Friday, January 8, 2010

Muddled Thinking

I'm a very big fan of and long-time subscriber (charter subscriber, in fact) to "First Things", the monthly journal of most things political, religious, and the intersection of the two. I highly recommend it. However, there was an article in the January 2010 issue that managed to get my goat. It's titled "Our Muddled Masses" by Reuven Brenner and is about American immigration policy. Below is the letter to the editor I submitted as a response; it speaks for itself. Perhaps I was a bit too harsh, but a premise, either unstated or understated, that this country is in the main inhospitable to foreigners is ridiculous on its face. If we're so inhospitable, then why do they keep coming, and keep coming it such large numbers that it creates a problem? Anyway, you can, as I say in the first sentence of my letter, judge the original article for yourself.

One hopes it's just muddled thinking that informs Reuven Brenner's piece about "Our Muddled Masses" and not...well, you be the judge.

First, he creates a straw-man by conflating broad concern over illegal immigration with resistance to immigration plain and simple. He then further confuses the matter by slipping in the use of the word "migrant" as a synonym for "immigrant". As if the current national fuss is all about the latter-day equivalent of 1930's Okies trekking from the Dust Bowl west to Barstow and Bakersfield. In the first instance, that which troubles those of us unhappy with the present state of affairs most is the illegality of these new arrivals. I realize that by now it probably sounds trite to say it, but respect for the law is at stake. One is not a xenophobe for bringing it up.

Next, concern over illegal immigration is informed by an even larger concern over the massive extension of the welfare-state. We who worry about this sort of thing worry that even as currently constituted, and much more so with growth, the welfare-state is unaffordable and unsustainable. And that's only counting the material costs. Typically, that concern is chiefly over its effects on our own citizenry. Are we expected to lay that concern aside when large numbers of non-citizens are introduced into the mix as well? To be fair, this would be less of a sore point if so many courts didn't effectively rule that as between a citizen and a non-citizen, there really is no difference.

Finally, and we'll have to ask forgiveness in advance for our cynicism, we suspect that lurking beneath the so-called humanitarian concerns of the other side is a late-modern multicultural relativism that is critical of all nation-states in general and this American nation-state in particular. "Imagine there's no countries..." The dream seems to be immigration without assimilation. That is, they want them to come to America without having to become Americans.

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