Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Immigration Cultural Divide.

The New York Times has an annoying policy of putting their opinion content behind a firewall. Even when a columnist is published in a local paper, the column is not available online without cost. Today, the San Diego Union-Tribune published a column by Times writer David Brooks about the cultural divide in America today.

Brooks sees the divide as being between those who went to university and those who didn't. And it's not liberal versus conservative. As he explains:
"Liberal members of the educated class celebrated the cultural individualism of the 1960s. Conservative members celebrated the economic individualism of the 1980s. But they all celebrated individualism. They all valued diversity and embraced a sense of national identity that rested on openness and global integration."
His thumbnail description of the clash is this. "People with university values favor intermingling. People with neighborhood values favor assimilation."

Like all dichotomies Brooks's analysis is a bit false. People rarely choose so neatly between competing philosophies; ideologues may but most people, I think, tend to run back and forth between the extremes. Few people favor a total lack of assimilation just as few favor allowing for no diversity at all.

Still, Brooks seems to have hit on something and he has put his finger on one reason today's culture clash is so heated.
"What has made the clashes so poisonous is that many members of the educated class do not even recognize that they are facing a rival philosophy. Many of them assume that anybody who disagrees with them on immigration must be driven by racism, insecurity, or some primitive nativism. This smug attitude sends members of the communal, nationalistic side into fits of alienation and prickly defensiveness. It is what makes many of them, in turn, so unpleasant."
He's right about that but only partly. Anyone who has listened to Laura Ingram or watched Lou Dobbs or read Patrick Buchanan, or in Southern California tuned in to Rick Roberts in San Diego or John and Ken in Los Angeles, knows just how unpleasant the neighborhood values set can be.

That unpleasantness can't all be attributed to an angry reaction at being looked down on by smug university values people. For instance, I've heard San Diego's KFMB Radio talk show host Roberts run promotions for his show in which he rants that once we are done in Iraq and Afghanistan, we do something about Mexico. And I don't think he had in mind asking Mexico to please, pretty please do something about the border. Other promotions he's run have had him crowing about how he's warned us all before that one day we'd wake up and there'd be a Mariachi band in the front yard, and then taunting us to do something about it. He wants his country back, you see.

Another thing Brooks doesn't acknowledge is how much those on the nationalistic side of the immigration debate discredit the motives of those on the other side. To many of them, pro-immigrationists have all sold out America to corporations or foreign governments, Mexico especially, and are willingly paving the way for the destruction of America's sovereignty and the replacement of our country with an international union of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The thought that maybe the pro-immigrationists also love America never seems to cross their minds.

-tdr

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