I’ve been having an email correspondence with someone who took issue with my suggestion a few days ago that all the talk in the immigration debate about our American Heritage may just be xenophobic blather.
My suspicion that xenophobia contributes a nontrivial chunk of that rhetoric is strengthened by Bill O’Reilly’s explanation of what “the New York Times wants and the far-left want” as far as immigration:
They want to breakdown the white Christian male power structure of which you [John McCain] are a part, and so am I. And they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically breakdown the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say that you’ve got to cap it with a number.
I continue to welcome suggestions of a non-racist, non-sexist, non-xenophobic sense of American Heritage, and applications of that sense to the immigration debate.
My email correspondent (who cited a bunch of numbers from hate group VDARE, about which more later) and I both wound up with a comparable description of American heritage in a fairly abstract sense. Individualism, some form of the Protestant work ethic (which obviously isn’t uniquely American, having originated as a means of describing differences within the European continent and among regions of Germany). We would both add in our political culture, rooted in classical liberalism, a concern with civic involvement, civil liberties and the idea that people should be allowed wide latitude in how they live their lives.
There may be other components that people would toss in, but I suspect that everyone across the political spectrum would go along with a description of our national heritage that included those elements, and would find any description lacking those elements to be inadequate.
I don’t see how the English language or other particular behaviors could be read into that definition. Standardizing behavior runs strongly against our foundational liberalism (what some might call libertarianism), and that applies to language as well as it does to anything else.
No one can deny that Latin American immigrants, legal or illegal, have a serious work ethic. Indeed, much of the argument about immigration focusses on debates over whether and to what extent those immigrants take work away from citizens. Like every great wave of immigration, Latin Americans are coming here to work. That ties them into our heritage very nicely.
The major remaining component of our heritage would be civic involvement. There’s no doubt that, as in previous waves of immigration, Latin American immigrants tend to live in tight communities bound by a common language and cultural backgrounds. That same force explains the existence of a Chinatown in many cities, and the ethnic patchwork of communities in cities like Chicago or New York. The existence of an ethnic enclave is not a sign of civic disengagement. On the other hand, the sidewalkless suburban sprawl surrounding our cities does tend to suggest civic disengagement.
Furthermore, Latinos vote. They participate in the national political process, they take an active interest in their communities, they exert their individualism and contribute to the economy. They follow the same basic pattern as previous waves of immigration, and in each of those waves, “heritage” was the banner waved in opposition. Each time, the subtext was that the dirty, lazy, drunk Mexicans/Irish/Poles/Germans/Chinese/blacks were coming to steal all the white women and “break down the white Christian male power structure.”
As if that would be so awful.