Never looking back again,
They’re coming to America
~ Neil Diamond, America1
Go listen to the song I footnoted and watch the video.
Done? Good. Now reflect a little. Those are us, those unwashed faces on Ellis Island. They’re our ancestors. Oh, some came over before or after, while some – some of my people, matter of fact – were “Northern Wetbacks,” who came over the Saint Lawrence. Some landed at different ports, Boston, for example. Some came from further south. Some crossed the border and a few, a lot fewer than is politically correct to insist upon, the border, itself, crossed.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s an Indian (feather, not dot) out there without some admixture of settler/immigrant. Still, barring that possibility, those people are, again, us.
If the song tugs a little at the heartstrings, don’t feel bad. It’s perfectly natural. Indeed, a good part of what we are, and – just as important – what we think we are and what we want to be, revolves around the idea that people still want to join us, to become one of us. If you want to feel that tug, deep in your bones, deep in your heart, I suggest going to a naturalization ceremony sometime. They are simple and very, very moving. The faces there, the yearning to become one of us written plain upon them, reinforces our sense of worth. You may think, if you go, “Well, maybe we haven’t lost it yet, our quite probably divine mandate, if these folks are so eager to join us.”
I suspect that, over and above the Democratic Party’s earnest desire to create a new and unassimilable underclass to exploit for short term political gain, beyond some on the far left’s desire to fracture us, the quicker to ruin us, and even further than the will of the despicable, denationalized, and greedy capitalist class toward ever more money and power, it’s that deep tug, that subtle knowledge of where we came from, plus the desire for reinforcement of our sense of self-worth as a people, that keeps us from dealing with the problem of illegal immigration and the growing presence of unassimilated immigrants. Often enough, it keeps us from even admitting that there is a problem now or a worse one coming in the future.
There’s a saying, often attributed to Albert Einstein, that “insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Doesn’t matter who said it since, as far as it goes, it’s got a good deal of truth to it. But, as I’ve said in another context2, there’s another kind of insanity, the kind that insists on doing everything – at least everything important – differently, but that still expects the same result. There’s perhaps no clearer instance of this than the insistence that, because massive immigration worked well for us before, it must continue to, even if the sole similarity between what was and is lies in the word, “immigration.”
This is not to say that everyone who refuses to admit how things have changed is insane, mind you, some are just dishonest: Note, once again, those aforementioned Democrats, Leftists, and Capitalists. Perhaps a number are stupid, as well. But to hell with those, this column is for you, Bright Reader, and for you to use to explain the changes to the reasonably intelligent but perhaps misled or misinformed people around you.
The differences from older times, the differences that make current immigration different from past immigration, are many. I cannot hope to cover them all. Here’s a non-exclusive list of some of the big ones.
1. By and large, former immigrants had to break close and continuing ties with the old country. Oh, they might write and receive letters, and the odd photo, of course, but going back and forth was usually out of the question. This tended to drive assimilation to the United States by breaking or, at least, weakening ties with the old country.
Conversely, Latins, indeed most immigrants, do not have that kind of break anymore. Transportation is easier, cheaper, and much safer. Long distance communication is cheap and reliable.
2. While there were definite waves of immigration, as a general rule, there was no lasting majority language among all immigrants within the US, until they learned English. This tended to encourage people learning English, at least in the younger or second generations. There were a fair number of ethnic newspapers, some written in Yiddish, for example, and some even survive today. On the whole, though, they were marginally effective at keeping assimilation at bay. Movies and radio or television were in English.3
Today, the majority immigrant language is Spanish. Books in Spanish are widely available. Univision and Telemundo ensure that one need not understand English for entertainment or news.
3. Ethnic neighborhoods sprang up, but they were not so large as to be more or less completely self-contained and self-sufficient. Contact with the English-speaking outside world was needed. One might think of those ethnic enclaves as temporary halfway houses, easing the entry into mainstream America.
On the other hand, in, say, Miami, English is the second language, with about two-thirds of the population being native or home Spanish speakers. To get by in Miami, Spanish is the language one needs, and English is rather optional.
4. We used to have a massive infrastructure devoted to turning the school-aged children of immigrants and immigrants themselves into Americans. Because the schools would not have a majority tongue, English would become the lingua franca, thus encouraging Tony, the Italian kid who was interested in Katarina, the Slovak girl, to learn English so he could talk to her. (Oh, and vice versa, I am sure.)
My wife, then a recent immigrant from Panama (we were already married), along with lessons at Berlitz, after hours, attended the last trace of this formerly gigantic infrastructure left in Boston, and perhaps on the East Coast, called the “English Language Center.” This was in 1979 and 1980. There is still a school by that name there, in Boston, but it is not, as the former ELC was, public. I believe that last trace is now gone.
The ELC operated pretty much as I described. The kids, who ranged up to their late teens, had no majority language. Thus, to talk with each other, they had to learn English. But the Center taught more than just the language. Its mandate included passing on the history and the myths, the outlooks and the values, of the United States, the better to turn the kids into Americans.
Try that now and the politician or educator responsible would probably be vilified as a racist, deemed a genocide, deprived of employment, driven from public life, and ruined.
5. We did not, in that lost past, have such a large and influential crew seemingly determined on wrecking the United States as it is and substituting their social and socialist (oh, and social justice) fantasies in place of it. Yes, those would be the people behind ruining that politician or educator, mentioned above.
6. We used to have the self-confidence, maybe even arrogance, to do all that. We could accept massive immigration safely because of it. That’s gone, undermined by at least two of the three guilty parties I indicted above. It would be amusing were it not so tragic; the people who most want massive immigration are also those who have made it most problematic, and most likely to result in a mass expulsion.
3 An interesting exception to this was Woonsocket, RI, where things tended to be in French.
Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.
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