Culture Montana Politics

Anti-Immigrant sentiment weakens America

The delightful picture above (by Thomas Nast – titled “The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things”)is a pretty accurate description of 19th century views on the value Irish Americans had for the country as a whole, and implies pretty strongly what ought to be done about them. While I’d like to say that the way we portray ‘foreigners’ in this country has advanced dramatically, that’d be far too optimistic. Depicting them with bombs and drugs and weapons is still within the norm, and not merely for known bigots like Donald Trump.

For example, a plurality of Americans think that 10,000 (less than one percent of the displaced people in Syria) is too many refugees for the United StatesTed Cruz and others. Many seem fearful that Syrian refugees could include or hide terrorists. It’s the sort of argument that seems like common sense, but falters on closer examination, suffering from what in the debate world we call non-uniqueness: while it’s possible a refugee could be a terrorist, the same could be said about any number of people already living in America. The 80,000 Iraqi refugees in the US have yet to cause a spike in terrorism, while on the other hand we already experience violence from terrorists like Dylann Roof. Politicians using terrorism fears to stop taking refugees from Syria are either pandering or incompetent (it should also be remembered that when Irish immigrants came to the US, they formed actual armies and occasionally invaded Canada, while actively stirring up opposition to other immigrant groups – the threat of ‘Sharia law courts’ from Muslim refugees seems dramatically lower).

More broadly, the United States should be embracing immigrants as a whole – and gutting our constitution to deny citizenship to Americans is a step, nay, a leap in the wrong direction. Despite what you may have heard about drug traffickers and rapists, immigrants, especially immigrant adolescents, are less likely to commit crimes than their native-born peers. And this is not just the case for ‘model minorities’ like South and East Asian immigrants; indeed, much like the the Irish a century ago, Hispanic immigrants, while starting with far less actual and ‘cultural capital’, have managed to achieve remarkable intergenerational-education mobility. Mutating our constitution with the explicitly stated purpose of stripping such children of their rights as a way to punish their parents’ alleged sins is as irrational as it is unethical. More than that, nixing or eliminating one of the most important amendments in the constitution means reviving an abhorrent governing philosophy, one that holds that it is the purview of government, not the facts of a person’s birth, to determine who is entitled to the rights of a citizen. It’s been tried before, and will be tried again – but it needs to be continually resisted.

For those who’ve studied history, the takeaway is simple: both refugees in the short run and economic migrants in the long run present an opportunity, not a danger, and one which powerful elements of the American political system are trying to squander. Doing so, either by politically excluding immigration or creating a social atmosphere hostile to their presence, threatens to cut off one constant resource America has consistently drawn on for strength.

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  • “When the Barbarians came for Rome there was no Rome.” That was the money quote toward the end of this speech.

    Mass immigration does not strengthen any of the host nations. Resistance to assimilation seems to be the leading factor.

    Enjoy. Cross commented over at the reptile’s place.

    • Hmm, the money quote is both irrelevant, referring to an event milennia ago, and historically wrong. The Romans’ mistake was that Roman citizens were soon a minority of the residents of their Empire – the exact problem the 14th amendment has ameliorated for us. And perhaps we’d get a better idea of how the US is likely to be affected by immigration looking at our own situation. Currently our foreign born population is lower than it was at any time between 1860 and 1920. We’ve done pretty well with immigrants. If Europe can’t handle immigration, that’s their weakness – it is most assuredly Japan’s. If America is to stay great, it will come from the same source as it always has: immigration.

      • ‘In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.’
        Theodore Roosevelt 1907

  • People in this country would do well to remember that if there were no immigration, this “country” would not exist at all, unless they are of Native American descent that is. Otherwise…

    • Human history in North America is somewhere north of 19,000 years. The tragedy is that Northern Europeans made it unsafe for human habitation by extirpating the previous immigrants.

  • “For people who have studied history …”

    Interesting comment, but whose history? Kearns? Schlesinger? I grew up with white bread history, even “studied it” if that has any bearing (the subject is so massive as to be unapproachable – have you also studied water? Air?).

    That’s an aside. I note by your references to Syrians and Dylan Roof that you are having your buttons pushed, and reacting like a machine. During our attack on Iraq there were over two million refugees, but they were not considered worthy victims, and so were ignored in our mainstream media. During the Clinton era, the largest refugee crisis in the twentieth century took place. Kurds were attacked and displaced by Turkey with American weapons. Mum was the U.S. Media.

    The proper question here, in my view, is not whether we are responding appropriately to the Syrian situation, but rather why it is being emphasied by our media. Why are emotional pictures of questionable origin are allowed to appear in high profile media? Syrians are “worthy victims,” Iraqis, Kirds,, Vietnamese, Libyans, Somalians, Lebaniese, Palestinians not. Why?

    Until you learn to ask the right questions, you’ll not in any meaningful sense have “studied history.”

  • Actually the best history on the Irish experience in the US (mainstream authors are catching up) is, unsurprisingly, Zinn.

    Syrian refugees are worth our attention. So were Iraqi ones. That’s why I wrote about them, twice:

    But you’ve already noted that such victims were ignored by the mainstream media! So that rather undercuts your argument that I’m just having my buttons pushed by the mainstream media.

    The reason there has been more discussion of Syrians than Lebanese, Somalis, or Vietnamese is that the US has in fact home to large numbers of all of those groups, while we’ve taken in notably few Syrians. Indeed, one of the best arguments I’ve seen for our capacity to take in Syrian immigrants is that fact that we took in hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese after the Vietnam war – and few ould really argue that there were long term negative effects, at least for us.

    • Your misunderstanding is almost total. The US media can emphasize or ignore any human crisis, and it only depends on whether the victims are useful in advancing US objectives. That is the doctrine of “worthy victims.” I just wrote today (on my blog, which you avoid, thoughtful as you are) about the murder of 500,000 Indonesians in the period 64-65 by the Suharto regime with US support, and our friend J…C, banned here in darkness central, helped out. It happened beneath the radar. There was no reporting.

      You’re a white bread guy, tacitly acknowledging crimes and criminals where it cannot be avoided, but not really – you seem to acknowledge but not internalize, as if you’re a placard in a market square, reflecting some light but only two-dimensional. You’re absorbed in the Pogie view of US history, where important information falls in your lap without effort via reliable sources, and all else is suspect. You’ve been brainwashed, and don’t know it, of course. Otherwise, it would not be effective brainwashing, would it.

      I was brainwashed as an America youth. I am not your worst critic. I’ve walked your path. For strictly deprogramming purposes, I suggest you start with Jacques Ellul and his 1965 work “Propaganda,” where he compares and explains the propaganda systems of China the USSR and the US, dominant at that time. The US system, coupled with incredible violence on foreign lands (the Indonesian massacre front and center), was by far the most effective.

      Again, you need to ask the right question and demonstrate some capacity for critical thought: Why are Syrians worthy victims? I don’t give two shits that you noticed the Iraqi refugee crisis. The MSM did not, and you need to address that fact. You have not done so.

      • Why do I need to answer for the mainstream media? Syrian refugees may well have a political purpose. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let them in. It does mean, in this case, that your consistent accusation that I’m merely parroting a carefully constructed media message, is nonsense.

    • The Cong who came to the US in the 60’s and 70’s were escaping communism. The refugees now coming to America are embracing communism, or to put it more accurately socialism, the lightened version of the “C” word.

        • “Socialism and communism are ideological doctrines that have many similarities as well as many differences. One point that is frequently raised to distinguish socialism from communism is that socialism generally refers to an economic system, and communism generally refers to both an economic system and a political system. The means of production are publicly owned in both systems, but the ways that money and resources are distributed are different. In socialism, each person is allotted resources according to his or her input, or amount of work, and in communism, each person is allotted resources according to his or her needs. Many people consider communism to be a “higher” or more extreme form of socialism.”

          Like I said communism light.

          • The same argument could have been made about the Irish, the Germans, the Jews – all embraced political philosophies quite different from ours when they arrived. Within a generation, however, they had generally assimilated to the US political system, and it’s hard to imagine America being as strong as it is today without them.

      • “The Cong who came to the US in the 60’s and 70’s were escaping communism”? Do you mean the Viet Cong who came to the US? Do you know what “cong” means in Vietnamese? Maybe this will help: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 1, Chapter 5, “Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960”, Part G.1 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971) .

        Sorry, Big Swede, but you are not a serious person.

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