Category Archives: Immigration

The Irish Model

As I was looking for a suitable reference to America’s long history of prejudice against the Catholics I found this interesting web page. It debunks the NINA memories of American Irish. (No Irish Need Apply) Regardless of the truth of the NINA signs anti-Catholic prejudice flourished until even after John Kennedy. Perhaps our current Da Vinci Code mania is a little echo of this past.

The comment on the page which intrigued me the most was about the resistance to doing well in school. Well Duh, any boy knows this. The boy who knows all the answers is likely to be unpopular with his less academic fellows who would rather get their play and aggressions out on the playground than in text books which are the preserve of the people who look down their noses at you.

This attitude is crippling. Its particulary devastating in the black inner city and it could become a problem with the growing Hispanic population. It is exacerbated by unequal school finance.

“This was part of the most sickening aspect of Irish-American life in those days: the assumption that if you rose above an acceptable level of mediocrity, you were guilty of the sin of pride. You were to accept your place and stay in it for the rest of your life; the true rewards would be given to you in heaven, after you were dead. There was ferocious pressure to conform, to avoid breaking out of the pack; self-denial was the supreme virtue…it was arrogant, a sin of pride, to conceive of a life beyond the certainties, rhythms, and traditions of the Neighborhood. Sometimes the attitude was expressed directlyMore often, it was implied. But the Neighborhood view of the world had fierce power. Who did I think I was?”

Our nation’s unwillingness to fully integrate and inspire newcomers when they are young and maleable will have unfortunate repercussions long into the future. Just look at western Europe and their unhappy and only partially assimilated young Muslims.

South of the Border

It occurred to me yesterday that as the 9/11 terrorists blew up the World Trade Towers the anti-immigration coalition seems intent on blowing up the Statue of Liberty – at least metaphorically. Its not the first time in our history that we’ve panicked about all those foriegners crossing our borders. There was anti Irish/Catholic sentiment from the potato famine years through the Civil War. There was the Yellow Peril Era and after 1st World War the Red Scare during which we rounded up immigrants with dangerous ideas and shipped them back to Europe.

I heard a sociologist once say that on average a person begins to get uncomfortable with his neighborhood when 7% of the neighbors start coming from somewhere else. In the 1950’s and 60’s fifties whole blocks of white people would buy a house rather than let its owner sell it to a black family. When those neighborhoods were breached “white flight” often ensued.The current rush to build a Berlin Wall on our Mexican border is coming from Southwestern states. The white residents there are getting a worried about all their brown skinned gardeners and nannies. Their solution is to build a wall.

This is the most rational commentary I’ve read yet about the hysteria over the Mexican/American border. Money Quote:

“Apparently, we’ve reached a tipping point of sorts; a perfect storm of post-9/11 security concern, cultural angst, and labor protectionism. Unfortunately, the restrictionists appear to be far more interested in simply doing something than in effectively resolving those concerns. There are, in the end, solutions far more consistent with US values, national security and the free-market wariness of government.”

Yglesias Award

One of Andrew Sullivan’s best ideas is an award he gives to pundits who, as Sullivan puts it: “actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.” I’m not sure who Yglesias is (because I don’t have an index of pundits) but Sullivan gives one of these awards to Markos Moulitsas, the very liberal blogger of the Daily Kos’s for showing that not all Republicans are xenophobes.