Victor Davis Hanson
In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
I recall as a boy the first day I made the magic acquaintance of Thucydides who unlocked for me an enduring love of ancient Greece. I then passed on to Herodotus and Plutarch, and next to Plato and Aristotle. As a boy and teenager in Paris, Illinois the great historians and philosophers of Greece, and then Rome, became my favorite instructors. Looking on the way in which most colleges and universities ignore this priceless heritage today is painful. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson describes the magnitude of the loss:
If the humanities could have adopted a worse strategy to combat these larger economic and cultural trends over the last decade, it would be hard to see how. In short, the humanities have been exhausted by a half-century of therapeutic “studies” courses: Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Environmental Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gay Studies. Any contemporary topic that could not otherwise justify itself as literary, historical, philosophical, or cultural simply tacked on the suffix “studies” and thereby found its way into the curriculum.
These “studies” courses shared an emphasis on race, class, and gender oppression that in turn had three negative consequences. First, they turned the study of literature and history from tragedy to melodrama, from beauty and paradox into banal predictability, and thus lost an entire generation of students. Second, they created a climate of advocacy that permeated the entire university, as the great works and events of the past were distorted and enlisted in advancing contemporary political agendas. Finally, the university lost not just the students, but the public as well, which turned to other sources—filmmakers, civic organizations, non-academic authors, and popular culture—for humanistic study.
The way this indoctrination played itself out in the typical humanities class was often comical. Homer’s Odyssey was not about an early epic Greek hero, who, with his wits, muscle, and courage overcomes natural and human challenges to return home to restore his family and to reestablish the foundations of his community on Ithaca—a primer on how the institutions of the early polis gradually superseded tribal and savage precursors. Instead, the Odyssey could be used to lecture students about the foundations of white male oppression. At the dawn of Western civilization, powerful women, such as Calypso and Circe, were marginalized and depicted as anti-social misfits, sorceresses on enchanted islands who paid a high social price for taking control of their own sexuality and establishing careers on their own terms. Penelope was either a suburban Edith Bunker, clueless about the ramifications of her own monotonous domesticity, or, contrarily, an emancipated proto-Betty Friedman, who came of age only in the 20-year absence of her oppressive husband and finally forged outlets for her previously repressed and unappreciated talents. The problem is not necessarily that such interpretations were completely untrue, but that they remain subsidiary themes in a far larger epic about the universal human experience.
Students were to discover how oppressive and unfair contemporary life was through the literature, history, and culture of our past—a discovery that had no time for ambiguity such as the irony of Sophocles’s Ajax, or the tragedy of Robert E. Lee. Instead, those of the past were reduced to cut-out, cardboard figurines, who drew our interest largely to the extent that they might become indicted as insensitive to women, gays, minorities, and the poor of their age—judged wanting by comfortable contemporary academic prosecutors who were deemed enlightened for their criticism. To the extent that these dreary reeducation seminars were not required as part of the General Education curriculum, students voted with their feet to pass them up; when enrollment was mandatory, students resigned themselves never to suffer through similar elective classes in the future. Continue reading
This year on Sunday October 13, 2013, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Go here to read all about it. My parish is gathering together at noon CST on October 13 to pray the rosary at the exact same time that the Pope consecrates the world to the Mother of God. What better preparation can we have for that wonderful day than to remember today another victory of the Rosary.
On October 7, 1571 the forces of the Holy League under Don Juan of Austria, illegitimate half brother of Philip II, in an ever-lasting tribute to Italian and Spanish courage and seamanship, smashed the Turkish fleet. This was the turning point in the centuries-long struggle between the Christian West and the forces of the Ottoman Empire over the Mediterranean. The Holy League had been the work of Pope Saint Pius V, who miraculously saw the victory in Rome on the day of the battle, and he proclaimed the feast day of Our Lady of Victory to whom he attributed the victory.
For a good overview of the battle of Lepanto read this review by Victor Davis Hanson here of The Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolò Capponi.
Before the battle Don John of Austria went about the ships of his fleet and said this to his crews: ‘My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.’ The chaplains of the fleet preached sermons on the theme: “No Heaven For Cowards”. Many of the men were clutching rosaries just before the battle. Admiral Andrea Doria went into the fight with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe aboard his ship. Back in Europe countless Catholics were praying rosaries at the request of Saint Pope Pius V for the success of the Christian fleet. Continue reading
The older I get, the more I comprehend that one of the ways of understanding how contemporary American politics works is the vast gulf that often exists between elite opinion and motivations in this country and the opinions of most Americans. Case in point, illegal immigration. At a time when the American economy is on the rocks and we have a federal debt that can never be repaid short of debt repudiation or ruinous inflation, which is another name for debt repudiation, the political class is focused on a Senate bill to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, amnesty. Leaving aside the merits of the bill, which I suspect is one with Nineveh and Tyre as far as the House is concerned, it is an odd priority until one looks at it as elite opinion does in this country. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does so in a recent column:
Take illegal immigration. On the facts, it is elitist to the core. Big business, flush with cash, nevertheless wants continued access to cheap labor, and so favors amnesties for millions who arrived without English, education, or legality. On the other end of the scale, Jorge Hernandez, making $9 an hour mowing lawns, is not enthusiastic about an open border, which undercuts his meager bargaining power with his employer.
The state, not the employer, picks up the cost of subsidies to ensure that impoverished illegal-immigrant workers from Oaxaca have some semblance of parity with American citizens in health care, education, legal representation, and housing. The employers’ own privilege exempts them from worrying whether they would ever need to enroll their kids in the Arvin school system, or whether an illegal-alien driver will hit their daughter’s car on a rural road and leave the scene of the accident. In other words, no one in Atherton is in a trailer house cooking meth; the plastic harnesses of missing copper wire from streetlights are not strewn over the sidewalks in Palo Alto; and the Menlo schools do not have a Bulldog-gang problem.
Meanwhile, ethnic elites privately understand that the melting pot ensures eventual parity with the majority and thereby destroys the benefits of hyphenation. So it becomes essential that there remain always hundreds of thousands of poor, uneducated, and less-privileged immigrants entering the U.S. from Latin America. Only that way is the third-generation Latino professor, journalist, or politician seen as a leader of group rather than as an individual. Take away illegal immigration, and the Latino caucus and Chicano graduation ceremony disappear, and the beneficiaries become just ordinary politicians and academics, distinguished or ignored on the basis of their own individual performance.
Mexico? Beneath the thin veneer of Mexican elites suing Americans in U.S. courts is one of the most repressive political systems in the world. Mexican elites make the following cynical assumptions: Indigenous peoples are better off leaving Mexico and then scrimping to send billions of dollars home in remittances; that way, they do not agitate for missing social services back home; and once across the border, they act as an expatriate community to leverage concessions from the United States.
Nannies, gardeners, cooks, and personal attendants are increasingly recent arrivals from Latin America — even as the unemployment rates of Latino, African-American, and working-class white citizens remain high, with compensation relatively low. No wonder that loud protestations about “xenophobes, racists, and nativists” oil the entire machinery of elite privilege. Does the liberal congressman or the Washington public advocate mow his own lawn, clean his toilet, or help feed his 90-year-old mother? At what cost would he cease to pay others to do these things — $20, $25 an hour? And whom would he hire if there were no illegal immigrants? The unemployed African-American teenager in D.C.? The unemployed Appalachian in nearby West Virginia? I think not. Continue reading
Horace Walpole once famously observed that the world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel. The times in which we live certainly gives support to the sometime accuracy of that maxim. My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, helps buttress the point:
What explains these contradictions in our wide-open but prudish society? Decades after the rise of feminism, popular culture still seems confused by it. If women should be able to approach sexuality like men, does it follow that commentary about sex should follow the same gender-neutral rules? Yet wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing is often considered less offensive than remarking upon it. Calling a near-nude Madonna onstage a “hussy” or “tart” would be considered crude in a way that her mock crucifixion and simulated sex acts are not.
Criminal sexual activity is sometimes not as professionally injurious as politically incorrect thoughts about sex and gender. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer — found to have hired prostitutes on a number of occasions during his time in office — was given a CNN news show despite the scandal. But when former Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked in the Miss USA pageant whether she endorsed gay marriage, she said no — and thereby earned nearly as much popular condemnation for her candid defense of traditional marriage as Spitzer had for his purchased affairs.
Critics were outraged that talk-show host Rush Limbaugh grossly insulted birth-control activist Sandra Fluke. Amid the attention, Fluke was canonized for her position that federal health-care plans should pay for the contraceptive costs of all women. Yet in comparison to Fluke’s well-publicized victimhood, there has been a veritable news blackout for the trial of the macabre Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with killing and mutilating in gruesome fashion seven babies during a long career of conducting sometimes illegal late-term abortions. Had Gosnell’s aborted victims been canines instead of humans — compare the minimal coverage of the Gosnell trial with the widespread media condemnation of dog-killing quarterback Michael Vick — perhaps the doctor’s mayhem likewise would have been front-page news outside of Philadelphia.
Modern society also resorts to empty, symbolic moral action when it cannot deal with real problems. So-called assault weapons account for less than 1 percent of gun deaths in America. But the country whips itself into a frenzy to ban them, apparently to prove that at least it can do something, instead of wading into polarized racial and class controversies by going after illegal urban handguns, the real source of the nation’s high gun-related body count.
Not since the late-19th-century juxtaposition of the Wild West with the Victorian East has popular morality been so unbridled and yet so uptight. In short, we have become a nation of promiscuous prudes. Continue reading
My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, has a new post in which he details bad signs aplenty of scary times ahead:
Read the News and Weep
That is not conspiracy talk, but simply a distillation of what I read today. On the last day of the year when I am writing this, I offer you just three sample op-eds.
A journalist, Donald Kaul, in the Des Moines Register offers us a three-step, presto! plan to stop school shootings:
Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. … Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. …Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
Note the new ease with which the liberal mind calls for trashing the Constitution, outlawing those whom they don’t like (reminiscent of “punish our enemies”?), and killing those politicians with whom they don’t agree (we are back to Bush Derangement Syndrome, when novels, movies, and op-eds dreamed of the president’s assassination.)
What would be the Register’s reaction should a conservative opponent of abortion dare write, “Repeal the First Amendment; ban Planned Parenthood as a terrorist organization; and drag Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi from a truck”? If an idiot were to write that trash, I doubt the Washington Times or Wall Street Journal would print such sick calls for overturning the Constitution and committing violence against public officials.
Ah Yes, Still More Redistribution
Turning to a column in The New Republic, John Judis, in honest fashion, more or less puts all the progressive cards on the table in a column titled “Obama’s Tax Hikes Won’t Be Nearly Big Enough” — a candor about what the vast $5 trillion deficits of Obama’s first term were all about in the first place.
Here is the summation quote: “But to fund these programs, governments will have to extract a share of income from those who are able to afford them and use the revenues to make the services available for everyone.”
Note that Judis was not talking about the projected new taxes in the fiscal cliff talks, but something far greater to come. He understands well that the “gorge the beast” philosophy that resulted in these astronomical debts will require enormous new sources of revenue, funds “to extract” from “those who are able to afford them” in order to “make services available for everyone.”
That is about as neat a definition of coerced socialism as one can find. Implicit in Judas’s formulation is that only a very well-educated (and well-compensated) technocratic class will possess the wisdom, the proper schooling, and the morality to adjudicate who are to be the extracted ones and who the new “everyone.”
The Constitution — Who the Hell Needs It?
The third item in my year-end reading was the most disturbing. A law professor (could it be otherwise?) named Louis Michael Seidman enlightens us with “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution” — yet another vision of what the now triumphant liberal mind envisions for us all:
As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.
Did Madison force Obama to borrow a half-billion dollars to fund Solyndra and its multimillionaire con artists?
Note Seidman’s use of “evil,” which tips his hand that our great moralist is on an ethical crusade to change the lives of lesser folk, who had the misfortune of growing up in America — a place so much less prosperous, fair, and secure than, say, Russia, China, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Spain, Greece, Italy, or Japan and Germany (in the earlier 20th century history) . When I lived in Greece, traveled to Libya, and went into Mexico, I forgot to sigh, “My God, these utopias are possible for us too, if we just junked that evil Constitution.” Continue reading
Tying in with my co-blogger Dave Hartline’s post, which may be read here, my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant column today on the cynicism towards government that has justifiably grrown like Topsy during the period of Obama’s presidency:
Do you believe any more that some of our Secret Service agents — once the most esteemed of all professionals — on presidential assignment will not get drunk and womanize in their evening spare time? Do you believe that the grandees at the GSA — once the stern penny-pinchers that frowned when bureaucrats wanted a new bookcase — won’t flaunt the waste that they incur? Do you believe that the government will never sell assault rifles to drug lords? Or do you believe what the president, the secretary of state, and the director of national intelligence will say to us when the next embassy is hit? And do you believe that there were “shovel-ready jobs” and “millions of green jobs” that arose from the “stimulus”? And what is a “stimulus” anyway, but borrowed money, in the manner likewise of “investments”? Did any of you believe that Solyndra was the wave of the future?
We don’t even believe that a commission on presidential debates will ensure us unbiased moderators, or that the candidates will have equal time in speaking, or that the supposedly quiet crowd won’t boo or clap to affect the tempo of the exchange. From now on, will debate moderators bring preselected transcripts to the forum, wait for a key moment, interrupt one of the speakers, and then wave a piece of paper to proffer authority to contradict him — eliciting applause from the supposedly neutral and silent audience, and affirmation from the president? Do you believe First Lady Michelle Obama — of “never been proud/downright mean country” infamy — when she accuses Republicans on talking down the country?
Do you believe that the Department of Labor always assesses its data and offers disinterested conclusions? I don’t. I suspect partisan grandees, perhaps in California, will massage the data on the principle of the ends justifying the means. The same is true of Libya: the noble idea of a reset Middle East, appreciative of the unique heritage and ideology of Barack Obama and his bold attempt to reformulate America, was simply too precious to be imperiled by al-Qaedist thugs who hate us as much as ever and will kill until stopped.
I also never believed in a “war on the women” simply because mostly upper-class, liberal, highly educated white women seemed to be angry that Catholic institutions d0 not wish to include free abortion and contraceptive pills among their generous benefits packages. Did I miss something? Who were supposed to be oppressed, and how and why? Could Ms. Fluke — who addressed an audience of ten in Nevada this weekend — and her partner not split the cost of a pack of ten-dollar prophylactics? Are not more women graduating with BAs than are men? To the degree there is a gender crisis, I think it may be more young working-class men without college degrees who simply cannot find jobs in the muscular industries and for whom society apparently has little need. Is the “war on women” what the long road from suffrage to equal pay has come down to — a psychodrama of the most privileged generation in civilization’s history? So I simply do not believe that there is a war on anyone, much less women. To the degree there is a war, it is on fiscal responsibility, a war on paying bills and keeping solvent — something lost last week in more of binders, Big Bird, the war “in Iran,” Joe Biden’s continued gesticulations, and “Romnesia.” Continue reading
Last week Gore Vidal and John Keegan died. I recalled John Keegan in a post which may be read here. Gore Vidal I did not recall. Although I enjoyed two of Vidal’s novels, Julian and Creation, I could not write a post about him without violating the maxim De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. Fortunately my favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, does not share that inhibition:
Among those guests in 1964 was Gore Vidal, who was not yet 40. I was about eleven and remember him as a stylishly dressed non-stop hair-toucher. He was also vain and condescending — and a big hit at his lecture with the conservative rural crowd. In those days he acted what was known as “witty.” I recall asking my dad whether he was “English,” given that his nose was angled upward and his accent did not sound American (and that he did not seem to like the U.S.). My dad, in the Swedish fashion of honoring work for work’s sake, answered that I should respect any man who could crisscross the country, giving 30 lectures in 30 days.
Vidal certainly had an instinct for saying outrageous things with such erudite authority that we yokels found him fascinating rather than repulsive. As I remember (it has been 48 years since that evening), Vidal spoke for about 30 minutes, but then he wowed the crowd to a standing ovation in the question-and-answer period (his forte), as he advocated the legalization of drugs and prostitution and went on rants about “small town” values. Continue reading
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson puts his finger on one of the most important developments of the past few years which has received little press coverage:
There is a revolution going on America. But it is not part of the tea party movement or the loud Occupy Wall Street protests.
Instead, massive new reserves of gas, oil and coal are being discovered almost everywhere in the United States, due to revolutionary methods of exploration and exploitation such as fracking and horizontal drilling. Current prices of over $100 a barrel make even complex efforts at recovery enormously profitable.
There were always known to be additional untapped reserves of oil and gas in the petroleum-rich Gulf of Mexico, off America’s shores, and in the American West and Alaska. But even the top energy experts never imagined just how vast was the energy there — or beneath far more unlikely places like South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Some studies suggest the United States has now expanded its known potential gas and oil reserves tenfold.
The strategic and economic repercussions of these new finds are staggering, and remind us how a once energy-independent and thereby confident American economy soared to world dominance in the early 20th century.
America will soon again be able to supply all of its own domestic natural gas needs — and perhaps for the next 90 years at present rates of consumption. We have recently become a net exporter of refined gas and diesel fuel, and already have cut imported oil from OPEC countries by 1 million barrels per day. Continue reading
I was inclined to cut the Obama administration some slack initially in regard to the crisis in Egypt. It is a tough situation and it was difficult to see anything that the US could or should do. Mubarak has been a friend to the US during his 30 years in power, faithfully kept the peace with Israel, and worked with our intelligence agencies against Islamic terrorism. However, there is no doubt that he is a dictator, albeit one of the best of a very bad lot in the Middle East where dictatorship is the norm outside of Israel, Turkey and Iraq, and no American can weep for his fall. However, what replaces him could be far worse. A tough situation and not a whole lot the US can do to influence events. Therefore I was initially sympathetic to Obama’s dilemma.
However, the utter cluelessness of his administration throughout this mess has ended my sympathy. Endless, feckless posturing, combined with impotence, is not a foreign policy but rather a vaudeville act. This was on full display yesterday when Leon Panetta, CIA director, stated publicly that he had reports that indicated Mubarak would be stepping down yesterday. This was completely erroneous as events proved, but it made worldwide headlines. It then turned out that Panetta was not basing his prediction on intelligence gathered by his spooks, but rather on media reports. I can think of few better illustrations of the level of amateurish bungling that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration in regard to everything they have touched. The Obama Doctrine consists of the following elements:
1. Speak loudly and carry no stick.
2. Watch a lot of tv to find out what is going on in the world.
3. Make endless statements to the press and, never, ever, have a plan as to what to do if you actually have to back up the statements.
4. Always remember to never let a crisis go to waste and attempt to get maximum positive press coverage out of it, because that is what all crises are truly about.
5. Obama needs another Nobel Peace Prize to keep his first one company. Continue reading
My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, hails the brilliance of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the “Cordoba Initiative”, the group seeking to build the Ground Zero Mosque.
1. First the name of the group takes advantage of the historical illiteracy among the chattering class elites of our society:
Start with the notion of a “Cordoba Initiative.” In the elite modern Western mind, Cordoba has been transmogrified into a mythical Lala Land of interfaith tolerance. To invoke the city is to prove one’s ecumenical credentials. Just ask our president, who, in his June 2009 Cairo speech, fantastically claimed that the Muslim city taught us tolerance while Christians were launching the Inquisition (1478) — quite a feat two and a half centuries after most of the Muslims of Cordoba had fled, converted, or been cleansed during the city’s fall (1236) to the Christian forces of the Reconquista. But no matter, we got the president’s drift about who was supposedly tolerant and who was not.
As the New York Times remembers Hiroshima, Richard Fernandez asks us to name the two greatest losses of civilian life in the Pacific war. (“Hint. In both cases the civilian casualties were greater than Hiroshima’s. In one case the event took place on American soil.”)
Meanwhile, Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) thinks it’s past time for Western churches to stop treating Japan as victim every Aug. 6 and 9:
I refuse on principle to pollute God’s ears with prayers dedicated only to Hiroshima Day and the dead of those cities while ignoring the tens of millions of Japanese-murdered souls who cry for remembrance, but do not get it, certainly not from the World Council of Churches and its allies who have no loathing but for their own civilization. If the prayers of the WCC’s service are to be offered, let them be uttered on Aug. 14, the day Japan announced its surrender, or on Sept. 2, the day the surrender instruments were signed aboard USS Missouri. Let our churches no longer be accessories to Japan’s blood-soaked silence but instead be voices for the millions of murdered victims of its bloodlust, imperialist militarism.
(HT: Bill Cork).
Some Democrats think that the Arizona law cracking down on illegal aliens will save them from electoral disaster in November. They think this will rile up the Hispanics, and to fan the flames a few Democrats are making free with their favorite epithet against those who oppose them, Nazi.
I think that these Democrats are pursuing a losing hand on this issue. Illegal immigration is extremely unpopular in this country and overheated epithets will simply further energize the conservative base. More to the point, this election is going to be fought on the economy and government spending, and the Democrats are in dire shape on both those issues. In regard to the immigration issue, I think there is evidence that some Democrats understand that rather than a gift this could be an electoral landmine. This AP story here indicates that Obama concedes that Congress may not have the political appetite for immigration reform anytime soon, and notes the type of legislation that the Democrats propose eventually may ostensibly put enforcement before amnesty: “An immigration proposal by three Democratic senators calls for more federal enforcement agents and other border security-tightening benchmarks before illegal immigrants could become legal U.S. residents, according to a draft of the legislation obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The bill is being developed by Reid of Nevada, Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.”
In an earlier post this week I quoted my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson on the issue of illegal immigration. Here are his current thoughts on immigration as a political issue in the Fall:
A Losing Political Issue
The politics of illegal immigration are a losing proposition for liberals (one can see that in the resort to euphemism), even if they don’t quite see it that way. Here are ten considerations why.
First, there is the simplicity of the argument. One either wishes or does not wish existing law to be enforced. If the answer is no, and citizens can pick and chose which laws they would like to obey, in theory why should we have to pay taxes or respect the speed limit? Note that liberal Democrats do not suggest that we overturn immigration law and de jure open the border — only that we continue to do that de facto. Confusion between legal and illegal immigration is essential for the open borders argument, since a proper distinction between the two makes the present policy indefensible—especially since it discriminates against those waiting in line to come to America legally (e.g., somehow our attention is turned to the illegal alien’s plight and not the burdensome paperwork and government obstacles that the dutiful legal immigrant must face).
Why Wave the Flag of the Country I Don’t Wish to Return To?
Second, often the protests against enforcement of immigration law are strangely couched within a general climate of anger at the U.S. government (and/or the American people) for some such illiberal transgression (review the placards, flags, etc. at May Day immigration rallies). Fairly or not, the anger at the U.S. and the nostalgia for Mexico distill into the absurd, something like either “I am furious at the country I insist on staying in, and fond of the country I most certainly do not wish to return to” or “I am angry at you so you better let angry me stay with you!” Such mixed messages confuse the electorate. As in the case with the Palestinians, there is an effort to graft a foreign policy issue (protecting an international border) onto domestic identity politics, to inject an inflammatory race/class element into the debate by creating oppressors, victims, and grievances along racial divides.
Big Brother Mexico?
Third, Mexico is no help. Now it weighs in with all sorts of moral censure for Arizonians — this from a corrupt government whose very policies are predicated on exporting a million indigenous people a year, while it seeks to lure wealthy “gringos” to invest in second-homes in Baja. The absence of millions from Oaxaca or Chiapas ensures billions in remittances, less expenditures for social services, and fewer dissident citizens. But the construct of Mexico as the concerned parent of its own lost children is by now so implausible that even its sympathizers do not take it seriously. Mexico has lost all credibility on these issues, expressing concern for its own citizens only when they seem to have crossed the border — and left Mexico.
It’s Not a Race Issue
Fourth, there really is a new popular groundswell to close the borders. Most against illegal immigration, especially in the case of minorities and Mexican-American citizens, keep rather mum about their feelings. But that silence should not be interpreted as antagonism to enforcing the law. Many minorities realize that the greatest hindrance to a natural rise in wages for entry level jobs has been the option for an employer to hire illegal aliens, who, at least in their 20s and 30s, will work harder for less pay with fewer complaints (when sick, or disabled, or elderly, the worker is directed by the employer to the social services agencies and replaced by someone younger as a new cycle of exploitation begins). In this context, the old race card is less effective. The general population is beginning to see not that Americans (of all races who oppose illegal immigration) are racist, but that the open borders movement has itself a racially chauvinistic theme to it, albeit articulated honestly only on university campuses and in Chicano-Latino departments, as a sort of “payback” for the Mexican War, where redress for “lost” land is finally to be had through demography.
Immigration seems to be a hot topic these days at American Catholic. The author who best represents my views is Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite living historians, in his book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming. In that book Hanson turned his gaze to a subject he is personally familiar with: the transformation of his native California by massive illegal immigration from Mexico. Hanson is not anti-Mexican. He has several Mexican relatives, his daughters are dating Mexican-Americans and most of the people he grew up with are Mexican-American or Mexican. What Hanson is opposed to is our feckless non-policy on immigration which allows steady waves of illegals to flood our border states and does not give us time to allow us to assimilate the Mexican immigrants here. Hanson believes strongly that the vast majority of immigrants, given time and opportunity, will assimilate and become good citizens. That is my view also. However it is impossible for this to be accomplished unless we gain control of our southern border and curb most illegal immigration. A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law.
Mexifornia came out in 2003. Hanson wrote an article in 2007 for City Journal reviewing what had happened in the intervening years, which may be read here. I find his class analysis of the immigration question interesting:
Since Mexifornia appeared, the debate also no longer splits along liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, or even white/brown fault lines. Instead, class considerations more often divide Americans on the issue. The majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics wish to close the borders. They see few advantages to cheap service labor, since they are not so likely to need it to mow their lawns, watch their kids, or clean their houses. Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.
But the downside surely is apparent. Truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, and gardeners— unlike lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, and professors—correctly feel that their jobs are threatened, or at least their wages lowered, by cheaper rival workers from Oaxaca or Jalisco. And Americans who live in communities where thousands of illegal aliens have arrived en masse more likely lack the money to move when Spanish-speaking students flood the schools and gangs proliferate. Poorer Americans of all ethnic backgrounds take for granted that poverty provides no exemption from mastering English, so they wonder why the same is not true for incoming Mexican nationals. Less than a mile from my home is a former farmhouse whose new owner moved in several stationary Winnebagos, propane tanks, and outdoor cooking facilities—and apparently four or five entire families rent such facilities right outside his back door. Dozens live where a single family used to—a common sight in rural California that reifies illegal immigration in a way that books and essays do not.
The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos—roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.
All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.
Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.
These class divisions cut both ways, and they help explain the anomaly of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page mandarins echoing the arguments of the elite Chicano studies professors. Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas. Indeed, every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent. Continue reading
One of my favorite living historians is Victor Davis Hanson. I have read every book he has written and most of his articles. Trained as a classicist and historian of antiquity, he has written on a broad range of topics, from the hoplites of ancient Greece, ancient Greek agriculture, a searching examination of the Peloponnesian War, the farming crisis of the 80′s, the history of warfare and culture, the teaching of the classics and the debacle of our non-policy on immigration, and I have been astonished at how skillfully this man writes and with what intelligence, and very dry humor, he cuts to the essence of whatever subject he addresses. He moonlights as a pundit on current events and in that capacity I have found a recent column of his intriguing on the question of just why the Obama administration is hellbent on compiling such huge annual deficits. Here is a portion of the column:
We are going to pile up another $3 trillion in national debt in just the first two years of the Obama administration. If the annual deficit should sink below $1.5 trillion, it will be called fiscal sobriety.
Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is?
What is the logic behind something so clearly unhinged?
I present seven alternative reasons — some overlapping — why the present government is hell-bent on doubling the national debt in eight years. Either one, or all, or some, or none, of the below explain Obama’s peculiar frenzied spending.
1) Absolutely moral and necessary?
The country is in need of massive more entitlements for our destitute and near to poor. Government is not big, but indeed too small to meet its moral obligations. Deficits are merely record-keeping. Throwing trillions into the economy will also help us all recover, by getting us moving again and inflating the currency. And we can pay the interest easily over the next 50 years. Just think another World War II era — all the time.
So big spending and borrowing are genuine efforts of true believers to make us safe, secure, and happy.
2) “Gorge the beast”
The spending per se is not so important, as the idea of deficits in general will ensure higher taxes. Nationalized health care, cap and trade, new initiatives in education, more stimulus — all that and more is less important than the fact that huge defects will require huge new taxes, primarily from the upper-classes. I see no reason why the total bite from state income, federal income, payroll, and health care taxes cannot soon in theory climb to 70% of some incomes (e.g., 10% state, 15.3% FICA, 40% federal, 3-5% health care). In other words, “redistributive change” is the primary goal. This aim is premised on the notion that income is a construct, if not unfairly calibrated, then at least capriciously determined — requiring the more intelligent in the technocracy to even out things and ensure an equality of result. After all, why should the leisured hedge-funder make all that more after taxes than the more noble waitress?
So big spending and borrowing mean big deficits, and that means taxing the greedy and giving their ill-gotten gains to the needy.
3) Big Brother?
Or does rampant borrowing for government spending reflect our despair over the inability of millions to know what is best for themselves? For democracy to work, all of us must fully participate. But because of endemic racism, sexism, class bias, and historical prejudices, millions of Americans do not have access to adequate education and enlightenment. Therefore, a particular technocratic class, with requisite skill and singular humanity, has taken it upon themselves to ensure everyone gets a fair shake — if only government at last has the adequate resources to fix things. If it proves problematic for one to register and vote, then there will be a program to make 100% participation possible. If some of us are too heavy and too chair-bound, we can be taught what and how to eat. If some of us do not study, we can adjust academic standards accordingly. In one does something unwise, like buying a plasma TV rather than a catastrophic health care plan, then we still can ensure he is covered. In other words, an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-moral guardian class requires resources to finish the promise of participatory America. After all, why would we allow the concrete contractor to “keep” 70% of his income only to blow it on worthless things like jet skis or a Hummer in his garage or a fountain in his yard — when a far wiser, more ethical someone like Van Jones could far more logically put that now wasted capital to use for the betterment of the far more needy?