Monday, October 09, 2006


State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America by Patrick Buchanan

Pat Buchanan’s popular book, State of Emergency, is more than a litany of eye-popping anecdotes and statistics about the economic, demographic, and social impact of legal and illegal immigration. Buchanan does, of course, provide abundant information about these matters—how a tidal wave of unskilled labor has depressed working class wages, how the same migration of souls has altered the ethnic makeup of California and Texas, and how this influx has affected the safety of Americans victimized by aliens who now make up “over 29% of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.” Buchanan also tells readers that at least 300,000 “anchor babies” are born in the U.S. each year, that 54% of Los Angeles County’s 9 million inhabitants speak languages other than English at home, and that almost as many immigrants are in the U.S. today (36 million) as came to America between 1607 and 1965. Throw in data about the return of once-conquered diseases like tuberculosis, the nationwide growth of vicious gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, and the stark educational deficits exhibited by recent adult immigrants (31% of whom never finished high school) and you have what one might expect from a book with the aforementioned title.

At its core, however, Buchanan’s book is a work of political philosophy whose central question is posed in chapter nine: “What is a Nation?” According to the author, this vital inquiry has three possible answers. The first is that a nation consists of a common set of economic relationships. This view is dispatched with the remark by French historian Ernest Renan: “A Zollverein is not a fatherland.” The institutional status of today’s European Union reinforces Renan’s remark, and Buchanan drives home the point with this poignant observation: “For two centuries, men have died for America. Who would lay down his life for the UN, the EU, or a ‘North American Union’?”

A more popular “neoconservative” answer to Buchanan’s patriotic query is that the United States is a unique country whose roots are essentially creedal. By this reasoning, America is a nation composed of individuals, regardless of national origin or ethnicity, who subscribe to ideas elaborated in America’s founding documents. While Buchanan doesn’t deny that these ideas are part of what it means to be an American, he insists that national identity involves something more—something that can be recognized and felt apart from political convictions.

This “something more” concerns ethnicity, history, and tradition. Americans, Buchanan observes, created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—not vice versa. He also notes, uncomfortably for those educated in multicultural classrooms, that the colonists who composed those documents were overwhelmingly “brethren” from the British Isles. Democracy and the rule of law weren’t abstract concepts that grew on American soil like wind-blown seeds felicitously falling on good earth. They were traditions carried by English settlers who populated the territories that later became the United States of America. National roots, Buchanan insists, come attached to the historical soil in which they grew. They aren’t nakedly exposed tendrils floating in some international hydroponic solution.

American leaders from Washington and Hamilton to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson recognized this fact about national identity. The former wished to avoid large concentrations of foreigners, just as T.R. and Wilson denounced “hyphenated-Americanism” and divided loyalties. It wasn’t xenophobia that prompted these statements but rather the realization that nations rest on a shared background of culture, history, literature, and language—indeed, of shared ancestors. As even Patrick Moynihan observed, the nation is the largest group to which individuals see themselves ancestrally related. Negative illustrations of this truth are abundant in recent history: the violent rupture of the faux-nation of Yugoslavia, the splintering of the Soviet Union into more than a dozen nations with distinct ethnic roots, the divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the ethnic and religious wars that plague Rwanda, Sudan, and a host of African “nations.”

One of Buchanan’s most poignant arguments involves this “reverse scenario” thought experiment: “How many Americans, forced to work in Mexico, would become loyal Mexicans in a decade rather than remain Americans in exile? Why do we think that Mexicans are any less attached to the land of their birth?” It is a jarring question, especially when one realizes that “one in six [Mexicans] is already here” and that “Nearly 90 percent of all immigrants now come from continents and countries whose peoples have never been assimilated fully into any Western country…”

But what about the notion that we are “a nation of immigrants” and that what happened in the past will surely happen again? Buchanan uses a drawer-full of statistics and the testimony of various American leaders to show that 1) the United States was always, overwhelmingly, an English-speaking country culturally tied to the mother country, 2) immigration into the United States prior to 1965 was overwhelmingly from Europe, and 3) immigration in the past pales when compared with the influx in the last few decades. To emphasize this final point, Buchanan recurs to the debate that surrounded the 1965 Immigration Act, where the most liberal position advocated raising annual quotas from 156,700 to 250,000. Today, “between one and two million” immigrants, “legal and illegal,” come to the United States every year.

Moreover, strong political and cultural forces now discourage the assimilation of those coming from Latin American: dual citizenship, multiculturalism, the explosive growth of Spanish broadcasting in the U.S., Mexico’s desire to politically and economically exploit the loyalty of its émigrés, and the very real belief in “Reconquista.” All these factors, in addition to sheer numbers, undermine an assimilation process that transformed 40 million Europeans into Americans over a span of 350 years.

Throughout his book Buchanan asserts that patriotism, “love of country,” is the soul that animates a nation—a love rooted in common language, common ancestors, common stories, common religious faith, and common experiences. All these ties, however, are now under assault—from within by cultural critics who laud diversity and relish America-bashing—from without by immigrants bound by language, culture, and history to their own native lands. The prospect for America can already be seen in “Eurabia,” where governments struggle to find some social equilibrium between ethnic groups with radically different backgrounds and sensibilities. Ultimately, as Buchanan warns in his book’s first pages, what happened to Imperial Rome at the hands of unassimilated Germanic tribes will be the fate of the United States—unless Americans summon the will to reverse policies that their leaders have foisted upon them.

The depredations associated with open borders are realities felt most by patriotic working stiffs, not by diversity-minded globalists who seek to maximize economic efficiencies and minimize the appeal of all things parochial. The bonds between cosmopolitans and their native lands are tenuous at best—and at worse, adversarial. For jet-set egotists, cultures are like sampler tables at an international exhibition. None can demand their exclusive loyalty. To them Robert E. Lee’s fateful choice of Virginia over the Union is incomprehensible and perverse.

Beyond the political, economic, and ideological forces that contribute to America’s paralysis in the face of demographic dissolution, there is, I think, another factor that Buchanan doesn’t discuss. That factor is related to the elitist-populist divide and concerns the nation’s self-image. Put simply, if a country doesn’t believe in itself, it won’t bother to defend itself. And America, as shaped and envisioned by elites, isn’t a culture worth defending—a country devoid of religious devotion, a country stripped of heroes, a country populated by consumers who take for granted the sexualization of children and the dissolution of marriage, a country molded not by traditions and loyalties that spring from heart and hearth but by the capricious winds of intellectual fashion and the corrupt imaginations of television producers. If “love of country” is the nation’s soul, as Buchanan avers, it follows that the nation’s body must also be thought worthy of salvaging. Yet what possible reason would there be to make strenuous exertions on behalf the post-modern golem described above?

Buchanan’s book, however, is gloomy enough as it is—all the more so because his vision of national identity rings true on many levels. The only question is whether the culturally and historically rooted nation he honors is too far gone for the prescribed medicine: no amnesty, no “chain migration” or “anchor babies,” no dual citizenship, no welfare magnets, an immigration moratorium, a border fence, and deportation of illegals. It’s a pill that’s sure to stick in the throat of political leaders whose hearts are tied, more than anything else, to the patricidal approbation of elite opinion.


Anonymous said...

Look, you are way smarter than me. You will always run circles around me mentally with your excellent writing but I can try. Maybe you'll be nicer to us anonymous posters eventually…

My father and mother came from South America many decades ago. My father was drafted to fight in Vietnam. Most folks don't know that non citizens can be drafted. He was. He did a 2 yr tour of duty and hated it. He didn't desert. How could he anyway? Should he be allowed to have citizenship or what about my mom, sorry she didn't go to war for the USA but trust me she didn't steal your job, fracture your culture, or make me dislike America.

I was borne here. Should I not be a citizen? I'm sorry I speak Spanish, but hey I also speak English, and I write like a fourth grader, I know.

I think you fail to see how crappy life can be in other countries and how keeping people out who are trying to find a better life for their families is pretty mean. Yup I used puerile phrasing. Dang that poor grasp of your native tongue. I like the US for a lot of reasons. I dislike the US for a lot of reasons. Sorry for my shades of grey perspective, a darn relativistic child I am! I am American and I'm Colombian! I'm some other things also. Too bad I'm not white, with European ancestors. Maybe if I was, you and I go sit and talk about how to keep different people out. Diversity, eww! Another one of those lefty college words.

Consistently amused and frustrated by you,

The less eloquent anonymous

RKirk said...

I'm nice to all posters, anonymous or not, who don't use my family to insult me. It also helps to argue the points at issue rather than employ personal attacks or assume that I believe things I don't believe.

The Pat Buchanan post is a "book review," not a statement of my ideas. However, the intellectual question that Buchanan raises is one that bears pondering--"What is a nation?" I have no doubt whatsoever that almost all people who come to this country do so for reasons that are understandable and even honorable (e.g. to provide for their families). Buchanan concedes this point--and even has a chapter devoted to the fact that the Western part of the U.S. was, for all practical purposes, stolen from Mexico.

All of those concessions don't make the huge problem that Buchanan raises go away.(Indeed, the latter historical point exacerbates it.) The points you raise can be applied up to and including the point of totally open borders. Do you think the United States could survive such a policy? If not, then all the arguments that you put forward against me (as a presumably ignorant and heartless nativist) could be applied against you by the next immigrant who wants to come to the U.S. but can't.

At a certain point immigration becomes "too much"--because ethnicity, history, and language matters. What also matters is "assimilation"--and the social factors that once promoted assimilation don't function now the way they once did. If you disagree with these points, especially the first, then I don't think you are intellectually serious.

What is needed is a serious discussion about how much immigration is possible and about how much "diversity" is tolerable. Europeans are becoming acutely aware of the problems associated with the Muslim populations flooding into the continent from Turkey and North Africa. The real questions--as opposed to insults--concern "What makes a nation." Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia and the London bombing and the continuing riots in France and the genocides in Sri Landa and Rwanda and Sudan aren't figments of my imagination. If you think the U.S. is totally immune from these stresses, I need to know why.

Personally, and this is a topic Buchanan doesn't address, I think that the U.S. cannot continue to be a viable nation if its culture continues to be as morally vacuous as it is. Here is a thought from the close of a column I recently composed:

Not only are immigration numbers unprecedented, the centripetal forces that promote patriotism and national pride have never been weaker. Who, after all, would want to identify with a nation whose major cultural exports are "Jackass 2" and MTV?

In other words, I am echoing the very non-nativist comment of Bill Bennett that he's more afraid of what America will do to immigrants than what immigrants will do to America. Ironically, because that is the case, Americans are unwilling to preserve a culture that (in terms of pop-culture) no longer merits preservation. Unfortunately the more traditional parts of the country that made it the magnet that it is, will go down the drain as well.

How about addressing these problems, seriously, rather than reflexively taking offense--as if every policy issue can be reduced to an insult directed against your personal experience and feelings and background?

Craig Wilkins said...

Mr. Kirk,

What I find most interesting is how you sympathize with those making comments on a personal level but don’t connect that to a more global level of thought.

You were sympathetic to the man who posted concerning his homosexual relationship and its effects on his ultimate cosmic fate, yet you post long discourses on the inferiority of homosexuality relationships.

On this most recent post, a reader responded, albeit in an unorganized fashion, that your comments concerning immigration were hurtful and gave examples of how his family wished no ill will on American culture. You again sympathized with this viewpoint but I think there is a pattern appearing.

While I commend you for being somewhat empathetic to these comments you seem to be able to turn off this sympathy when viewing these issues at a more macroscopic level. Is this an example of moral relativism? Perhaps this serves as an example of the complexity of issues that our society deals with.

Immigration is indeed a very real issue. An open door policy would be very strenuous on the economy but I fail to see how keeping out those willing to do work jobs that many Americans would never do is beneficial to our economy.

I for one don’t have solutions to these complicated issues but I can say that I have lived in these bleed zones in the southwest. Personally I think a beautiful future of excellent tacos, samosas, and papusas await us all. Kidding ;)

Have a good day,

Craig Wilkins

P.S. Are you planning a review of Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”?

RKirk said...

Thanks for your civil comments. I find it telling (not quite amusing) that your remarks focus much more on your analysis of my psyche than on a discussion of the ideas presented in Buchanan's book. You seem to assume that there is something peculiar or schizophrenic about being sympathetic to individuals with whom one disagrees. It is as if you have an image in your head that equates intellectual disagreement with a moral flaw in the character of the individual who disagrees with you. You would be less troubled, it seems, if all those folks were heartless bastards.

I'm sorry that I don't fit your image of how someone who disagrees with you should feel. And I can assure you that moral relativism has nothing to do with the "pathology" you diagnose. (Your application of the term distorts its clear philosophical meaning.)

I could speculate why you focus on feelings and emotions rather than on the relevant issues, but I don't think that would be prudent--seeing as I know next to nothing about you, just as you know next to nothing about me.

The two relevant comments in your post (i.e. substantive comments) were these:

1. "Perhaps this [the referent of the pronoun is ambiguous] serves as an example of the complexity of issues that our society deals with."

2."I fail to see how keeping out those willing to do work jobs that many Americans would never do is beneficial to our economy."

The second comment is, I think, a simplistic analysis of a problem that you yourself say, in an adjoining sentence, is very complex. The statement certainly ignores the issues raised by Buchanan. Those complex issues concern the number of immigrants, crime, assimilation, national identity, and the effect of immigration on working class Americans in industries like construction or meat-packing. To cavalierly assume that immigration only concerns folks who are doing work Americans "would never do" is a position that appeals to emotions but can't be squared with the facts.

If you are swayed by anecdotal evidence, then perhaps the late Cesar Chavez's appeals AGAINST immigrants who depressed the wages of farm workers might impress you. Of course, the problem with anecdotal evidence is that you can find anecdotes on every side of every issue. I imagine that's hard for folks to accept who are tied to the illusion that only they have hearts that bleed for others.

As far as I can tell, your response to Buchanan's analysis is that the folks coming over the border aren't a problem since they are all doing jobs Americans would never do. Is that a serious analysis or a bumper sticker?

Personally, I have never been a "strict borders" guy, but I thought Buchanan's ideas were worth consideration. I think the issues are complex. (Though you echo this belief, you simplify shamelessly.) I think NAFTA was a good deal, even if it caused (as it inevitably does) economic hardship in American industries that have to compete with Mexican goods. (I could easily find an anecdote that might make you denounce the giant "sucking sound" of American manufacturing and textile jobs going to Mexico.)

The question here isn't simply about what benefits America. I also want policies that help Mexico become a more prosperous nation. Looked at just from the perspective of enlightened self-interest, it isn't possible to have a failed, third-world economy on our southern border and be unaffected.

The serious questions are these: What policies will promote a society that holds together on this side of the border while providing reasonable amounts of immigration and economic and social development south of the border. Those are hard questions that are not addressed by fantasies about taco stands. No serious analyst would even hint at the feasibility of an "open door" policy--only someone enamored with his own beneficence, someone who has no wish to darken his fantasy with difficult choices.

All of these broad philosophical points about emotion and policy apply, mutatis mutandis, to the issue of homosexuality. I would advise you to look, more frequently, at these cold, hard facts. You're going to make someone upset no matter what you say. You might as well base your policy decisions on something more tangible than an Oprah interview.

Jason Bo Green said...

Well, I'm from Canada, and let me tell you, I admire the United States. I've never known any policy other than multi-culturalism, and I don't believe that it works. I strongly believe in multi-ethnicism, and feel confident that Mr. Buchanan does, as well. I very much love and am proud of how many different races there are in abundance in downtown Toronto, whose young people live virtually the same life as I do, watching the same movies, wearing the same clothes, using the same slang, laughing at the same Saturday Night Live gags, eating the same food.

When you leave downtown, you start to run into sections that are completely different, though - unassimilated Chinatown, with the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal advertising themselves in Chinese, and Little Italy, where campaign signs are in Italian and Portuguese.

The multi-ethnic downtown works - the unassimilated "Little Ethnic Towns" do not. They are not Canada.

Don't even get me started on Quebec (most of which loves Canada, but a sizable portion of which, obviously, does not).

In the sense I get of this book from your review, I say: Buchanan is right.

I don't believe in hyphenation - I'm more than happy to accept newcomer immigrants who want to be Canadian (or Australian or American or etc), not attach themselves with a hyphen to the place I call home. So life is rough in other parts of the world? Big deal: come on in, and be part of us - love us, love this land, love the life lived here, love the values and beliefs, and we have no problem. Leave your heart somewhere else, and you are NOT an Australian or Brit or American or Canadian - our hearts our in our homes.

Anonymous said...

Immigration. What a touchy subject! The main point of the topics should be, "When is enough, enough?" and "What should happen to the illegal immigrants already here?" I understand the need to escape an economically depressed nation in the hopes of a new life. What I do not understand is why those same people can't go through normal legal channels to gain citizenship. The fact that one is born in the USA should not automatically make him/her a citizen. It should go further than that. If the parents of the child are legal citizens then citizenship should be granted. On the other hand, if the child's parents are NOT legal citizens, citizenship should NOT be granted unless all parties become legalized. I personally believe that those persons in the USA illegally should be deported. End of story. There are laws in this nation for a reason. I also think that employers who employ illegal immigrants should be heavily fined. Why should illegals not keep coming here when they are always guaranteed a job?!
I would personally vote that immigration should cease for a period of time. After 9/11, the USA allowed more immigration in the country than ever before. Can someone answer why that was?!

Another issue to deal with is the language problem associated with immigration. If one chooses to be in the USA, speak the English language! That is part of being a citizen of the US. Speak the language. Learn it, live it, love it. There is nothing wrong with holding onto the customs that make us who we are. However, once you become a citizen, you should no longer be known as African-American, or Mexican-America. Are you African, Mexican or American? You can't have it both ways. Where does the loyalty lie? If push came to shove, whose side would you be fighting for?

I understand the ability to be sympathetic with one's opinion without agreeing with them. What is hard about that? (Craig) I can understand/sympathize why a woman who was raped would want an abortion. That doesn't mean that I agree with her choice. I can understand/sympathize with why someone would choose to immigrate to the US, what I don't understand is why it is done illegally.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Buchanan, but would suggest he doesn't really go far enough. He takes for granted that people who have immigrated to the U.S.A. (or whose parents/grandparents) did and have ALREADY gained citizenship should be able to keep this citizenship without the slightest scrutiny of whether their presence in this country helps maintain the ethnic and historical heritage of which we are justly proud. He never considers the important option of adjusting the current population not only by making sure all illegal immigrants leave, but also by looking at the legal immigrant factor. This is crucial if we really want to protect the values of this nation. The original values were brought here – let's be honest – by Anglo-Saxons. Not until near the turn of the century did southern European immigrants and large numbers of Irish immigrants begin to change the true character of the populace. This is very seldom admitted, and may not be acceptable even in this forum, but really it is impossible to have a sensible discussion without it. Why pick on the Spanish-speakers. The truth is that to protect American values we have to "turn the clock back" to before the huge wave of immigrants changed our country. (Surprise, surprise, many of these impoverished immigrants became supporters of the Democratic party.) I want to be clear I am not making a racist argument. I abhor racism, and there is nothing about Italians or Irish – or, of course, Spanish speakers – that makes them inferior to Anglo-Saxon Protestants. So don't mistake my point! I am merely saying the obvious. To protect the values of America, we need to take the country back to its roots. Citizenship need not be a permanent or immutable state. A sensible policy would take a look at moving Italians back to Italy and Irish back to Ireland, as well as Mexicans back to Mexico (of course).

Thank you for providing a forum for alternative views.

RKirk said...

Concerning the proposition that "we Anglo Saxons" start sending folks back to Ireland, Italy, and Greece, I don't think such a proposal is wise or feasible. What is feasible, even if not likely, is to readjust immigration quotas to something like what they were in 1960. This is a proposal that Buchanan does put forward. Immigration numbers at that time were around 200,000 a year. And quotas favored the nationalities that reflected the population mix of the U.S. at that time, i.e. Europeans. If quotas were readjusted to reflect the current population of the U.S., that would still be a big improvement, I think. Both these ideas are proposed by Buchanan--and even these proposals aren't likely to gain much political support.

(How many Anglo-Saxons are there in this country anyway? 35% perhaps? And are these very "mixed" folks (nowadays) significantly different in their mores from those whose ancestry was Ireland (Reagan) and Italy (Scalia)? I suspect that Jerry Springer is sorta Anglo- Saxon. And I'd like to send him somewhere--but not to Europe!)