A major theme—perhaps clumsily conveyed—of yesterday’s post was that Americans should be able to keep their culture and local identity without shame. As I noted, struggling rural communities are particularly susceptible to being swept away by large-scale immigration, legal or otherwise. Thus, we see small South Carolina towns gradually hispanicize, turning into little replicas of various Latin American cultures, rather than the old Southern culture that predominated.
One often hears that Americans should be tolerant and open-minded to other cultures, and to extend maximum understanding and patience. That is a generous and worthy view: I don’t expect the Chinese foreign exchange students at our school to speak accent-less English and understand liberty their first day off the plane. In that instance, we go out of our way to attempt to understand the cultural background from which those students came.
It’s another matter, though, when it involves the permanent or long-term relocation of foreign aliens to our land. Remember the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do?” That rule always seems to apply to Americans—who are routinely criticized for being uncouth abroad—but never to any other ethnic group, and especially not to cultures outside of the West.
It’s an enduring frustration of mine: one-way cosmopolitanism.
Americans are used to being scolded for not being “inclusive” or “understanding” enough. Sure, there were some violent anti-immigration, even nativist, movements in American history. But there should be no shame in simply saying, “I would like the El Salvadoran gangs to stay out of my community, and the other El Salvadorans to learn English, the Constitution, and American history.”
When does the cosmopolitan tolerance come back in my direction? I’m socially required to sympathize with the plight of the poor Mexican farm laborer—even to the extent of turning a blind eye to his illegal status—but when is he ever asked to appreciate or understand my culture? Does he ever stop and wonder what his presence, and the presence of millions of his countrymen, mean in a nation with a quite different cultural, linguistic, political, and philosophical foundation than his own?
I detect of whiff of imperial progressivism’s “white man’s burden” in all of this one-way tolerance. The explanation I usually get is that the poor illegal farm laborer is ignorant, and his dire poverty and strained status as an “undocumented person” means he’s more worried about his immediate situation, rather than the larger impact of illegal immigration. The latter point I can understand, but the implication always seems to be that, because he’s a sympathetic idiot, we can just jettison the rule of law—“for the niños.”
Establishment GOP types are convinced that Hispanics are “natural conservatives” because of their deep Catholic faith and socially conservative gender and family roles (never mind that, like Californians and Northerners, they flee failed strongman and progressive governments to come to the free parts of America, only to drag their failed political philosophies with them).
That brings up another question: if that is indeed the case, do illegal immigrants ever feel convicted about breaking the laws of the United States in being here? I was once told of two examples; in both cases, the heads of the families were Christian pastors, and voluntarily deported themselves back to their home countries. That’s a drop in the bucket.
All I’m asking for is that the same rigorous standard applied to Americans—and, let’s be real, we’re talking about middle- and upper-class white Americans—be applied to everyone else. I love meeting people from around the world. I love learning about other cultures and their music, food, traditions, etc.
But I also love my culture, and I want to preserve it. That’s a perfectly natural, even healthy, response. Appreciate and tolerate differences—but protect what you love.
America is a generous and tolerant country. But those qualities are not limitless.