.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
The Expansionist
Saturday, April 07, 2007
 
Fox News Infiting. AOL hilited today a video that captured a very heated exchange between two stars of the Fox News Channel, Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly, over illegal immigrants.
+
As it happens, I agree with Bill O'Reilly in the particular matter, a case in which a Mexican killed two teenage girls in an accident in Virginia while driving drunk.
Alfredo Ramos, 22, the man charged with aggravated involuntary manslaughter in their deaths, had a record of three alcohol-related convictions and was in the country illegally.
Why was he still here if he had been in the criminal-justice system three times before this fatal incident? Why was his immigration status not revealed in those earlier encounters with the law? Bill O'Reilly is right (ouch! that hurts!). Why, indeed, was this guy still here if he was not entitled to be? And yes, had he been deported, that accident would not have happened. Those girls would not have been killed. Geraldo's excuse-making — the issue is drunk driving, not illegal immigrants whom the legal system does not detect nor deport — is ill-considered.
+
I'm also a tad hostile to Geraldo Rivera for family reasons. Some years ago he either founded or bought The Two River Times, a weekly newspaper in Red Bank, the part of New Jersey where I grew up. My older sister tells me that one day she was walking in Red Bank and saw Geraldo so stopped to say hello. He was dismissive, as tho he couldn't exchange two words with one of the little people. Snub my sister, snub me. And I don't take kindly to people who snub me. Who does he think he is?
+
Alas, I'm also hostile (generally) to Bill O'Reilly on political grounds. He is not as wacko as some people on the Right, but he does have the ungenerous spirit of the Right, and I hate that.
+
On the issue of illegal immigration, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am very certain that we have the right to decide who is and is not admitted to the United States, on any basis we as a people decide. On the other hand, Mexico is a special case. The United States took its entire southwestern quadrant from Mexico, depriving that country of over half its area and, arguably, resources. So, whereas the U.S. bears no responsibility whatsoever for the miserable conditions of most of the Third World, we do arguably have much to do with the situation of Mexico's 110 million people. My solution is that of the All-Mexico Movement that rose at the end of the Mexican War (1848), when the United States held absolute sway over Mexico by virtue of a crushing military defeat inflicted on the Mexican ruling elite. My emotional and ideological forebears said "Take it all! Make all of Mexico into territories and prepare the entire region for full equality in the Great American Union!"
+
That was not to be. Racial and religious prejudices caused the WASP ruling class of this country to reject the bulk of densely populated central and southern Mexico, to rip away instead only the sparsely populated north. There was also fear in the U.S. South that Mexico, hostile to slavery, could tip the balance in Congress and the White House as might produce in very short order total abolition of slavery throughout the enlarged Union.
+
Rejection of All Mexico was a shameful act in a shameful time.
+
The assumption then was that as part of the Union, Mexico would produce fundamental changes in our circumstances, even our culture, but as a separate country, Mexico could be kept from having any influence of consequence, and we could go our way as a unilingual country dominated by WASPs and slavers. Sadly, had the Mexican War occurred AFTER the Civil War, the outcome might have been very different, and even the post-slavery South might have favored bringing all of Mexico into the Union.
+
Today we are living with the reality of a nation of nearly 110 million speakers of Spanish (and, in some places, Indian languages like Nahuatl (Aztec)) lying right alongside us and pouring millions of migrants over a porous border to take jobs of many kinds in many industries, at once filling an important economic place and subverting wage levels for everyone who works with his hands. Mexicans have changed the complexion and linguistic dynamics of the Nation, and no longer just in the Southwest. Mexican immigrants and their chicano children have spread out across much of the Nation, even into unexpected places in the Midwest, Northeast, and even Deep South. Mexican broadcasters set up one of this Nation's two Spanish-language television networks (Univisión), and continue to supply much of its programming.
+
Many years ago I was nearly in the position of having to help a couple of Mexican friends violate the immigration laws. They were two young homosexual men, who lived in an oppressive situation in a hidebound culture substantially more hostile to homosexuality even than the United States at the time. Had they wanted to escape to the U.S., I would have seen my duty to them as individual human beings as superior to my duty as an American to see to it that everyone obeys the immigration laws. Those laws discriminated against gay men. Still do, I suspect.
+
So where does morality lie? Co-conspire, tho a homosexual man, in enforcing antihomosexual immigration laws? Or help gay men escape oppression by violating discriminatory laws? Fortunately for me, they both decided to stay in Mexico, so I wasn't put to the test. And now, Mexico is starting to adjust to its own gay reality, extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, if not legally, then culturally. And all, perhaps, because Mexican gay men had to stay and fite rather than run from the fite, to the U.S. — which has still, for the most part, not adapted to the New Reality, that gay men are tired of second-class citizenship and want equality.
+
Mexico is not the only Third World area to which the United States owes an enormous debt that it has not yet repaid. There are at least three others. First is Haiti. As the Louisiana State Museum's website puts it:
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had a vision of a renewed western empire for France, and his schemes included the recapture of Louisiana from Spain. Control over this vast territory would halt the westward expansion of the young United States and would supply French colonies in the West Indies with the goods they needed. In 1800, Napoleon signed the secret Treaty of Ildefonso with Spain, an agreement that stipulated that France would provide Spain with a kingdom for the son-in-law of Spain's king if Spain would return Louisiana to France. However, Napoleon's plan collapsed when the twelve-year revolt of slaves and free blacks in the French colony of Saint-Domingue [Haiti] succeeded, forcing French troops to return defeated to France and preventing them from reaching their ultimate destination — Louisiana — and from being able to defend it. As Napoleon's New World empire disintegrated, the loss of Haiti made Louisiana unnecessary.
A textbook from my college days* expands:

Some fifty thousand men had already been sacrified in the fiery furnace of Santo Domingo. Fifty thousand more men and an enormous sum of money would have to be thrown into the pestilential island [yellow fever] before it could be subdued. Even with such a force Napoleon might fail. If he did succeed, he would lose anyhow — for the island would be ruined. ... With his prestige suffering badly at home and abroad, he could not afford to go on with this mad venture and risk another setback. Since he was forced to abandon Santo Domingo, what need had he for the granary — Louisiana? [Realize, as both this quote and the altogether separate source above indicate, Haiti was the rich prize, and Louisiana only the backwater to supply that rich prize! Might Haiti again be rich? Not independent, it won't. As a State of the Union? May be.]

[Moreover, the British were preparing a major fleet to seize Louisiana without paying a cent for it.] Spain almost certainly would have been willing to outbid Jefferson for Louisiana. [but] Aside from forestalling the British fleet, [Napoleon] apparently had in mind keeping the United States from being driven into British arms, and at the same time averting future wars with the boundary-bursting young nation. More than this, Napoleon had in view beefing up the American republic so that it would thwart the expansion of England in the New World, compete with her merchant marine, and, as he far-sightedly put it, "sooner or later humble her pride."

So he sold Louisiana to us. Had Toussaint l'Ouverture and the Haitian people not fought fanatically against the French, Napoleon might have subdued "Saint Domingue"** and then been able to move his army on to Louisiana, thereby to create a great, French-speaking colony of it, in control of that portion of American foreign trade that flowed from the Mississippi River system, and hemming in U.S. territorial growth for a generation or more, and perhaps even permanently. Had France stayed in Louisiana permanently, the U.S. would have remained east of the Mississippi and become only a middling country, not the world's only superpower. Without Louisiana, we wouldn't have moved on to Texas or the Southwest, including a little thing called California.
+
It is hard to overstate the case of how much we owe Haiti. We have never paid so much as the tiniest fraction of that debt. It's time we did, starting with accepting immigrants fleeing the horrendous conditions of independent Haiti, and culminating in statehood for that now-miserable country that could, with U.S. aid and guidance, become a splendid Sunbelt state, a cheap place for retirees to live comfortably on modest Social Security payments.
+
Another Third World country the U.S. owes special consideration is Panama, which Teddy Roosevelt broke off from Colombia in order to get permission to build a trans-isthmian canal. My mother was born in the Canal Zone that Teddy created, so I feel a sentimental connection to Panama. It's hard to calculate whether Panama would be better or worse off had it remained part of Colombia, because Colombia today is a nitemare thanks to its cocaine cartels. Still, when you break an area away from its original country, you assume thereby some considerable responsibility for its future in all regards. It's like the philosophy that if you save someone's life, you are permanently obligated to watch over the life you save.
+
We can secure the best for the people of Panama, and secure as well the right to build a larger trans-isthmian canal for the largest ships of today and tomorrow, by bringing Panama into the Union.
+
The last of the four Third World countries to which the U.S. owes special treatment is the Philippines, which we controlled from 1898 to 1946, as a colony. We transformed its culture, shifting its second language from Spanish to English and its orientation from Europe to the United States. We also killed an appalling number of rebels who fought against the initial takeover, in a war marked by atrocities on both sides from 1898-1901, with stragglers fiting on until 1913. How much of the Filipino people's current travail — economic hardship, Communist and Islamist insurgencies, insecure democracy, and cultural schizophrenia, to name a few aspects of the Philippines' current malaise — is due to or despite its U.S. colonial experience is open to acrimonious debate. What is not open to debate is that the United States imposed colonial subjection upon the Philippines, then abandoned it to its own devices before it was ready to establish a prosperous society within a secure democracy.
+
There is one last country that comes to mind in this discussion of a special relationship: Taiwan. The United States, not China, liberated Taiwan (then more commonly called "Formosa") from the Empire of Japan in World War II. Some legal observers suggest that the U.S. never transferred sovereignty from the people of Taiwan to the government of China, not the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek, not the Communist government of Mao Zedong, so retains legal title to the island by right of conquest and owes the people of the island complete protection from all threats as a consequence of its never-relinquished control. The Taiwan statehood movement wants the U.S. to move on, from historic liberator and protector, to become the larger country of the people of Taiwan.
+
Taiwan is not a Third World country but one of Asia's economic Tigers. Were Taiwan part of the United States, a substantial part of our trade deficit with Communist China — the astronomical economic proceeds of which are being used to fund a disturbing military buildup by China that is intended to push the United States out of Asia and leave that continent, home to half the world's people, a Communist Chinese sphere of influence — might be eliminated, as Taiwanese manufacturers supplant Chinese suppliers of trade goods.
+
Unlike the Philippines, Taiwan has a high standard of living, so the only people likely to move to the U.S. are "the best and britest" who seek a larger arena in which to shine. The Philippines might send several million of its best and britest but also ordinary workers, to the U.S. mainland, at least in the short term. Millions might return to the archipelago once the U.S. worked its magic there to create stability and prosperity that would make the islands attractive once more.
+
Apart from these few areas, the U.S. owes no one special access to our society and its jobs. We have the right to establish our own standards for immigration, but should do that judiciously, ever mindful of the fact that the great preponderance of US were, indeed, at some point in time, immigrants. My family arrived in the 17th century (father's side) and 19th century (mother's side). Other people's families arrived later. But all of us from outside might at one time have been considered "illegal immigrants", as Comedy Central's Mexican-Honduran but English-speaking comic Carlos Mencia has observed vis-a-vis American Indians. The parallel is useful.
+
Immigration is not necessarily an endless bounty of benefits. It can produce a tsunami of foreigners who drown us and reduce our culture to an exhibit in a museum, or a quaint little thing we keep in a mason jar on a shelf to open up for special festivals for the tourists from the New America.
+
The magical thing about American culture, however, is its ability to adjust to change. We are constantly in a state of flux. A few constants, such as the predominance of the English language (a foreign language, I rush to point out) and rule at the highest political levels by people with British Isle names, fools us into thinking we haven't changed, even as our culture — music, food, fashions, and everything else — widens to greater and greater inclusion. Mexican food (taco chips and salsa) becomes standard fare at Superbowl parties. Guys with names like Rodriguez become central to our National Pastime. We call some of them things like "A-Rod", which conceals their 'foreign' origin; and names like Matsuzaka appear on jerseys in national commercials for clothing stores. Shows in English with names like LatiNation, American Latino and Hispanic Horizons pop up all over the tube, including entire bilingual cable networks like Mun2 (where the "2" is pronounced in the Spanish fashion, "dos", making "mun2" = Mundos, more than one world, with the "2" indicating, more specifically, two worlds, Spanish and English). You see, there are now lots of "Hispanics" who can't speak Spanish at all, or prefer to listen to English because coping with Spanish is too hard. Latino parents worry about their kids turning so resolutely away from Spanish that their grandchildren won't even want to study it as a foreign language in high school.
+
All of which is to say what?
+
The United States is a great and dynamic civilization, which can easily assimilate huge numbers of newcomers, be they individual immigrants or large, stationary populations living in new geographic additions to the Nation. The problems we face in illegal immigration and resulting subversion of wage rates are a consequence of a largely artificial border we drew a long and irrelevant time ago between the United States and Mexico. That border no longer serves our best interests.
+
We need Mexican workers in large parts of the economy, especially in our Southwest. And our society overall needs more young people, especially now that the Baby Boom generation is about to retire. What has been paid into the Social Security system by Baby Boomers will not cover what Baby Boomers will take out of the system in coming decades. We need a VAST influx of young people to compensate for the refusal of many established Americans to reproduce. Vast.
+
Spoiled, self-indulgent, latter-day "Me Generation" women have chosen to play around sexually and pursue a "career", in preference to becoming mommies. Never mind that when they do become mommies they find that everything theretofore meant nothing as against the profound richness a child brings to their lives. Career woman after career woman finds, on being given, gently, her baby after delivery, that something deeper than she would ever have imagined existed in her soul finds its home in that tiny face.
+
Some wait too long and just can't have children. Gay men and lesbian women feel less obligation to 'play the game', to pretend to be and prove themselves "straight" by having children. The consequence of these various strains in our national culture is that people born in the United States do not replace themselves, numerically. Were it not for immigration, the United States would be shrinking in population. And a shrinking population will not keep the Social Security system afloat. To prevent scores of millions of Americans from ending their lives in miserable poverty, then, we have to bring in scores of millions of younger people. Annexing Mexico, Haiti, Panama, the Philippines, and Taiwan would be a quick and simple way to do that. And we'd be paying back huge historical debts.
____________________

* A Diplomatic History of the American People by Thomas A. Bailey, Eighth Ed., 1969.

** Haiti controlled the whole of Hispaniola then, including what is now the Dominican Republic (which President Grant, a President now underappreciated, tried to annex in the 1860s).
+
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,271 — for Israel.)


Amazon Honor System



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

Powered by Blogger