8.25.2006

Buchanan Blusters On

I had planned simply to ignore the publication of Pat Buchanan's latest ouvre, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, because of its many counterproductive and ludicrous claims. But it seems like the USA has taken some notice. The book debuted as the #1 bestseller on Amazon.com (-- its subsidiary Borders uses the same list); Barnes and Noble has it at #10; Powell's doesn't offer the book (but they have Things Fall Apart at #14, so that may tell us nothing); and Wal-Mart has the book in the eighth spot on its top-50 list -- frightening, perhaps, even ignoring the correspondence between the political leanings of those companies and the book's rank on their lists. (Amazon and Wal-Mart donate to Republicans, Barnes and Noble and Powell’s to Democrats.)

But this article on the blog ThinkProgress does a good job dismantling Buchanan's myopic analysis of immigration to the USA. (The blog comes from The American Progress Action Fund, "a nonpartisan organization.... that advances progressive ideas and policies.")

The article matches quotations from Buchanan's book with similar nativist sentiments by sources from various points in American history when fears of immigrants and immigration have flared -- including some surprising words from Benjamin Franklin. Here are a few examples:

_______
Immigrants will not be able to assimilate:

Where the Italians wanted to be part of our family, millions of Mexicans are determined to retain their language and loyalty to Mexico. They prefer to remain outsiders. They do not wish to assimilate and the nation no longer demands that they do so. [Buchanan, p. 28, 2006]

VERSUS

Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Languages or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion. [Benjamin Franklin, 1751]

Immigrants are responsible for crime:

Many Hispanics, as a matter of fact, you know what culture they are assimilating to? — the rap culture, the crime culture, anti-cops, all the rest of it. [Buchanan, 8/22/06]

VERSUS

“The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses. … Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic. Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country.” [Chicago Post, 1868]
________

The article would benefit from an examination of The Dillingham Commission Reports, the Senate immigration reports from 1911 for which our some elected officials actually researched, personally, the facts about immigration to this country -- even traveling overseas to do so -- and accepted pleas from the public. (Compared to today's House "hearings", those earlier excursions seem Herculean.)

Many of the same fears that today form the basis of the anti-immigration/anti-immigrant platform have sprung up before in our history. They proved unwarranted. Despite that, their current incarnations still pose a threat, especially when (somewhat-) respected public figures publish them in widely-bought books and when our populace lives in a constant state of fear towards the rest of the world and, often, our own government. Tony Blankley lauds Buchanan's book in The Washington Times, echoing as truth and promoting as a guiding principal an equivalent to Malcolm X's denunciation that "The Seal and the Constitution reflect the thinking of the founding fathers that this was to be a nation by white people and for white people. Native Americans, blacks, and all other non-white people, were to be the burden bearers for the real citizens of this nation."

This must serve as yet another rallying call for rational thought and better dissemination of the knowledge that we have. Caving into mass panic with a blind eye towards reality, knowledge, and justice will surely lead us down a perilous path. Now, how do we proceed?

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6 Comments:

Blogger wild cherry sara said...

see? we NEVER should have started letting immigrants into this sacred land. NEVER!!

5:04 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger aon19 said...

If he wasn't so scary, he'd be funny.

5:18 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Pondering American said...

Good post. I am trying to find some good simlar past immigration quotes.

The problem is this. Buchanan is tapping into some legitimate concerns about immigration. I of course want border security and have concerns of assimilation.

Most Conservatives and Republicans I know when you sit down with them and explain the Comprehensive approach they go ok that is fair and it seems to make sense. However that doesnt fit to well in a 30 second sound blub or a email blast.

This immigration reform has got to be a bipartsain affair next time especially in the House. There has been too much one sided debate from the extreme hardline. The result being that many Republicans are running scared of it.

10:56 PM, August 26, 2006  
Anonymous Mickey J. Ellis said...

Thank you for taking the time to put Buchanan in a clear and honest perspective.

Buchanan is among the dinosaurs of hate fighting to survive and overcome the unstoppable growing emergence of thinking people like you that continually exert their consciousness into the evolution of inclusion.

You can’t stop evolution and from that truth, I gain most of my optimism for our country and the peoples that flock here looking to improve themselves, their lives and by osmosis improve our world.

1:48 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Jeremy Goren said...

P.A. brings up an important point that belies -- at least in part -- why Buchanan draws adherents to his ideas: He taps into some of the legitimate concerns of the public. Once he makes that connection, he can fairly easily draw at least some folks into the realm of his more irrational and unfounded ideas. That's why he's effective -- and more dangerous than he deserves to be.

If he just said "Mexicans are going to kill and eat your babies", Buchanan would draw (almost) no followers. However, by tapping into somewhat-logical -- if irrational, in some cases -- fears held by a large swath of the general populace, he can draw people step-by-step into his fanaticism.

It really encourages me to have a reasonable dialogue with someone who would be considered "across the aisle", like P.A. (And I'd like to know more about the specific's of P.A.'s concerns about security and assimiliation.) And P.A. is completely right about the need for a better bipartisan effort, particularly in the House. We need to engage each other better, rather than simply hurling stones back and forth.

12:14 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Jennifer J. said...

I'm not going to go into the repulsion of these tomes, I think that goes without saying. Sadly, Buchanan's book (by the way, did you know there is an abridged version?) sensationalizes sentiments expressed in earlier volumes by formerly respected scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington's painful book 'Who are We: The Challenges to American's National Identity'.

As someone who studies race and identity, its a bit baffling to me how we continue to treat racial, ethnic and national identity as static entities. The juxtaposed quotes you include illustrate the various 'immigration panics' that have been a steady part of US discourse since the early 1800s. The doomsday predictions are just par for the course. Maybe our wall will work as well as the one between East and West Germany. I mean, really, why didnt we think of that before?

Originally, when the US pushed into California, Arizona and the rest of the southwest, Mexicans living there were counted as white. For that matter, up until the last 20 years, Indians (Asian that is) and others from the Middle East were often categorized as white as well. And of course, we all know that European immigrants had to earn their whiteness over time. (See: David Roediger and Karen Brodkin.)

Buchanan is employing a technique that has been used by conservative groups for centuries- defining the state and thus the meaning of citizenship and national identity through 'race' and 'ethnicity'. (Its my personal argument that these categories were constructed for the purpose of state formation, but that's dipping to far into my own scholarly territory.)

Of course, this does some other very useful political work as well- distract from other serious political issues that are arguably more pressing, such as war and domestic issues like rebuilding the gulf coast. That isn't to say that immigration isn't important, it is, but by framing it as an issue of conquest and culture, it obscures real structural concerns, namely the failure of US institutions to accomodate an increasingly impoverished populace. Since blaming black people is not currently in vogue, immigrants can fill the void nicely.

Despite all this, what is most absurd about this book is the complete ignorance of emprical immigration studies. There is a presumption in this and other alarmist works that immigrants remain poor, uneducated and unassimilated permantly once they have settled in the U.S. No study supports this. In fact, the conventional wisdom of immigration scholars is that by the 3rd generation, immigrants generally have severed all ties to their native country (including language) with the exception of food. I don't want to suggest that this progress is linear (often there is a decline within the 1.5 generation), but to presume that rising immigration rates are equivalent to the end of the United States is unfounded. Rather, it would behoove us to presume that over time, Latino migrants will follow a similar trajectory- perhaps amending US culture, but also experiencing dramatic upward mobility over time.

In addition to the social science literature, history tells us that many of the early immigrant groups maintained their own schools and communities in their native language and culture for quite awhile. In fact, native enclaves have long been considered necessary stepping stones toward upward mobility by providing networks of social, political and economic support. In my eyes, when actual research is taken into consideration, it seems as though this period of mass immigration is remarkably similar to what we have seen in earlier immigration waves.

Of course, there is a very real increase of Latino immigration into the U.S. (See: www.cis.org) and it should be managed more effectively to avoid the initial shock of racism, violence, disease and poverty that usually accompanies immigration.

This isnt a problem just for the US- all of Europe is experiencing similar increases in immigration. The structural problems of the 3rd world need to be taken more seriously to prevent the need for mass migration. Apparently, stripping countries of both their natural wealth and political power can turn out badly in the long run.

Within the US, other structural issues that affect all of us may serve to bar a large proportion of Latino immigrants from acclimating to US society in ways previously unknown-the problems of underfunded education, health care and mass incarceration that disporportately affect poor minorities come to mind.

While I certainly agree that a lot of people are taking these comments seriously, its important to note that it doesnt crack the NY Times list- so not everyone is buying it, both literally and figuratively.

4:12 PM, August 28, 2006  

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