There's a quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that I've always liked.
One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.Me and Carlos, rotate that a hundred and thirty five degrees. We sometimes have conversations where we start talking past each other. Then I get to wondering, is he just three steps ahead of me and having trouble talking down to my level? Or is he assuming I'm keeping up, when I'm really not? Or is he saying something very clever, but not quite germane to my original point, because he's lost interest? Or is this one of those rare occasions when I'm right and he's wrong? Well, I don't know. But we were talking about intermarriage. I don't think postwar Yugoslavia is a good comparandum for the modern US. No. But I don't think it's a completely irrelevant comparison either.
Intermarriage rates between Yugoslavia's different ethnic groups in were lower than in the contemporary US: certainly. On the other hand, they were high by regional standards, and astoundingly high by historical standards. (Royalist Yugoslavia, we don't have numbers, but all evidence is that the different groups were oil and water.) After the war, the new Communist regime worked hard to legitimize intergroup relationships, including marriage. And over the next two generations, they had a startling amount of success. Intermarriage become, if not typical, at least common enough not to attract attention. (Albanians being the interesting exception. It was always noteworthy if an Albanian married someone who wasn't.) By the 1980s there were hundreds of thousands of children of mixed marriages; and not even the most crazed and odious nationalists would publicly claim that this was a bad thing. (The numbers were still much lower than in the US, yes. But very few places in the world have ever shown rates of intergroup marriage comparable to the US in the last forty years. The US is the outlier here.) So, 1980s Yugoslavia, huge change in two generations, wide social tolerance -- whatever the numbers were, the level of tolerance for intermarriage was very high -- trends all going in a good direction. Then it all went to hell. Yugoslavia worries me. Lots of smart people, lots of decent people. Poverty not a major factor -- it was a middle-income country, most families had cars and TVs. Nor was it a provincial backwater; half the country had travelled abroad. But it all went to hell anyway. To answer Noel's question: I don't think the US is going in anything like the direction of Yugoslavia. But I'm less sanguine than Carlos about the long-term prospects for brotherhood and friendship. I don't think we're going to start slaughtering each other along racial lines. But I'm not convinced that large scale demonization of a constructed Other is going to be limited to a handful of militia types, either. ...The Chechens. The Chechens are quite something. Even the Armenians -- who tend to look down the length of their magnificent noses at their various Caucasian neighbors -- are impressed by the Chechens. I almost wrote "intimidated" there. It's striking how carefully everyone in the region avoided taking sides there. 600 lb. gorilla vs. amphetamine-crazed pit bull, who cares who wins? Just stay right clear.