Thursday, December 08, 2005

Asking the Right Questions

Peggy Noonan is a talented wordsmith. She's also an unusually perceptive observer of the American scene, even if, occasionally, she allows her somewhat fuzzy, but generally conservative ideology to get in the way. More often though, she cuts cleanly to the hear of the matter. Her recent column in the notoriously pro-open borders Wall Street Journal, is hopefully a glimmer of growing dissent from that horrendously failed paradigm from the WSJ's editorial staff and conservatives in general. After explicating her own family's immigrant experience, Noonan frames the underlying philosophical questions about illegal immigrants with starkly clear questions:

The questions I bring to the subject are not about the flow of capital, the imminence of globalism, or the implications of uncontrolled immigration on the size and cost of the welfare state. They just have to do with what it is to be human.

What does it mean that your first act on entering a country--your first act on that soil--is the breaking of that country's laws? What does it suggest to you when that country does nothing about your lawbreaking because it cannot, or chooses not to? What does that tell you? Will that make you a better future citizen, or worse? More respecting of the rule of law in your new home, or less?

If you assume or come to believe that that nation will not enforce its own laws for reasons that are essentially cynical, that have to do with the needs of big business or the needs of politicians, will that assumption or belief make you more or less likely to be moved by that country, proud of that country, eager to ally yourself with it emotionally, psychologically and spiritually?

When you don't earn something or suffer to get it, do you value it less highly? If you value it less highly, will you bother to know it, understand it, study it? Will you bother truly to become part of it? When you are allowed to join a nation for free, as it were, and without the commitment of years of above-board effort, do you experience your joining that country as a blessing or as a successful con? If the latter, what was the first lesson America taught you?

These are questions that I think are behind a lot of the more passionate opposition to illegal immigration.

Noonan notes the scorn directed at those trying to stop the flood of illegal immigrants by the intellectual elites in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. She properly identifies the damage caused by the scorn, and inadvertantly, the real premises behind the scorn.

And they [the Minutemen] do care, that's the thing. And pay a price for caring. They worry in part that what is happening on our borders can damage our country by eroding the sense of won citizenship that leads to the mutual investment and mutual respect--the togetherness, if that isn't too corny--that all nations need to operate in the world, and that our nation will especially need in the coming world.

This is what I fear about our elites in government and media, who will decide our immigration policy. It is that they will ignore the human questions and focus instead, as they have in the past, only on economic questions (we need the workers) and political ones (we need the Latino vote). They think that's the big picture. It's not. What goes on in the human heart is the big picture.

Again: What does it mean when your first act is to break the laws of your new country? What does it mean when you know you are implicitly supported in lawbreaking by that nation's ruling elite? What does it mean when you know your new country doesn't even enforce its own laws? What does it mean when you don't even have to become an American once you join America?

Noonan attributes the elites' scorn for patriots like the much-maligned Minutemen to intellectual arrogance and laziness born of too much ease of life at not cost.

Our elites are lucky people. They were born in a suburb, went to Yale, and run the world from a desk. Which means this great question, immigration, is going to be decided by people who don't know what it is to sleep on a bench. Who don't know what it is to earn your space, your place. Who don't know what it is to grieve the old country and embrace the new country. Who don't know what it is to feel you're a little on the outside and have to earn your way in to the inside. Who think it was without a cost, because it was without cost for them.

The problem with our elites as they make our immigration policy is not that they have compassion and open-mindedness. It is that they are unknowing and empty-headed. They don't know, most of them, what others had to earn, and how much they, and their descendents, prize it and want to protect it.

Would that it were only so! If naivette could explain the inexplicable desire of American (and European) elites to see their countries and cultures dilluted and destroyed! But there are far more insidious serpets lurking in these gardens. What Noonan fails to grasp is that the true motive underlying the open borders crowd - aside from the importation of cheap labor for the elite class - is the destruction of borders, period. On the left, those who support open border immigration hate the idea of the US, which they see as racist, imperialist, sexist, etc. On the right, those who support open borders have bought into the Francis Fukayama ideal that we live in a post-ideological world in which all people desire freedom and will ultimately achieve that ambition in a globe-spanning free market culture in which national, cultural, religious and racial difference cease to matter. It's almost the exact reverse of the Marxist dream in which the state "withers away" once the workers run everything. Unfortunately for the Fukayama adherents, the world does not resemble their intellectual model. Culture, ethnicity, language and religion still draw people together, and set them apart from others. The basic rules regarding human behavior have not been set aside by the end of the Cold War. Destroying America's territorial integrity does nothing to advance the globalist vision. It only destroys America. Unfortunately, for a great many, some consciously, some not, that is the whole point.


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