While channel surfing, I came across The House I Live In (1945), a ten-minute short film starring Frank Sinatra. Made to oppose anti-Semitism and racial prejudice at the end of World War II, it received an Honorary Academy Award and a special Golden Globe award in 1946. It reminded me of where I grew up.
While Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my hometown, is not as ethnically diverse as a city like New York, it had a similar ethnic and cultural mix. I grew up with other Italians, Irish, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish families. When I was in the seventh grade, I got to know several black students. The high school I attended was equally diverse. While it wasn’t perfect, and neither were we, it was, as they say, the best years of our lives.
What made our neighborhood work so well? While we did not all share the same ethnic or religious backgrounds, we did share a common moral background. The disintegration of neighborhoods, schools, and governments today is not a result of migrating ethnic groups. Rather, the disintegration is taking place through the importation of moral diversity. A generation or two ago, our ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity did not keep us apart because we shared the same moral values.
Today, multiculturalism is more than an appreciation of varied cultural expressions; it’s part of an overall philosophy of life. As it is being framed by social engineers, school curricula, and special interest groups, multiculturalism is intimately tied to ethics. An appreciation of diverse cultures is being used as a dodge to smuggle in aberrational moral standards that have the effect of diluting the impact of biblical Christianity. Multiculturalism is a type of moral polytheism: many moral law-orders based on many gods.
Polytheism (all gods are equal) leads to relativism (all moral codes are equal); relativism leads to humanism (man makes his own laws); and humanism leads to statism (the State best represents mankind as the pinnacle of power). As Rushdoony remarks,1 “because an absolute law is denied, it means that the only universal law possible is an imperialistic law, a law imposed by force and having no validity other than the coercive imposition.”2
Generations ago, immigrants assimilated. They adopted a unified American culture while celebrating their ethnic and cultural heritage; and no one minded. Think of the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). Today, there are groups who don’t want to be Americans. They want Americans to acquiesce to their ethnic and moral diversity. In fact, some of them want to impose their minority status on the rest of us while they remain excluded from the mainstream. For them, politics is the way to make us conform to their way of thinking.
In 2007, The House I Live In was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It’s a peek into another era that is a distant memory for people my age and another world for the younger set.
Frank Sinatra, playing himself, takes a smoking break from a recording session. He sees a group of ten boys chasing another boy and intervenes. He asks them if they’re Nazis and explains a few things about America, blood banks, World War II, and teamwork. He then tells a story how following the bombing at Pearl Harbor there was a successful American attack on an enemy warship. It was carried out by a Christian and a Jew of different religions fighting for the same cause. His main points are that we are “all” Americans because we share a set of common ideals.
The boys take Sinatra’s words to heart as they walk down the alley. The boy being chased is welcomed into the group and shows his appreciation to Sinatra’s intervention and kind but sober words.
You can view The House I Live In here.