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PETERSON The Great American Boycott
by Matthew J. Peterson
[writer] 5/5/06

Monday, at a certain nearby college campus, I observed about 50 students lounging in a field on a sunny afternoon, engaged in the hollow ritual of college protest. The only clue as to what they were "teaching" was a decidedly homemade sign hanging above a reggae band that was calmly playing joyful tunes of protestation. The sign stuck with me—I'm pretty sure it said something about being united in respect to "the Great American Boycott." So were they boycotting America, or were they Americans boycotting?

From what I can gather, the recent May Day shenanigans were supposed to allow illegal immigrants, who by definition are not Americans, to prove they are needed by their absence. They wanted to show they are needed so that they can become Americans. But this particular protest was no doubt organized and attended by a group of American college kids—which is to say that the sign meant to announce that Americans were boycotting America.

Matthew J. Peterson

Matthew J. Peterson is on staff at the Center for Local Government at Claremont Institute [go to Peterson index]

I have a feeling this says something about the protests as a whole. I’m sure that many illegal immigrants did participate, but one has to wonder how many of them were involved in planning the event and how, exactly, they understood it. I don't think May 1st has any particular significance to most Mexicans; however, we are all aware of what the date might mean for radical, old fossils of the left and their young protégés.

More to the point, the majority of those protesting were not likely representative of the best sorts of illegal immigrants because such folks are here to work, and since they unfortunately decided to come here illegally they are not protected by the laws that protect everyone else. Illegal immigrants are well aware of certain aspects of American law—more aware, it seems, than many American liberals. Taking a day off to parade around in the street and advertise the fact that they are illegal, jeopardizing their jobs and hence their ability to support their families, is thus not likely going to have widespread appeal. But this is exactly the sort of thing that appeals to middle class to wealthy professional leftists educated in the modern American academy.

In fact, it is the sort of event that college kids might concoct themselves on lazy, sunny afternoons in between sets at a protest rally, right before they go back to their dorm room to call home and convince mom and dad that they are "working hard and learning a lot in school."

All this raises some interesting questions. The left’s notion of citizenship is either non-existent or a ludicrous fantasy, as they suggest that one can simply walk into another country and be magically transformed into a citizen. On the right side of the political equation, many conservatives rightly argue that citizenship requires that one officially join a society—a regime must recognize an immigrant by law for said immigrant to become a citizen, or, at least, a regime has a right to enforce its citizenship laws.

The law must be enforced, of course, but is citizenship only a matter of official recognition by the government, or does this recognition depend on something more than a positive law? What does it mean to be an American? So long as our schools teach Americans to boycott America without ever bothering to explain in any serious way what Americans are or ought to be, what is the difference between illegal immigrants and, say, the college kids who throw picnics for them?

In light of these issues, I propose my own solution: stop the overflow by guarding the border with a wall if need be; allow all those who truly wish for opportunity to immigrate here by means of a rational, legal process; and forcibly deport college students and their professors to third world countries for one semester every four years. CRO

copyright 2006 Matt Peterson





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