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by Mark Steyn
||Buchanan's State of Emergency
Richard Kirk] [writer,
Pat Buchanan’s popular book, State of Emergency, is more than a litany of eye-popping anecdotes and statistics about the economic, demographic, and social impact of legal and illegal immigration. Buchanan does, of course, provide abundant information about these matters—how a tidal wave of unskilled labor has depressed working class wages, how the same migration of souls has altered the ethnic makeup of California and Texas, and how this influx has affected the safety of Americans victimized by aliens who now make up “over 29% of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.” Buchanan also tells readers that at least 300,000 “anchor babies” are born in the U.S. each year, that 54% of Los Angeles County’s 9 million inhabitants speak languages other than English at home, and that almost as many immigrants are in the U.S. today (36 million) as came to America between 1607 and 1965. Throw in data about the return of once-conquered diseases like tuberculosis, the nationwide growth of vicious gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, and the stark educational deficits exhibited by recent adult immigrants (31% of whom never finished high school) and you have what one might expect from a book with the aforementioned title.
At its core, however, Buchanan’s book is a work of political philosophy whose central question is posed in chapter nine: “What is a Nation?” According to the author, this vital inquiry has three possible answers. The first is that a nation consists of a common set of economic relationships. This view is dispatched with the remark by French historian Ernest Renan: “A Zollverein is not a fatherland.” The institutional status of today’s European Union reinforces Renan’s remark, and Buchanan drives home the point with this poignant observation: “For two centuries, men have died for America. Who would lay down his life for the UN, the EU, or a ‘North American Union’?”
A more popular “neoconservative” answer to Buchanan’s patriotic query is that the United States is a unique country whose roots are essentially creedal. By this reasoning, America is a nation composed of individuals, regardless of national origin or ethnicity, who subscribe to ideas elaborated in America’s founding documents. While Buchanan doesn’t deny that these ideas are part of what it means to be an American, he insists that national identity involves something more—something that can be recognized and felt apart from political convictions.
This “something more” concerns ethnicity, history, and tradition. Americans, Buchanan observes, created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—not vice versa. He also notes, uncomfortably for those educated in multicultural classrooms, that the colonists who composed those documents were overwhelmingly “brethren” from the British Isles. Democracy and the rule of law weren’t abstract concepts that grew on American soil like wind-blown seeds felicitously falling on good earth. They were traditions carried by English settlers who populated the territories that later became the United States of America. National roots, Buchanan insists, come attached to the historical soil in which they grew. They aren’t nakedly exposed tendrils floating in some international hydroponic solution.
American leaders from Washington and Hamilton to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson recognized this fact about national identity. The former wished to avoid large concentrations of foreigners, just as T.R. and Wilson denounced “hyphenated-Americanism” and divided loyalties. It wasn’t xenophobia that prompted these statements but rather the realization that nations rest on a shared background of culture, history, literature, and language—indeed, of shared ancestors. As even Patrick Moynihan observed, the nation is the largest group to which individuals see themselves ancestrally related. Negative illustrations of this truth are abundant in recent history: the violent rupture of the faux-nation of Yugoslavia, the splintering of the Soviet Union into more than a dozen nations with distinct ethnic roots, the divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the ethnic and religious wars that plague Rwanda, Sudan, and a host of African “nations.”
One of Buchanan’s most poignant arguments involves this “reverse scenario” thought experiment: “How many Americans, forced to work in Mexico, would become loyal Mexicans in a decade rather than remain Americans in exile? Why do we think that Mexicans are any less attached to the land of their birth?” It is a jarring question, especially when one realizes that “one in six [Mexicans] is already here” and that “Nearly 90 percent of all immigrants now come from continents and countries whose peoples have never been assimilated fully into any Western country…”
But what about the notion that we are “a nation of immigrants” and that what happened in the past will surely happen again? Buchanan uses a drawer-full of statistics and the testimony of various American leaders to show that 1) the United States was always, overwhelmingly, an English-speaking country culturally tied to the mother country, 2) immigration into the United States prior to 1965 was overwhelmingly from Europe, and 3) immigration in the past pales when compared with the influx in the last few decades. To emphasize this final point, Buchanan recurs to the debate that surrounded the 1965 Immigration Act, where the most liberal position advocated raising annual quotas from 156,700 to 250,000. Today, “between one and two million” immigrants, “legal and illegal,” come to the United States every year.
Moreover, strong political and cultural forces now discourage the assimilation of those coming from Latin American: dual citizenship, multiculturalism, the explosive growth of Spanish broadcasting in the U.S., Mexico’s desire to politically and economically exploit the loyalty of its émigrés, and the very real belief in “Reconquista.” All these factors, in addition to sheer numbers, undermine an assimilation process that transformed 40 million Europeans into Americans over a span of 350 years.
Throughout his book Buchanan asserts that patriotism, “love of country,” is the soul that animates a nation—a love rooted in common language, common ancestors, common stories, common religious faith, and common experiences. All these ties, however, are now under assault—from within by cultural critics who laud diversity and relish America-bashing—from without by immigrants bound by language, culture, and history to their own native lands. The prospect for America can already be seen in “Eurabia,” where governments struggle to find some social equilibrium between ethnic groups with radically different backgrounds and sensibilities. Ultimately, as Buchanan warns in his book’s first pages, what happened to Imperial Rome at the hands of unassimilated Germanic tribes will be the fate of the United States—unless Americans summon the will to reverse policies that their leaders have foisted upon them.
The depredations associated with open borders are realities felt most by patriotic working stiffs, not by diversity-minded globalists who seek to maximize economic efficiencies and minimize the appeal of all things parochial. The bonds between cosmopolitans and their native lands are tenuous at best—and at worse, adversarial. For jet-set egotists, cultures are like sampler tables at an international exhibition. None can demand their exclusive loyalty. To them Robert E. Lee’s fateful choice of Virginia over the Union is incomprehensible and perverse.
Beyond the political, economic, and ideological forces that contribute to America’s paralysis in the face of demographic dissolution, there is, I think, another factor that Buchanan doesn’t discuss. That factor is related to the elitist-populist divide and concerns the nation’s self-image. Put simply, if a country doesn’t believe in itself, it won’t bother to defend itself. And America, as shaped and envisioned by elites, isn’t a culture worth defending—a country devoid of religious devotion, a country stripped of heroes, a country populated by consumers who take for granted the sexualization of children and the dissolution of marriage, a country molded not by traditions and loyalties that spring from heart and hearth but by the capricious winds of intellectual fashion and the corrupt imaginations of television producers. If “love of country” is the nation’s soul, as Buchanan avers, it follows that the nation’s body must also be thought worthy of salvaging. Yet what possible reason would there be to make strenuous exertions on behalf the post-modern golem described above?
Buchanan’s book, however, is gloomy enough as it is—all the more so because his vision of national identity rings true on many levels. The only question is whether the culturally and historically rooted nation he honors is too far gone for the prescribed medicine: no amnesty, no “chain migration” or “anchor babies,” no dual citizenship, no welfare magnets, an immigration moratorium, a border fence, and deportation of illegals. It’s a pill that’s sure to stick in the throat of political leaders whose hearts are tied, more than anything else, to the patricidal approbation of elite opinion. CRO
2006 Richard Kirk