Monday, March 03, 2008

The death of American culture has been greatly exaggerated

After listening to the debate on Capitol Hill this year over the immigration issue, the following quote seems to sum up general feelings among the Republican leadership:
Few of their children in the country use English; they import many books from Mexico... The signs on our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only Spanish. They begin of late to make all their bonds and other legal writings in their own language, which (though, I think it not ought to be) are allowed good in our courts, where the Latino business so increases that there is constant need of interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will also be necessary in the Legislature, to tell one half of our legislators what the other half say....Unless this stream of immigration is turned...they will so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious.
Okay, now that you've read the quote, I have something to admit. I lied a little. The original quote has the words "German", Germany" and "Germans" instead of "Spanish", "Mexico" and "Latinos"; and the quote is from 1751, by an up-and-coming Philadelphia civic leader, one Benjamin Franklin, who was concerned about the influx of German immigrants in the City of Brotherly Love.

My point, of course, is that the anti-immigrant arguments we have been hearing recently have been around for over 250 years. Guess what? The dire predictions of the annihilation of American culture from immigration have never come true.

Isn't it time we put these tired arguments behind us?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve, you are very wrong on this one.

There are two main points that you are leaving out.

1) European immigrants came here legally, unlike many others today.

2) Even after several generations, today’s immigrants are not assimilating into American culture – just look at South Florida or Queens, NY today.


Illegal immigration is a threat to our countries national security and to our culture.

Bravo to those who fight for stricter measures against illegal immigrants and let’s get that fence built on the boarder – ok !!

D. Sirmize said...

The first step toward honest debate about immigration is the clear distinction between anti-illegal immigration and anti-immigration in general.

The illegal-immigration-is-no-big-deal crowd has falsely framed this argument for decades as anti-immigration. There are differences- big differences- both cultural and economic. I don't know a single person who disapproves of immigration. Never met one in my life. Yet you've managed to restrict the argument to immigration vs. non immigration. Nice strawman, but it's transparent.

The playbook? Refuse to speak of illegal immigration by it's name. Call it simply "immigration" then label those opposed to illegal immigration "anti-immigration."

Further, immediately label any argument against illegal immigration as racist or nativist (the chic new "toned down" code word for racist)

Then paint today's illegal immigrant as yesterday's legal immigrant in order to legitimize illegal immigration by tying it with a concept (legal immigration) universally accepted as what made America great.

The argument is completely dishonest. We're not talking about a few thousand people. We're talking 12M plus (according to a recent Pew Research report- 2,329 per day.)

It's also an insult to today's legal immigrants, who overcome miles of red tape to come here legally.

Your argument may ring true to those of you who want it to. The rest of us don't buy it for a second.

Jason The said...

Ironically, you have both furthered Steve's point.

This kind of talk has been around for centuries, yet somehow our culture has survived.

And there is no greater threat to our national identity and security than the focus on liberty we are giving up with the "us and them" mentality today's Republican Party is fostering.

D. Sirmize said...

Well, Jason, perhaps you can dig into the meat of at least my comment and refute it point by point.

But you won't. Because you can't. Plus it works better for you to simply reiterate the original baseless argument.