Posted by: L | May 4, 2007

Buchanan links Virginia Tech to immigration

Pat Buchanan argues that the killer at Virginia Tech is a product of the misguided “melting pot” ideology behind present immgration policies:

“Cho was among the 864,000 Koreans here as a result of the Immigration Act of 1965, which threw the nation’s doors open to the greatest invasion in history, an invasion opposed by a majority of our people. Thirty-six million, almost all from countries whose peoples have never fully assimilated in any Western country, now live in our midst.Cho was one of them.

In stories about him, we learn he had no friends, rarely spoke and was a loner, isolated from classmates and roommates. Cho was the alien in Hokie Nation. And to vent his rage at those with whom he could not communicate, he decided to kill in cold blood dozens of us.

What happened in Blacksburg cannot be divorced from what’s been happening to America since the immigration act brought tens of millions of strangers to these shores, even as the old bonds of national community began to disintegrate and dissolve in the social revolutions of the 1960s.”

Here’s the rest of Buchanan’s article.

I am busy now, but want to comment on this post in detail. Perhaps on Tuesday, when my work lightens up. Hope some of you reading can check back then. Talking rationally about what we are not supposed to be able to talk about except irrationally is always a good thing. Meanwhile, here’s something that came to my mind when reading Buchanan’s article:

“Can a wretch who wanders about, who works and starves, whose life is a continual scene of sore affliction or pinching penury; can that man call England or any other kingdom his country? A country that had no bread for him, whose fields procured him no harvest, who met with nothing but the frowns of the rich, the severity of the laws, with jails and punishments; who owned not a single foot of the extensive surface of this planet? No! urged by a variety of motives, here they came.”

It’s from Letter III from Letters from an American farmer, by J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur, reprinted from the original ed., with a prefatory note by W. P. Trent and an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn. New York, Fox, Duffield, 1904.

I suppose Buchanan would argue that the immigrants Crevecoeur referred to were legal, came from European countries and were assimilable. But between, say, the Irish or Eastern European immigrant of the nineteenth century and one from Germany or Holland, between a Catholic and a Protestant was a gap almost as large as the cultural gap between some immigrants today and the mainstream of American culture, although what that mainstream might be is not the easiest thing to define.

Buchanan also overlooks the fact that Cho’s parents followed the route generations of immigrants have taken and have been urged to take — hard work in a small business, owning your home, and scrimping and saving to send your children to the elite schools and colleges which presumably assimilate them into the mainstream.

Cho’s sister — immersed in Bible studies, Christianity, and humanitarian work — seems to me as much a part of “heartland” American values as any one can be.

The holes in Buchanan’s argument don’t end there, of course. The beleagured Hokies whom he calls “us” included a number of immigrants and foreigners — Lebanese to Israeli to Sri Lankan — several of whom gave their lives for their native-born and non native-born friends. I suppose, under fire, they didn’t have enough time to get the skin colors, features, and immigration status sorted out.

Buchanan takes principled positions on a number of issues where other people duck, so it’s a disappointment that on this one, he falls into the trap of demagoguery. Still, there’s no need to resort to shoving his argument into the outer darkness of public debate, as this blog seems to want to.

For one thing, while his view on race and culture can be called “nativist” (probably correctly) all day long, it’s still a view held – sometimes silently but not always thoughtlessly or maliciously – by a good number of reasonable people, not only in the U.S but across the world. It’s a view that has suffused the major religions of the world for centuries.

I know people might label it racist (and it might well be on some levels), but since that’s often a term used to shut people up and because I never know what anyone actually means when they call someone a ‘racist’, I will simply call his position ‘racial’ or ‘racialist.’ By that, I mean he defends racial feeling as a legitimate category of human experience and not on its face suspect.

So, while I don’t agree with his position on immigration, I think it calls for more than ad hominem.

The only way to get through the impasse on this subject is to talk about it candidly.

As I see it, there are two constraints on the government in either direction: on one hand, we can’t make arguments about the constitutional limitations on the state while we reward people for breaking the law, but on the other, I agree with Tibor Machan that it’s best to take a minimalist approach. Limit the state’s role in the whole business: require would-be immigrants to obey the law (penalizing those who don’t) and require them to be financially self-sufficient and not a burden on the tax-payer.

Really, that’s all any state can justifiably police or practically accomplish. Any more than that, and we’ll just be stuffing the already distended belly of cetus washingtonii — which is what’s got us where we are in the first place.

Anthony Gregory is close to the way I see this, although I have more of a “commons” approach to property ownership in some areas than he seems to.
Identify and rectify the perverse incentives driving illegal immigration; don’t demonize immigrants. They’re just doing what makes economic sense to them.

As for the cultural angle, Joe Sobran, who seems to partly share Buchanan’s belief in the need for a degree of homogeneity in culture (and I suppose race) for a society to hold together, has a good recent piece on the subject:

“Today conservatives nearly as much as liberals accept the deadly premise that the state is the answer for every problem, when most of our huge problems are created by the state itself. Immigrants don’t tax us; the state does (while also imposing trillions in debt on our descendants into the bargain). Immigrants don’t send our sons (and, now, daughters) to war; the state does. Immigrants don’t attack our traditional morality and the natural law itself; the state does. So whom do we need to be protected from — immigrants or the state?

While the tyranny Belloc predicted keeps growing new tentacles, we are constantly distracted from the implacable pattern before our eyes by momentary but essentially minor excitements — terrorism, same-sex “marriage,” elections, even politicians’ verbal gaffes. Truly, to quote one of Belloc’s friends once again, “Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it is big enough.”

More later….


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