A friend -- as amiably as possible, and offline -- accuses me of some logical sleight-of-hand in my last post ("A Modest Proposal"), suggesting that concern for the importance of American liberty, which he shares, does not itself negate the importance of the nativist sentiments I seemed to be slamming.
Fair point, says I.
Not that I was tryna be tricky. As its abundance of capital letters, italics and boldface suggest, that last post was a rant -- prompted not by lengthy consideration of nativist issues, but by my fury at the Senate's "fiddling while Rome burns." Presidential Counsel Alberto Gonzales (who is "unsure" whether he's the grandson of illegal immigrants, btw) came before the Senate as a known advocate of detainee mistreatment and monarchical power for the President. The Senate confirmed him as Attorney General, highest law officer in the land, where he continues to work assiduously against the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Now Air Force General Michael Hayden, another advocate of monarchical Presidential power, known to have followed plainly illegal Presidential surveillance orders, is very likely to be confirmed as Director of CIA. The potential threat to the America I know and love cannot be overstated, here: at this point, it is only temporary political difficulties and self-restraint which prevent an absolute dictatorship in this country. This issue seemed, and seems, to me a great deal more important right this minute than nativist concern about illegal immigration, or indeed than most anything else.
That was my point in posting.
Still, since he asks, how do I feel about nativist issues on their own terms?
I've already mentioned the part of the debate I find most valid: the strain on social services. Furthermore, I dislike the kneejerk lefty response that all nativist sentiment is rooted in racism. A lot of it is, to be sure; just as a lot of opposition to a military draft is rooted in personal cowardice or selfishness, and a lot of opposition to theocracy in people afraid they'll end their days in concentration camps. A lot, but not all, and these issues still deserve discussion on their own terms, no easy outs.
Nativism shows up in cycles in America, as it does most everywhere else; people see cultural changes, and fear that "their" country is disappearing.* Nativist sentiment in this country has at one time or another aimed concern (and fear, and even hatred) at Mexicans and Blacks and Asians (particularly Chinese and Japanese) and Jews and Italians and Germans and Irish...and I'm probably forgetting some. Foreign immigration is often tied to immigrants' willingness to work in harsh conditions for minuscule wages, and that has historically raised concerns among native workers, too...which is one big reason that nativist concerns tend to drop off when the foreigners' home countries improve their own standard of living.
Asians and Italians and Germans and Irish didn't overwhelm the U.S. population, any more than Canadians have, mostly because their home countries began providing better for their people. If Latin American countries could do the same, history says that would make all the difference.
I do take offense at the way politicians use the immigration debate -- as a totally fake wedge issue to motivate voters to support them, while said politicians screw said voters from here to Timbuktu. That affable honker speechifying at you about Americanism is simultaneously picking your pocket, and laughing at you for not noticing. Want proof? Try this thought-experiment:
If the illegal immigration debate were serious among politicians, how many growers, CEOs, and corporate board members do you suppose they'd have to jail for hiring illegals, before the influx of immigrants fell to a trickle, there being no jobs available to them?
Na. Go. Ha. Pen.**
The reason it will never happen is that no politician works primarily for you -- nor for any of the masses of humanity in any country. Politicians, all politicians, primarily work for the powerful, whose power they are there to sustain. To be offended by this fact is like being offended that the sun shines. It's just reality, folks.
But what used to make this country different was that it voluntarily limited what the powerful could do to the powerless. The Deistic Continental Freemasons who founded this Republic divided up power among competing interests, and instituted a set of constraints on what those interests were ever allowed to do, in order to keep the greatest liberty, for the greatest number, for the longest time, that they possibly could. Their successors, with spasmodic exceptions, tended to keep this going...for the simple reason that it is a very smart way to run a country. When the populace feels invested in a country's success, that country tends to succeed.
And that America, my America, is being threatened, perhaps killed,*** today -- not decades from now.
Nativists fear that their America may eventually drown in a tide of foreigners. My America is not racial or ethnic or cultural; it is Constitution, and especially Bill of Rights, based. A White Christian English-Speaking Monarchy -- of the sort that the Founders staged a revolution to overthrow -- strikes me as deeply UnAmerican; a multicolored, multicultural hodgepodge of folks committed to the Constitution and Bill of Rights is, to my mind, as American as apple pie.
I hate UnAmericanism, too, with an abiding passion. I guess I just define it a little differently, and hope this helps to explain. :)
93 93/93 -- AJ
* That such sentiments also form the backbone of, say, Al-Qaida, does not automatically invalidate them. Like I said, no easy outs.
** I stole that from Atrios ( http://atrios.blogspot.com/ ), if memory serves. Isn't it cool? ;)
*** I don't mean to be alarmist here. My concern is twofold: the argument that the President is a King in all matters of "national security" (verrrrry broadly defined), put together with universal surveillance and the endlessness of a "war on terror," seems to add up to permanent dictatorship, hence an end to the American Republic. I'd weep with gratitude to be wrong about this. In fact, I'll go so far as to say I will weep with gratitude when this insanity is defeated, which I have every confidence it will be, sooner rather than later. God bless America.