Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
(Typos fixed, revised for clarity.)
About a month ago,
neoconservative creepy spendthrift fascist David Brooks wrote an article which he took to be in support of Latino immigrants. In this he took himself to arguing against Samuel Huntington’s anti-immigration essay in Foreign Policy, in which Huntington (famous for his contribution to contemporary fascist sociological thought, the so-called
Clash of Civilizations thesis) offers the following bit of post-Enlightenment Volksgeschichte:
Most Americans see the creed as the crucial element of their national identity.
The creed, however, was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture
of the founding settlers. Key elements of that culture include the English
language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of
law, including the responsibility of rulers and the rights of individuals; and
dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief
that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth,
city on a hill. Historically, millions of immigrants were attracted to
the United States because of this culture and the economic opportunities and
political liberties it made possible.
. . .
In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to
America’s traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing
immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility
rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives.
Brooks has a bone to pick with Huntington’s analysis. As he writes:
You’ll find that Huntington marshals a body of evidence to support his claims.
But the most persuasive evidence is against him. Mexican-American
assimilation is a complicated topic because Mexican-Americans are such a
diverse group. The educated assimilate readily; those who come from peasant
villages take longer. But they are assimilating.
It’s easy to find evidence that suggests this is so. In their book
Remaking the American Mainstream, Richard Alba of
Victor Nee of Cornell point out that though there are some
border neighborhoods where immigrants are slow to learn English, nationwide,
Mexicans know they must learn it to get ahead. By the third generation, 60
percent of Mexican-American children speak only English at home.
Nor is it true that Mexican immigrants are scuttling along the bottom of the
economic ladder. An analysis of 2000 census data by the
urban planner Dowell Myers suggests that Latinos are quite adept at climbing
out of poverty. Sixty-eight percent of those who have been in this country 30
years own their own homes.
Mexican immigrants are in fact dispersing around the nation. When they have
children, they tend to lose touch with their Mexican villages and sink roots
here. If you look at consumer data, you find that while they may spend more
money on children’s clothes and less on electronics than native-born
Americans, there are no significant differences between Mexican-American
lifestyles and other American lifestyles. They serve in the military — and die
for this nation — at comparable rates.
I have to confess that I simply don’t understand this argument between Huntington and Brooks. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that they are using unfamiliar words, or that I don’t see the point of contention between Huntington and Brooks, or that I don’t get follow the way in which Brooks and Huntington draw divergent conclusions from the premises and empirical evidence that they cite. All of that seems fairly clear. The part that I don’t understand is this: why in the world does Brooks present himself as posing a serious objection to Huntington? And why in the world does Brooks, in presenting his disagreement, simply leave Huntington’s fundamental premise concerning immigration policy standing there unmentioned, like the proverbial elephant in the room?
This point is particularly imiportant, because Huntington’s (and Brooks’s) fndamental premise concerning immigration policy is completely ridiculous.
By way of illustration, let’s consider a bit of a story.
Say that you’re moving to a new city in order ‘re moving across to a new city to work, and you need a place to stay; fortunately, a friend of yours who lives in the city says you can stay at her house until you find a place of your own. As you turn onto the street where she lives, I ran out in front of your car and demand that you stop. When you roll down the window and ask what’s going on, I demand
What’s your business here?
You blink a couple of times and finally say,
Well, I’ve got this new job, and my friend Liza invited me to stay with her while I look for a place of my own.
Whoa whoa whoa! I shout,
You mean you’re from out of town, and you intend to stay here?
Yes… you say, shifting a bit in your seat.
Sir, I’m afraid you need to fill out this form before I can let you enter the neighborhood, I say, as I hand you a form entitled Top Ten Albums of All Time.
Excuse me? you ask.
What in the world is this?
Your top ten LPs of all time. I need you to fill it out before I can let you stay at Liza’s.
Just who are you, anyway? you ask, as you ponder whether you can just speed past to Liza’s house without running me down.
I’m the Neighborhood Patrol! The citizens of this neighborhood rely on me to ensure that only those who adhere to our traditional devotion to 1970s Southern Rock live here. I’m afraid I can’t let you go through to Liza’s house until you give me a list of your top ten albums of all time. We can’t have a bunch of people moving into this neighborhood undermining our neighborly devotion to Freebird!
Look, why don’t you just go knock on Liza’s door and ask her whether I can come through? She invited me here and she’s expecting me.
I get a little anxious and explain,
Well, Liza didn’t exactly agree with our decision to implement the Top Ten List…
You stare at me.
I’m going to Liza’s house. So what in the world are you blocking my way for?
At this I become visibly irritated.
Sir, I’m an official Neighborhood Patrol officer. Liza didn’t agree to the Top Ten List, but more than 1/2 of her neighbors did. I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the car…
Isn’t this story absolutely absurd? And if it is, wouldn’t it be just as absurd for one of the neighbors to run out and argue with me to let you in — because he’s talked with Liza, and he can vouch for your massive collection of Skynyrd?
So how is Huntington’s and Brooks’s argument over whether or not Latino immigrants are
assimilating to the surrounding WASP culture different in any salient respect? Why in the world should success or failure at adopting the language, dress, or other cultural trappings of one’s prospective neighbors be a criterion for deciding whether or not a peaceful individual is forced out of the country?