Why is America Indebted to Israel Zangwill?

September 4, 2013
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children of various ethnicities holding an American flag
Will America ever become the Melting Pot that Israel Zangwill wrote about, where all citizens has equal access to all the rights and privileges. Photo Credit: ferru239.wordpress.com

Why is America Indebted to Israel Zangwill?

Who was Israel Zangwill and why is America indebted to him? It's quiz time. Can you match Mr. Z with the correct creation and the correct year in the list that follows?

1901 designed the first camera
1904 painted the mural in the Capitol dome
1908 wrote "The Melting Pot"
1919 founded a mail-order supply house specializing in the sale of human skulls
1925 composed the music for the wedding of suffragist Lucy Stone
1949 invented the first go-cart
1972 produced melodies by dislocating his jaw
1989 choreographed a puppet show with Lincoln Logs.
2001 formulated a combination of plastic, glass, and metal to make the first roll-on deodorant
2012 discovered a means of putting a coin-operated lock on pay toilets

photo of Israel Zangwill

Given the readership of this e-publication, you've probably made the heavenly match: Zangwill was a playwright. With the title of his 1908 play, The Melting Pot, he created the most famous metaphor ever used to describe America, "America is God's crucible," Zangwill wrote. "It is the great Melting Pot, where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming."

A crucible, of course, is a receptacle that is strong enough to withstand temperatures that melt other, less durable materials. And in the crucible known as America, the elements being mixed sometimes boil over. We have seen violence erupt against various groups of Americans:

Attacks on Irish Catholics
Attacks on Chinese
Attacks on Native Americans
Attacks on Italian immigrants
Attacks on Germans
Attacks on Japanese
Attacks on Mexicans and Puerto Ricans
Attacks on African Americans
Attacks on Vietnamese fishermen
Attacks on gay men.

The list goes on and probably will go on until another of Zangwill's observations becomes the reality of America: "No," he posited, "the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you." Zangwill then predicted that this real American "will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman."

Let us hope that the fused supermen and superwomen will soon emerge from our melting pot and that their superpowers will be great enough to destroy all remnants of prejudice and bigotry.