The Brown Herring

I haven’t yet commented on the kerfuffle over Arizona’s illegal alien law because it was so fractious that I wanted to let the dust settle, and I wanted to collect my thoughts before writing.  Sadly, the first isn’t even close to happening yet, so neither is the second.  But especially since so many in my own community–Latter-day Saints–are voicing opposition to this online, I need to contribute.

Almost all of the argument against the Arizona law amounts to one paltry thing: they’re racist!  They’re doing it because they hate Hispanics

Haven’t we lived with political correctness long enough to see it for the desperate, transparent attempt to stifle freedom and restrict discussion that it is?  Individual racists still exist, but are few and far between, and certainly any broad social consensus on a policy issue such as this is based on the honest good intentions of the citizenry, not some sudden massive throwback to the Jim Crow era. 

I’m happy to debate the pros and cons of this law, but people who base their position on the idea that those who disagree–regardless of what they say, no matter what other information they bring to the table–are really doing it because their black evil hearts are just filled with hate, are indulging in the worst possible vices of civic discourse: lying, stereotyping, refusing to listen to others with the benefit of the doubt.  They’re changing the subject, sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting, “La la la!  I can’t hear you and I don’t have to because you’re just a dumb meanie!  La la la!”  No constructive conversation can come from such an intellectual disconnect. 

I encourage anyone who supports Arizona to engage in discussions with those who disagree with us, but to present this understanding to them up front: if you’re going to insult millions of people and boil our principles down to ugly slurs, this conversation is over and I will walk away. 

That being said, I don’t want to merely repeat what has been so ably said by so many others; there are plenty of fine commentators out there who have dissected and exposed the fallacies of anti-Arizona, pro-open borders sentiments, but the purpose of this post is to point out the inherently dishonest nature of much of the blather coming from the left. 

I have yet to hear an even remotely compelling argument from the left for allowing illegal immigration to continue unabated, unchecked, and unfettered, as if the status quo were the ideal, the intended, natural condition of things, or even too restrictive.  Such nonsense is a lunacy that would be laughed down by every civilization in history, and most any other culture in the world today.  How can you argue a point whose end would be to declare the destriction of borders, security, and even national identity itself?

If someone wants to oppose Arizona, the following is the only decent, frank way of expressing that position, without guile (and I offer it without guile myself, as a friendly attempt to elevate the tawdry, juvenile quality of our national discourse on this so far):

“I don’t believe in trying to identify or deport illegal aliens.  I want them to be able to continue living in the U.S., enjoying the benefits of our society and influencing its future.  This is rooted in my belief that borders are not sacrosanct, or even that important.  Therefore, I don’t believe that national identities exist or are important.  I believe that we should freely, publicly flout laws that we find distasteful–not necessarily unjust, but merely unpleasant.  I find the idea of defining and enforcing borders and citizenship distasteful, therefore I support those who demand entitlements contrary to long-established law.”

Besides wishing for opponents of Arizona’s laws to stop demonizing us and to be more honest about their own mindsets in championing illegal aliens, I do have a third desire: for the left to recognize and address the substantial ethnic tribalism in their midst, by which I mean the deep-seated tendency among some (not many, but enough to be significant) Hispanics (and their sympathizers on the left) to defend illegal immigration because of their confessed values of racial separatism and animosity towards the majority of American society. 

The best example of this is the controversy about the five students who wore U.S. flag-themed clothes to Morgan Hill High School on Cinco de Mayo and caused outrage among the Hispanic population there, to the point of hundreds of Hispanics marching on city hall soon after just to demand “respect.”  The biggest, scariest issue here–and one that doesn’t seem to have been noticed by anyone–is that the aggrieved members of the community vocally identify themselves as separate from Americans.  Take this video, where a girl who attends the school is interviewed from about 1:20-1:27 on the tape, who states that she wouldn’t offend Americans on the Fourth of July by wearing a Mexican flag.  The only way to understand this is that she sees herself as Mexican first and American second or, more likely, not at all.  Another female student said a similar thing here.

These girls are probably not illegals or the children of illegals, which actually makes their attitude worse.  If they have no compunction about declaring themselves not to be citizens of the nation in which they live, then how dangerous must be the cultural influences that have molded such a mind-boggling philosophy?  You don’t think many advocates of illegal immigration aren’t motivated by a deeply ingrained sense of antipathy towards America?  Behold, in the two videos linked above, exhibits A and B. 

I’ve lived in the Southwest my entire life.  Believe me, I could give plenty of examples just like those two. 

If the incessant mantra from the left about pro-Arizona, anti-illegal alien laws being a simple matter of racism is a red herring (or, as it were, a brown herring, as this attempt to shift the discussion from facts to feelings, from principles to attitudes, is rooted in a refusal to consider anything other than skin color), then the abundance of anti-American invective evident from the left may well be an example of another rhetorical shortcoming, not a logical fallacy so much as a psychological problem: projection, the attribution of one’s own traits to others.


5 comments on “The Brown Herring

  1. Great post. You aptly summed up the situation, as usual. It is disturbing that if you support the law, or a national identity, that you are automatically seen as racist. Past history in this country causes a lot of hypersensitivity about race, and often not in a positive way. Dr. King’s dream was to have races working and living together cooperatively and in harmony. In general, I see a lot more polarization among ethnic groups and races in this country, which ultimately is divisive. It’s wonderful to be proud of your cultural heritage. However, that should be secondary to one’s citizenship and patriotism to the country you are a citizen of. My parents felt it important for their children to connect to their cultural heritage (i.e. speak the language, understand the traditions, visit the country). However, we also understood that our loyalty should be to our country. That doesn’t seem to be the case with a lot of people living in this country. Examples similar to what you cited occur all the time. My husband sees it day in and day out on his job. The real issues and attitudes he faces every day makes him a supporter of the Arizona law.

    All of that said, it is disturbing that there is such a double standard here in this country. You are right in that no one wants to talk about that. The political correctness is purportedly in place so that no single culture or ethnicity should be offended. However, ironically, I have witnessed a number of things where a particular culture or ethnicity has no compunction whatsoever about doing things that would offend a patriotic American citizen. I don’t necessarily like the latter, but I fully support the constitution that allows it. The political correctness and the double standards when it comes to the social application/acceptance of these rights are disturbing to me. The vitriolic political discourse that we hear so much these days on both sides is frustrating as well. I don’t understand why people can’t have a rational discussion about real issues about immigration and national identity that doesn’t result in name-calling.

    There are complex issues that need to be discussed about illegal immigration and the resulting long-term financial and social implications of it. In some ways, it appears that those on the left don’t really want to discuss those issues. The easiest way to avoid the rational discussion is to call anyone who disagrees with you a racist. Therefore, they don’t have to defend an agenda, which when rationally discussed, may not be palatable to the majority of citizens.

  2. Huston,

    If you were pulled over for a minor traffic stop, let’s say for a broken tail light, while visiting a friend in Arizona, could you prove, using the papers or identification(s) in your car or on your person, that you are an American citizen?

    I don’t think I could, unless that information is linked to the DMV profile that is available to the officer, but I don’t think it is.

    However, I don’t think you or I would have to do this because we are white and speak standard American English, and I don’t think some of my white friends who are from Canada, Denmark, and Germany would have to either, even though some of them have over-stayed visas, thus making them illegal immigrants.

    This is about race, language, borders, and culture, as you correctly identify, and we’ll get over it just as most of us got over our Nativist hysteria a century ago when faced with an influx of Jews, Italians, Irish, and Eastern Europeans.

  3. Mom in LV, thanks as always for a beautiful comment!

    Brook, thank you also for sharing your polite thoughts, but do you see that you are proving my point? What is “nativist hysteria” if not racism? You’re discounting the motives of those who oppose unchecked illegal immigration without addressing the actual substance of our argument.

    It’s an outlandish distortion of both the letter and the spirit of the Arizona law to suggest that jack-booted thugs will now be scouring the roads for any excuse to harass and detain anyone who can’t produce documentary proof of citizenship on the spot. The law allows police to investigate and follow the already legal, prescribed courses of action for known illegal aliens. The fact that opponents of the law must resort to ugly caricatures–both of the law and of those who support it–is a solid testament to the ethical poverty of their case.

    Finally, comparing this wave of illegal Mexican immigration to that period of European immigration a hundred years ago is totally invalid, if only because virtually all of those new Americans a century ago came here legally, and then patriotically assimilated into the mainstream. Or are you suggesting that it would have been normal a hundred years ago for “Jews, Italians, Irish, and Eastern Europeans” to march in front of city halls demanding access to all public entitlements and immunity from any scrutinizing of immigration status, all the while brandishing the flags of their homelands? You must be reading different history textbooks than the ones I had!

  4. Hi Huston,

    I don’t think nativism and racism are interchangeable. Racism is built on a sense of inherent, biological superiority; it has pseudo-scientific and/or religious/scriptural underpinnings, and it came about primarily as a justification for colonialism and other projects of economic exploitation.

    Nativism is a fear that the Other will somehow dilute, taint, change, undermine, etc, one’s native land and its culture, language, religious values, cultural mores, etc.

    I think a lot of what proponents of the Arizona law are experiencing is nativism. I don’t think that they think they are superior to Hispanics on racial grounds. It’s possible that they think they are superior on socio-cultural, educational, and economic grounds, but I don’t think that they think those things are inherent. Rather, I think they fear that these people will taint their communities by their language, behavior, culture, etc, and with most things that are a part of the right wing agenda, I think they view these people as an economic burden, which you validate through your historical appeal to entitlements.

    There, I think your argument is misguided because during that period of American history, entitlement programs were still decades away; this was pre-New Deal, mind you. Also, the means and methods for legal immigration were more open and accommodating to Europeans at the time, so once again, your invocation of historical facts makes analogies that are not incontrovertable.

    You state that the European immigrants of a century ago assimilated and became patriotic Americans, and I would agree with the caveat that America also experienced a process of accommodation to those immigrant populations that took time for it to run its natural course. I doubt that the kind of Italian and Irish pride displays that we regularly see would have been a point of pride 100-125 years ago when those populations were treated with contempt and distrust. In time, processes of assimilation and accommodation will integrate Hispanics more fully into American culture.

    Then, those immigrants will be able to become fully productive elements within the American citizenry and economy, and they won’t need entitlements or have to worry about scrutiny over their legal status. It is my firm belief, based on years of working with legal and illegal immigrants all over this city, that for the most part, these are very decent, Christian, hard-working people who just want to take care of their kids, have peace with their husbands and wives, go to church and eat barbecue on Sundays, and be treated with dignity. In short, they want to be Americans. Once they are allowed to demonstrate this, then the right’s economic arguments will erode because Hispanic immigrants are not all lazy and looking for entitlements, and to broadly make that argument is either racist, nativist, prejudiced, biased, or just plain ugly, take your pick.

    Finally, your appeal to Nazi imagery should be duly noted–“jack-booted thugs.” What I was saying is that I can’t prove my citizenship, nor do I have to because I’m white and speak standard English. Once again, if one of my Canadian friends was pulled over and could produce a valid Nevada driver’s license in Arizona, he wouldn’t be asked about his immigration status, even though a lot of those friends of mine have overstayed student visas, in effect become illegal aliens. I don’t think the Arizona law will lead to some kristallnacht, but I feel that it will lead to quite a few native-born Americans being questioned in ways that my illegal Canadian friends won’t, and that is racial profiling.

    Again, that’s not racism; that’s nativism, and it will pass. This country is essentially progressive, and reactionaries tend to be on the wrong side of history.

  5. Brook, sorry it’s taken more than a month to reply again: I’ve neglected all my messages since June. The quality of your comment demands respect and, belated though it may be, I hope to repay your sincerity in kind.

    You spend a good deal of time trying to figure out what people who are against illegal immigration are truly motivated by (read your note again and count how many times you say “I think”). Why won’t people listen to what others say and take it at face value? While I appreciate your attempt to differentiate between nativism and racism, it’s almost a moot point: you’re still second guessing the motives of others, and certainly there are many, many Americans on the Left, even if you aren’t one of them, who have publicly declared that pro-border enforcement is racist, period.

    Also, I would contradict your assertion (if I read it correctly) that immigration was easier a hundred years ago than today. Then, we had tighter restrictions on what kinds of “unproductive” people may not enter the country (you know, like Mexico currently has); today, there are scads of visa programs and similar ways to work towards becoming a citizen. I know, it isn’t perfect, but tacitly allowing massive, unchecked violation of the border is not the answer.

    You agreed with my thoughts regarding assimilation with a minor caveat; I likewise agree with your point (nobody has said there’s anything WRONG with Hispanic culture or its presence in the U.S>) with a minor caveat: comparing Irish and Italian waves of immigration a century ago to Hispanic immigration today ignores the often hostile, tribalist nationalism visibly expressed by many pro-illegal activists, as I and many others have documented. Assimilation will be a lot harder, and a lot less successful, when large segments of a group are actively fighting against it.

    “Then, those immigrants will be able to become fully productive elements within the American citizenry and economy, and they won’t need entitlements or have to worry about scrutiny over their legal status.” Is this an admission, then, that immigrant populations in cities DO take more than they give economically?

    “It is my firm belief, based on years of working with legal and illegal immigrants all over this city, that for the most part, these are very decent, Christian, hard-working people who just want to take care of their kids, have peace with their husbands and wives, go to church and eat barbecue on Sundays, and be treated with dignity. In short, they want to be Americans. Once they are allowed to demonstrate this, then the right’s economic arguments will erode because Hispanic immigrants are not all lazy and looking for entitlements, and to broadly make that argument is either racist, nativist, prejudiced, biased, or just plain ugly, take your pick.” This remark reminds me of a comment I saw on another blog recently that starkly said that conservatives would change their hateful minds if they would just get out and get to know some of these good people, and see how wonderful they are. First, such statements simply validate my point that the Left is indulging in a straw man argument here–for the billionth time, nobody is negatively characterizing Hispanics here! Of course they’re looking for work and trying their hardest to do their best. Who can blame them? But to inordinately focus on this is to ignore what conservatives actually say about crime, economics, and related factors. It doesn’t say much to me about the Left’s substance that this national discussion can’t seem to be conducted without resorting to warping our own words to use against us. That leads to my second point here: to say that anybody, and certainly any significant segment, of our society actually has characterized immigrants as essentially “all lazy and looking for entitlements”…that, that is what’s prejudiced and ugly. It never ceases to amaze and hurt me how half the country can assume that its other half must be motivated by a one dimensional hatred.

    Which is why it’s especially strange that you criticize my reference to conservatives being called jack-booted thugs, as that’s exactly what the Left has by and large done. Again, you may not personally subscribe to such a stereotype, but one can hardly skim through the protests, the mainstream media, and the left-leaning blogs of America and not see a heavy saturation of this kind of insult. Surely you’ve seen it, or could easily find it. I don’t think you’d endorse such mean-spirited labels, but don’t pretend they aren’t out there.

    If the worst fear that reasonable people on the Left have about the Arizona law is that it might lead to some American citizens being asked about their citizenship status so that the actual drug runners, gang bangers, and kidnappers who DO use our porous border will finally be apprehended and deported, then I should think that’s a bargain. What patriot wouldn’t mind the risk of a small inconvenience (and this is the worst case scenario!) if it means a better country? Shoot, by all means, feel free to ask me for my driver’s license every now and then if it means that a dozen more rapists will be arrested.

    Besides, even that worst case scenario isn’t very probable. The Arizona law clearly says that investigating citizenship occurs only pursuant to another lawful interaction. Do people really think that Arizona cops will be sitting around looking for any and every Hispanic to pull over and question about their “papers?” Isn’t that a ridiculous fantasy? However, if an officer sees a group of men with gang tattoos speeding down an alley, I’d like him to be able to also get them for border trespassing, too. Wouldn’t you? After all, they got Al Capone for tax evasion.

    “This country is essentially progressive, and reactionaries tend to be on the wrong side of history.” A curious tangent on which to end, but OK. I don’t know that this is something to be proud of. I can’t think of any “progressive” reform in our society that hasn’t also had an ugly, hurtful side. Yes, women voting and being able to work is good, but the hypersexuality of young people and the dissolution of the family that resulted from the sexual revolution is horrible. Yes, minorities being able to sit at the front of the bus is good, but the crippling effects of rampant fatherlessness and government dependence on many minority communities should shame every liberal who created the conditions in which that suffering festers. Can you give an example of “progress” that wasn’t accompanied by a huge dark side? (And it’s hardly a glorious story for the Left to analyze who was really behind and who was opposed to those instances of progress.) Perhaps if some of that progress had been tempered by more of the values and traditions of we “reactionaries,” more real progress would have actually been made.

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