Contra Turba Barbara

Some time ago, I read a book about a hungry bunny horde.  Being someone who has the somewhat unusual tendency to connect children’s books to the contemporary fears and concerns of adult life, I found this anti-immigration message to be deeply interesting [1].  At the time, I did not see just how relevant it would be, since I am not particularly active in nativist political trends nor necessarily sympathetic to an outright hostility to people from other countries as a general rule.  A large part of that stems from logical consistency as well as personal experience.  I have lived abroad and understood the tensions of a nation being accepting of strange and sometimes irritating foreigners from the point of view of the outsider as well as the insider.  Likewise, as a descendant of a largely immigrant ancestors, including a grandparent who was born abroad (albeit in Canada), I tend to have a great deal of sympathy (even empathy) for people who view exile from their native land as a small price to pay for the chance of a better life.  Likewise, I have personally known and generally been friendly towards individual immigrants who have found their way here and been hard-working and decent living people, whether they came from the Philippines or Great Britain or Suriname or Zimbabwe or Mexico or anywhere else.  As a person who has pursued travel as a means of self-improvement, I can hardly be hostile to anyone else who has done so as a decent and honorable person with a strong degree of concern to serve for the well-being of the new and strange place they have found themselves.

But I am also a student of demographics and I am fully aware of and deeply concerned about the difference between individuals and hordes.  And it is that difference, I think, that accounts for the distinction people make between their own immigrant pasts and their own fondness for individual immigrants they know and like and the phenomenon of mass immigration that they view with considerable horror and at best deep suspicion.  While the massive international transfers of money are problematic themselves, they are largely invisible to most people, who only see the repercussions of it in the purchasing power of immigrants with connection to outside sources of income and wealth, or in advertisements for companies that transfer money abroad aimed at immigrants supporting their families in their home countries.  Context matters a great deal.  Individual immigrants can be easily acculturated and viewed as unthreatening and even beneficial to their new neighbors, but hordes tend to view their size as a key to gaining political power and social influence, which is more unwelcome to would-be host nations.

Context matters a great deal.  For example, over the past few days there has been a substantial brouhaha over a growing caravan that began in Honduras and is heading towards the United States.  Beginning with about 7,000 Hondurans associated with that country’s leftist opposition, the caravan has grown with its passage through the rest of Central America, and its approach to the United States is fraught with concern that things will get bloody.  Anyone remotely familiar with American history will understand that massive movements of population by a politically motivated group of people constitutes an invasion.  One need only comment briefly about the movement of colonists west of the Appalachians into Western Pennsylvania and Virginia and the Carolinas in the decade before the American Revolution and its impact on the tribes there, on the massive immigration into Cherokee territory in the early 19th century and into Texas, Oregon Country, California, and Oklahoma and the political changes that resulted as a result of that population movement to understand the threat here.  Having failed to spread left-wing political ideals in Honduras, it is easy to imagine that being the aim here, with a corresponding degree of built-in hostility from those whose hostility to leftist political agitation is already pretty high.

War is politics by other means, and the difference between a sympathetic population of immigrants and that which is a mortal threat is the political aim of the people.  A population that has endured horrors and wants a safe harbor and is generally not strongly political in its behavior is far easier to sympathize with.  England and the American colonies were a safe refuge for French Huguenots fleeing from religious persecution because they shared some important qualities with their host countries–Protestant religion and anti-French feeling.  Likewise, refugees from Southeast Asia in the 1970’s could be counted on to be anti-Communist from their survival of the horrors there.  More ominously, not all refugees are this obviously easy to help.  Many of those who fled from Hitler’s Germany for political reasons (as opposed to his violence against Jews) were themselves leftists whose role in the United States was malign.  And it is precisely that concern, that many contemporary migrants are far more interested in changing the culture of where they go than seeking opportunities for a better life, that makes such immigration so contentious.  There is little hostility towards those who work hard and make education and decent living a priority and seek to better themselves while simultaneously bettering the United States as a whole.  There is a great deal of hostility, in contrast, to those who wish to enter en masse into the United States (or Europe) with strong interests of helping to encourage change through demographic and political pressure.  Sending the military against such barbarian hordes to stop this sort of invasion by force appears to be precisely the proper response to those who would wish to corrupt our nation in such a fashion.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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