it's rather easy to be a citizen of this country and a citizen of another country, and there is no inherent conflict between the idea. But it's really a wrong premise. Some kinds of identities are really incompatible.
DOBBS: For example?
RENSHON: Well, for example, it's very hard to be an observant Jew and an observant Muslim. You have to be one or the other. It's very hard to be a person who is attached to the American national culture, and at same level be attached to a different culture.
DOBBS: But you know, one of the things that screams at me, every St. Patrick's Day, every Columbus Day -- and I'm going to get lots of e-mails and letters for saying this -- but I see people celebrating a distant history and their lineage, presumably, that has nothing to do with celebrating America, and I find that astonishing. Frankly, I resent those kinds of holidays.
RENSHON: Well, I don't. I think it's perfectly all right for people to have connections to their ancestors and to their own countries. We have attachments, and it doesn't bother me at all if someone remembers back when they were Irish and so forth. But most of that ethnicity is really symbolic ethnicity. It's really about wearing a shamrock or having a glass of green beer.
DOBBS: Well, let me explain to you why I don't like it, and I have just a visceral reaction to it, and that is that this is a country that is so focused on the differences among our 300 million citizens, we don't celebrate enough our commonality, our similarities, our bond. And I become very sensitive to this.
RENSHON: You should be, and I think that is an absolutely correct observation. We make a lot of room for ethnic holidays, but we don't make room for America.