Reconquista and the Gospel

by Jerry Salyer on June 27, 2011 · 26 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Politics & Power,Region & Place

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Doing the good is an art and a balancing act, not a neat, tidy science whereby we simple-mindedly carry some one principle toward infinity. The right attitude toward wealth lies somewhere between miserliness and prodigality; the right attitude toward danger lies somewhere between rashness and cowardice; the right attitude toward pleasure is found somewhere between decadence and insensibility. So too does the right attitude toward the exotic lie between two extremes to be avoided — somewhere between xenophobia and xenophilia. It is from this perspective that I criticize the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent endorsement of citizenship for illegal immigrants, and regard their strident condemnation of xenophobia much as I would an alcoholic’s condemnation of Prohibition.

One defender of the new SBC policy is Southern Baptist Seminary theologian Russell Moore, who declares in “Immigration and the Gospel” that “[t]he Christian response to the immigrant communities in this country cannot be ‘You kids get off my lawn’ in Spanish.” Up until now I have had nothing but respect for Moore – anyone who appreciates Berry and Genovese can’t be all bad – which is precisely why his trite and thoughtless remarks pain me so. Does he really mean that no Christian can offer an argument against mass-immigration better than that of Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace? Can one really dismiss so quickly classicist Thomas Fleming, or philosopher Roger Scruton? What about journalists like Tom Piatak, Patrick Buchanan, and Peter Hitchens?

Whether one ultimately agrees with the positions taken by immigration restrictionists is beside the point. The point is that the Southern Baptist leadership hide from their flock the fact that such positions even exist. Should we be concerned about, say, the socioeconomic consequences of a vastly expanded labor pool? Soaring crime rates? What about the implications of perpetual war with the Muslim world even as mosques simultaneously sprout all across the Midwest? How seriously should we take those activists who celebrate the Reconquista of “Aztlan”?

Undoubtedly the SBC has devoted much prayer and reflection to such questions, and therefore has ready answers.

To be crystal-clear, no opponent of mass immigration that I know of – Christian or otherwise – comes remotely close to asserting the xenophobic strawman that immigration and diversity are evil as such. Rather, restrictionists assert that immigration and diversity, like everything else, must be subject to limits, and that those limits have long since been exceeded.  Should the SBC believe otherwise, it is welcome to substitute argument for ad hominem insinuations.

In the meantime, those wishing to understand the immigration crisis are better off turning instead to maverick Catholic polymath James Kalb, who in 2008 put the matter in the context of globalism:

Ruling elites […] are concerned with the power and efficiency of governing institutions, the status and security of those who run them, and maintenance of the liberal principles that support and justify their rule.  It is in their interest to expand the human resources available to them, even at the expense of those who are already citizens, and to weaken the mutual ties that make it possible for the people to resist rational management and to act somewhat independently.

In other words, amnesty for illegal immigrants is a step toward the further entrenchment of a global managerial class. As if peering into a crystal ball, Kalb concludes by foreseeing the SBC pronouncement (italics mine):

The practical result of such influences has been the suppression of immigration as an issue in the interest of an emerging borderless world order. Restrictionist arguments are scantily presented in the mainstream media, andconcern with cultural coherence, national identity, or even the well-being of one’s country’s workers is routinely denigrated as ignorant and racist nativism.

Kalb’s last sentence above may be juxtaposed neatly with Moore’s admonition to his readers to refrain from “absorb[ing] the nativism and bigotry of some elements of society,” which begs the question of just how much substantive attachment one may have for one’s culture and countrymen before one is denounced for nativism and bigotry. (Try “zero.” Unless, of course, you’re an Hispanic ethnonationalist — in which case anything goes.)  Wittingly or no, Dr. Moore has lent his voice to the Tolerance Police, which censures as hate-think any opposition to the multiculturalist deconstruction of towns and communities.

Far from being inherently un-Christian, opposition to multiculturalism is rooted in love. Consider, for instance, C.S. Lewis’s definition of patriotism:

[T]here is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells.  Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about “Britain.”[...]

With this love of place there goes the love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language. As Chesterton says, a man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very like his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he “could not even begin” to enumerate the things he could miss.

This kind of local and regional patriotism, Lewis notes, “is not in the least aggressive,” for “[i]t asks only to be let alone” and “becomes militant only to protect what it loves”. He contrasts it with un-Christian faux-patriotism, which springs from “a firm, even prosaic belief that our own nation, in sober fact, has long been and still is markedly superior to all others.” Interestingly enough this latter, twisted mockery of patriotism is what gets consistently promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention, and manifested itself in Bush II’s fatuous, sacrilegious rhetoric and bloodily-botched imperial foreign policy.  It takes a lot of nerve to get on a high horse about bigotry after having countenanced the export of Americanism at gunpoint.

To be fair it should be noted that Dr. Moore himself has never endorsed American exceptionalism; it is nonetheless deeply offensive that he would deem Richard Land within the pale while nativists – i.e., those who don’t want their country ruled by foreigners – lie without. Immigration restrictionists should, Moore hints, feel uncomfortable whenever contemplating Our Lord’s sojourn in Egypt. After all, “our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called ‘illegal immigrant.’”

Somebody call Dan Brown. After centuries of being overlooked by Christian scholars, here in modern America yet another long-hidden religious truth has finally emerged. Those who pretend not to know that border patrols are an offense crying to heaven for vengeance are un-Christian, much as anyone who criticizes the modern welfare state must not give a hoot about the poor. A divinely-commanded flight from  a pedicidal maniac is equivalent to … a search for jobs and free education.

Being no theologian, I must also have missed the part in the Bible where St. Paul identifies full citizenship’s rights and privileges as an entitlement which should come with every packet of Cracker-Jacks. Once upon a time, it meant something to be born into – or get adopted by – a tribe or a polis or even an empire. Today acceptance of mass immigration has nothing to do with Christian charity and everything to do with the widespread knowledge that the term “American” signifies nothing, if ever it did. (“Only foreigners and politicians talk about ‘Britain’.”) Thanks to a surreally-comical swearing-in of legal immigrants held here in Louisville last month, I can myself attest that even minimal comprehension of English is no necessary condition for voting in US elections. Depending on whom you ask, the fact that I ever thought otherwise reveals either amusing naïveté or disgusting ethnocentricism.

So John Zmirak of Thomas More College was right on the money when he compared the push for amnesty to the crime of counterfeiting, for “when we foster illegal immigration, and legitimize it later through inevitable amnesties, we are cheapening irreparably the value of citizenship”.  At this point, the currency has already been so cheapened that what we are counterfeiting is Monopoly money to begin with.

Of course the keenest critics of modernity will recognize the immigration crisis as but one symptom of the vaguely satanic theory that America is a propositional “nation” standing at the end of history, sanctioned by Providence to bear the torch of Enlightenment classical liberalism. According to this theory America embodies the New Atlantis, a transcendent utopia whereby individuals may be free from the bonds of tradition, ethnic identity, and ultimately family.

So if Americans had not adopted a mad, insatiable and unnatural vision of the world, is it possible that mass-immigration would not now be an issue? Certainly true, but further careless Balkanization and fragmentation is hardly a step toward improving things.  My interest is not so much in doing anything for the American republic — so far as I know, only God has the power to raise the dead — but in minimizing as much as possible the violence that will be done to cities, states, regions, and human beings when the American empire finally barrels head-long into hard reality.

As for those who assert – along with the GOP – that the ideology of liberal democracy is compatible with family, they only demonstrate their ignorance of what family is, as T.S. Eliot makes clear in Notes Toward A Definition Of Culture:

[B]y far the most important channel of transmission of culture remains the family:  and when family life fails to play its part, we must expect our culture to deteriorate.

Now the family is an institution of which nearly everybody speaks well: but it is advisable to remember that this is a term that may vary in extension. In the present age it means little more than the living members. Even of living members, it is a rare exception when an advertisement depicts a large family or three generations:  the usual family on the hoardings consists of two parents and one or two young children.

What is held up for admiration is not devotion to a family, but personal affection between the members of it: and the smaller the family, the more easily can this personal affection be sentimentalised.

But when I speak of the family, I have in mind a bond which embraces a longer period of time than this: a piety towards the dead, however obscure, and a solicitude for the unborn, however remote. Unless this reverence for past and future is cultivated in the home, it can never be more than a verbal convention in the community.

Commenting astutely on this eminently-quotable passage, James Matthew Wilson has noted that “[f]ar from being the basic unit of society that must be defended, the nuclear family is the death knell of ‘familism,’ as the anthropologists call it.” No one who takes family seriously could regard with equanimity the disintegration and drowning of established communities and clans. If xenophobia can prevent us from recognizing Christ’s face in that of the stranger, then xenophilia keeps us from seeing it in our own kith and kin. If it is uncharitable for me to sneer at the Mexican’s poverty, it is likewise uncharitable for me to shrug at my cousins’ anxieties. Those who believe themselves above primitive nativist loyalty should take care, lest they be discovered worse than infidels for falling short of it.

In guarding against one extreme without having given thought to the other, the Southern Baptist leadership has demonstrated its stance on “family values” to be little more than a futile and hollow pose, for people who will not honor their ancestors will sooner or later lose interest in their descendants, too. Such people will without hesitation erase the former’s memory to make way for Babylon, just as they will snuff out the latter in utero.

{ 24 comments }

avatar love the girls June 27, 2011 at 5:20 am

“(Try “zero.” Unless, of course, you’re an Hispanic ethnonationalist — in which case anything goes.) ”

“Hispanic ethnonationalist”?

Perhaps you meant to write “Chicano ethnonationalist”

avatar JonF June 27, 2011 at 5:24 am

Um, crime rates are not soaring. Crime has been trending downward since the early 90s– despite the false fears that the Great Recession would motivate more crmininal activity.

avatar Hattip June 27, 2011 at 6:57 am

Just what is “nativist loyalty” and why is it “primitive”?

Are you suggesting that the “loyalty” of average Americans to this nation in objecting to this ruinous and politically motivated invasion of this nation by immigrants is “nativist”? Are you suggesting that the those who oppose the notion that Americans have no right to control immigration are “nativists” ? Are you suggesting the the descendants of those how long ago created this great nation are wrong to preserve its character? That they do not have a specal stake n the nation by being “natives”?

And why are they primitive? Because they do not fit your notions of “nuance”, “sophistication” and “moderation”? Because you do not agree with them? Because of some inflated sense of superiority on your part? It sure seems that way to me.
You look pretty foolish from my POV sitting there in your self-appointed elitism.

Are you suggesting that because they briskly state obvious truths and do not wrap them in the pieties of the Left or in stilted, obscure and prolix prose that they are “primitive”?

You seem to be echoing all the agi-prop of the Left here, and doing so in the same haughty and self important manner.
Phrases like “primitive nativists” are merely Left wing canards and catch phrases. They are mostly ad hominem assaults used to avoid and obscure the truth. If this site were actually about classical liberalism, they would have no place here in any positive sense.

The issue in not “nativists” or “Xenophobia”; the issue s what sort of nation we have been and choose to be. Part of this is the rejection of multiculturalism. Part of it is understandng just what the Left is up to here.

You, like so many posters here seem wildly confused. This notion you have of being “Classical Liberals” appears to diverge from the historical one and is rather a fantastic and constantly changing confabulation. You more sound like modern Liberals who want to recast Leftist, collectivist cant into a Classical Liberal jargon. You seem a “Modern Liberal”, and a rather neurotic one at that, and not a “classical” one at all.

You contempt for the obvious truth of “American Execptionalism” and your bizarre sophistry about “the nuclear family” serves to highlight all of this.

avatar Zac June 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

I’m just thankful that my great-great-great-grandparents purloined enough of the New Land to keep my family wealthy for generations, and thus allowing me to make some use of it…

The lunacy of a country of immigrants railing against immigration is too much to bear! Any respect for localist arguments is, in this context, diluted. The added irony is that most Mexican immigrants have more Truly Native american blood in their lineage than most of the so-called ‘Americans’ that are trying to keep them out.

The ‘limits’ you talk about having exceeded were exceeded well over a century ago- and we’re the ones to blame.

avatar Empedocles June 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

Loyalty is just another word for resistance to extinction.

avatar Barry A. McCain June 27, 2011 at 11:57 am

“Possession is eleven points in the law, and they say there are but twelve.” –Scottish expression

But it’s not really clear what exactly it means to be “Scottish” even today. To say nothing of the tumultuous history of the “place”. (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Scotland)

Who are any of us really? I’m of “mixed” ancestry, but I consider myself (primarily) Scotch-Irish. I’m also a “Texan” (by birth, and, somewhat snidely, by the grace of God). My wife is Texan, but considers her extended family “Germanic” or “Anglo-Saxon”. We live in the city of Dallas (proper), a sprawling metropolis of some ~800 sq. mi., but it did not spring to life Laconically, as did the City/State of Sparta. Further, we are faithful (though flawed) adherents to the Roman Catholic Church–and our local, subsidiary ordinary.

This is all to say: What is the end of this debate? For millennia, men have been moving across the ever-changing topography of the Earth–sometimes settling, sometimes conquering, sometimes assimilating. Obviously these migrations are not devoid of moral consideration and should not all be treated “equally”. But that people move in search of a better life, and that the current denizens of a certain place oftentimes resist those movements should surprise no one.

avatar Gerry T. Neal June 27, 2011 at 4:09 pm

This is an excellent article Mr. Salyer. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us.

It is interesting to note that in the time of Christ’s Apostles, the world in which they lived was more-or-less politically united under the Roman Empire. This political reality facilitated the spread of the Gospel throughout the Empire. The Roman Empire was tolerant to a certain degree – but never egalitarian. Some had the full privileges of Roman citizenship, others did not. St. Paul used his Roman citizenship to gain a hearing in Caeser’s court when he was persecuted for the Gospel. He did not demand that in the name of Christ the privileges of Roman citizenship that he enjoyed must be extended to all people within the Empire.

In our day, due to the ubiquitous presence of liberal thought, arguments about immigration tend to be framed in the language of rights. Those favouring amnesty for illegal immigrants speak about the right of people to migrate in order to improve their conditions on earth. There is a difference, however, between “migration” and “immigration”. The former simply indicates relocation. The latter indicates relocation into an established society and community.

That is why the morality of immigration cannot be settled by a simplistic appeal to rights or compassion. People in an established society and community have rights too. A just government (relatively speaking) must place the rights of its own people in the society it governs and the communities that comprise that society ahead of the rights of other people. Those rights are violated, when people find that their community has been uprooted because the government has neglected to do its duty to them in upholding immigration laws.

avatar Barry A. McCain June 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Mr. Neal,

I really liked your respomse, esp. the bit about the obligations of a “just government (relatively speaking)” to defend the rights of its own body politic. I tend to agree with you, and I figure others do too, broadly speaking. But I get the sense the “mission statement” of these United States is up for some debate–which inevitably causes problems.

I’m reminded of a passage from one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, “The Crack-Up”:

France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter – it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart.

And that was 100 years ago!

We’ve been rebels from the start, and (as the popular narrative would have it) we’ve embraced immigrants nearly as long (“Give us your tired, your poor”). Of course, the Irish, Italians, Poles, Chinese, Japanese, et al. (to say nothing of the blacks and American Indians) oftentimes struggled mightily to fight prejudice for many years. Some still do–but ethno-racial bias among current citizens is way beyond the scope of this discussion.

Was the struggle of foreigners all those years a good? (If someone wants to be American, he ought to have to earn it!) Or, was it unjust? (Just because someone can’t speak English and looks different, that doesn’t mean he ought to be treated differently!). Perhaps there’s a “middle ground”. I really don’t know.

But I do know it’s a lot easier to be proud of something if I find I have things in common with my follow men–including the desire to maintain and protect it.

avatar Anymouse June 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm

“You contempt for the obvious truth of “American Execptionalism” and your bizarre sophistry about “the nuclear family” serves to highlight all of this.”
I give not one whit about the Nuclear family, nor of this mythical bull known as “American Exeptionalism”. I am an English speaking Catholic Christian. I have no reason to be loyal to an idea created by protestants.

avatar Anymouse June 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I have probably exaggerated my feelings a bit, but I find the sophistry of Liberals absolutely amazing.

avatar Matt June 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I find several aspects of this article problematic.

Salyer writes that “… immigration and diversity, like everything else, must be subject to limits, and that those limits have long since been exceeded.”

Could you please articulate what this limit is and how you arrived at it? Can you explain how it is that we can live in the civilization with the highest material standard of living in human history, with a level of consumption dwarfing that of any society on earth and grossly disproportionate to the size of our population, and that is completely unsustainable, and yet when faced with people fleeing what in global terms is absolute poverty simply for the opportunity for themselves or their family to live, making sacrifices that would not even put a dent in our preeminent comparative status somehow crosses a sacrosanct limit?

Before anyone protests, I recognize that at least in the short-term it is precisely the least well off in our society who are most likely to be negatively affected by immigration. But isn’t this precisely because those who are well off refuse to make the sacrifices that would make it possible for both America’s own disadvantaged and immigrants to have opportunities? We live in a “culture of death” where the most vulnerable and least able to fend for themselves are pitted against each other and sacrificed so the powerful can maintain their privileges. Which leads to my next point…

Salyer describes C.S. Lewis’ notion of “love of home.” Yes of course we must love our home, even precisely because it is ours, but at the same time it also matters what sort of character our home has. Is a home where we shut the door on the desperately poor one that is worth loving? I think the Bible has plenty to say about that, more than can be listed. I mention only the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

Even more, in the case of immigration we would also have to take into consideration the U.S.’s own partial responsibility for the problems in much of Latin America (I say partial because it would be completely unrealistic to lay all or even most of the blame on the U.S.). For nearly two centuries the U.S. has considered Latin America its own backyard, where it was free to intervene militarily and economically for reasons of our own national interests, regardless of how detrimental this was to the well-being of Latin American societies. Besides the historical incidents, today we would have to include free trade agreements and the economic pressures of globalization in general, the consumption of drugs by Americans, etc. And then, when Latin Americans seek to flee conditions in their own countries to seek a means of living in the U.S., to say that “This is our home, stay out,” seems a bit hypocritical, to say the least.

Finally, Salyer writes, “Being no theologian, I must also have missed the part in the Bible where St. Paul identifies full citizenship’s rights and privileges as an entitlement which should come with every packet of Cracker-Jacks.”

In an article lamenting the one-sided statement of the Southern Baptists, this seems strangely out of place. It also demonstrates a lack of real understanding of the immigration issue in the U.S. Among those proposals that could be considered at all realistic, the issue is not really citizenship but simply the ability to legally live and work in the U.S. After all, in the Roman Empire if you were not a citizen, you were also not an “illegal” who had to live in the shadows and could be deported at whim by the imperial authorities. You were simply a non-citizen resident. Serious immigration reform is simply seeking a way for current illegal immigrants to live here legally, and possibly to increase the numbers of those who can enter legally to eliminate the incentives for illegal immigration. Then they would have to go through the regular process of attaining citizenship, which is an entirely different process.

Of course Salyer is right that citizenship must mean something, but on the other hand we have to go back to the question of why states exist in the first place. States exist for the furtherance of our prior existing needs as human beings (ontologically, not historically, since there was not a “state of nature”). These human needs must be ontologically prior to the state, otherwise the state would be the source of our existence as humans, leading to totalitarianism. But if it is the case that states exist for the purpose of serving prior human needs, then it is at least possible that cases might arise where the good of the state comes into conflict with the basic needs or rights of human beings, even of those who are not members of that state. And this is exactly where the dilemma rises. But if the above is true, then it seems that in a case where the basics of human dignity of non-Americans come into conflict with “rights” or entitlements that are part of the “social compact” of Americans but that cannot really be considered rights due to someone as a human being, then the more basic needs must take priority. Which comes back to my first point, I find it hard to see how maintaining the lifestyle to which Americans are accustomed can be seen as a greater moral imperative than providing the opportunity for immigrants to simply live.

avatar Bill June 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

Opposition to multi-culturalism is rooted in love? Respectfully, I’d say they may be true, but only if you’re talking about love of self.

avatar JD Salyer June 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

I thank Mr. Neal for his kind remarks.

Also I thank Matt for his temperate reflections and questions, though I am not at liberty at the moment to compose the additional essay which would be required for an adequate response.

I do have time to emphasize that I would be friendlier to the pro-amnesty position if I got the sense that any of those pushing it took the slightest interest in what will be the effects of mass immigration on little towns, communities, local traditions, and regions which I consider worth preserving.

As is, the typical attitude seems to be that of “Zac” above, who seems to regard his great-great-great-grandparents with such loathing that he should welcome the prospect of their memory and heritage, what little remains of it, being buried once and for all.

As for Bill: Respectfully, multiculturalism represents love only if one defines love in terms of buffet-style consumerism. The multiculturalist loves cultures in the same way Hugh Hefner loves women.

avatar Rob G June 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

“I would be friendlier to the pro-amnesty position if I got the sense that any of those pushing it took the slightest interest in what will be the effects of mass immigration on little towns, communities, local traditions, and regions which I consider worth preserving.”

Those pushing it seem to be interested primarily in either increasing the voting rolls of the Democratic party or having access to lots of cheap labor.

avatar Verv June 28, 2011 at 11:20 am

Classical liberals, neoconservatives and libertarians are three biggest groups whom have tainted and twisted traditional conservatism.

avatar Mr_Mike June 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Why don’t distributists reach out to the new Hispanic immigrants with ideas of worker ownership, family primacy, etc? I’m sure you’d find a willing audience for those ideas. Too often, we think the words of activists in places far off speak for people who live next to us. Go over and, meet those new neighbors and, find common ground, which there is bound to be much.

On a side note, one done for the purposes of building grassroots support, I’ve seen a number of black men on youtube showing off their shooting skills and, doing gun reviews. If the local NRA, or shooting club would go out and search for such new members, the Democrats wouldn’t have such a strong anti-gun bias. “Those gunowners are just a bunch of redneck racists!”
“But about 20% of our mrmbership is black!”

avatar John June 29, 2011 at 9:53 am

Matt has the notion that we rich Americans are simply getting our comeuppance when righteous waves of poor immigrants overwhelm us.

Well, Matt, it’s not so simple as that. Immigration must have some limits or we will end up just as destitute and impoverished as the sending countries. At that point no one benefits, including the immigrants themselves. The once great state of California is a case in point.

If the billions of poor people around the world are going to find a better life, they must do so where they are. A declining America, now in economic freefall, cannot save them. We give them false hope when we literally encourage them to run away from their problems.

Yes, our wealthy plutocrats have caused some problems in foreign lands, but why should we middle-class and working class Americans be made to pay for their sins with the loss of our country and everything that is familiar and dear to us?

In point of fact, mass immigration is the cause of plutocracy against average Americans. The right-wing plutocrats seek economic advantage by driving our wages as low as possible and weakening our national sovereignty. Left-wing plutocrats (George Soros, Ford Foundation, etc.) view immigration as means to marginalize Middle America with a new electorate which they can manipulate for their “progressive” causes. And let’s not forget the plutocrats of Mexico who want to dump their excess people on us, rather than provide them a better life at home.

Are those of us who oppose this onslaught really such terrible people, Matt? Quite to the contrary, our outrage is right and proper.

avatar Barry A. McCain June 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

As Independence Day approaches Stateside I hear more and more advertisements for all manner of sales, parties, and festivities. A recent radio spot struck my ear: “Come hear the best music in the world…in the best country in the world.” Obviously these 30-second spots aren’t the Nichomachean Ethics, but they inhabit a truth–that, at least this time of year, we get awfully proud to be “American”.

Now, pride is a funny thing; the wrong kind is a capital sin, they tell us. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel guilty about my sins. Could there be a twinge of pride/arrogance/guilt roped into this debate on xenophilia and limited immigration?

avatar Matt June 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm

@John: You write: “Yes, our wealthy plutocrats have caused some problems in foreign lands, but why should we middle-class and working class Americans be made to pay for their sins with the loss of our country and everything that is familiar and dear to us?”

But why should immigrants have to pay with their lives for our own poor fiscal management? Is it really immigrants who have caused the fiscal problems of California, and the United States as a whole? Obviously they add to the fiscal strain, but could you seriously say that if tomorrow all illegal immigrants were gone and there was zero immigration, the U.S. would be in tip top fiscal shape? No, of course not. It is clear from your post that you believe it is our political and economic elites who are the main source of our problems. So why turn immigrants into scapegoats? This is exactly the point I made in my earlier post, that we have come to believe that immigrants and our own working poor are in a win-lose relationship precisely because any alternative where both groups could improve their lot would mean real sacrifices for the elites, and we have been led to believe that such an alternative is unimaginable.

Second, your point that we are at risk of being impoverished to the status of the Third World seems disconnected from reality. Yes, of course we are in a serious crisis, but I am sure that even in the worst case our standard of living would still be the envy of the majority of the global population. My point is not that such a situation is desirable, but rather to call into question our sense of entitlement to our standard of living when faced with people desperate to simply live.

avatar James Matthew Wilson June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I was planning to write what a great essay this was, but then it quoted me . . .

This really is a great essay regardless — and it is about time we addressed immigration more directly and frequently here. I wrote on it, of course, during FPR’s first week, intending to report in on news and findings from the Center for Immigration Studies, but failed to fulfill that aim.

As a rule, we may say: If you love your life and your community, you seek to perpetuate it for your children. Mass immigration and falling birthrates in the West are connected on two levels. Practically: falling birth rates has made the U.S. partly dependent on cheap imported labor. Philosophically: a listless soul that does not care about perpetuating its culture and tradition through children probably does not have either the longterm vision or desire to care that mass immigration will dissolve his culture.

Our public realm never talks about a cultural posterity — only of preparing our generic “youth” for the unimaginable job market of the future or for preserving the “environment,” not for our children and grandchildren, but out of a guilty sense that man is a mere parasite on the harmonious vacancies of the natural world.

Once again, well done.

avatar JonF July 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I had a great great grandfather who was a real Native American. My first Eiuopean anvestors in this country arrived in Massachusetts in the 1640s. That should establish my bona fides as someone with deep roots in this country.
Now, I am not in favor of open borders, but I also do not get the moral panic over the presence of people from other cultures. From a very early day America has absorbed many such peoples and enriched itself (culturally as well as literally) by their existence. And without the fact of immigration my German ancestors would not have arrived here in the 1800s. Without the cultural enrichment I speak of, I would not have recourse to the Orthodox Church, or enjoy the friendship of the good people of St Andrew’s OCA parish here in Baltimore.
There’s an argument to be made about immigration that rests on its economic effects– that I will entertain. But the cultural effcts? Why should I feel threatened by adding something more to the mix that is America? Please don’t tell me I should be dismayed by piñatas, salsa music and burritos.

avatar John July 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Matt: The vast majority of immigrants now coming here are not on the brink of starvation. The Pew Hispanic Center found that 95 percent of illegal Mexican immigrants had jobs before crossing the border. They just wanted better jobs. Also, starving people don’t have thousands of dollars to pay smugglers.

Many indeed are poor by our standards, but their poverty is not a moral claim on us. Mexico, for example, is poor because of its corrupt and lawless culture. And as the numbers of Mexican immigrants overwhelm our powers of assimilation, that culture will take root here and drag us down as well.

Also, it is not “scapegoating” immigrants to suggest that some don’t have our best interests at heart–and that they are more than willing participants in the elites’ evil plans. Polls show that many Mexicans don’t like us, and view our Southwest as theirs for the the taking. Even when immigrants have good intentions, their huge numbers will bring divisions of class and culture which the elites will exploit.

If you believe that the United States must be the unending safety valve for world poverty, how could the arriving billions do anything else but pull us down to their level and further impoverish our poor? But on the other hand, if you believe that we must put the brakes on immigration at some point–then perhaps we are not so far apart after all.

Please don’t think I am lacking in compassion. It’s just that my family and countrymen have the first claim on it. Also consider that compassion not balanced with common sense and moderation is most likely will lead to chaos–and then tyranny to end the chaos. That’s how the plutocrats have it planned.

avatar class factotum July 4, 2011 at 8:56 am

“‘a firm, even prosaic belief that our own nation, in sober fact, has long been and still is markedly superior to all others.’”

If it’s not superior here, then why do the boats point toward our shores?

Also, please be careful to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. We should get to choose who comes here. I want engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs. We already have a good supply of American high-school dropouts who need manual labor jobs.

avatar dgh July 16, 2011 at 8:05 am

Jerry, thanks for another example of how evangelicals don’t “get” conservatism (or political theory for that matter). When you put justice and love near the gospel, you get sentimental policy.

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