I Love What I Leave

I understand why millions come to the U.S., given the wretched poverty of Latin America, the proximity of the U.S. border, the ability to work here, and the generosity of the American people and government. I don’t understand at all the ensuing iconography of the open-borders movement.

Why the obsession with the Mexican flag and the racialist identification with La Raza and the reversion to 19th century ethnic chauvinism? Why the ethnic stickers on cars, on mobile kitchens, and on homes?

I am confused, because such overt identification with Mexico and its culture is embedded within a movement demanding American citizenship. But here again is the rub: in the entire debate over illegal immigration, almost nothing is ever spoken about why millions are leaving Mexico and why they prefer the United States. And given that fact, why is the natural impulse of so many of the La Raza leadership to criticize America and to be so gentle toward Mexico? One country creates conditions — corruption, statism, racism, class divisions, lack of transparency, lack of the rule of law, etc. — that drive out millions of its own. Another allows just those millions to cross its borders to enjoy the antithesis of what they left. Given that, why would Mexican nationals boo an American team at the L.A. Coliseum, and scream approbation for a Mexican one? I offer possible explanations for the inexplicable.

1) Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans involved in the immigration debate feel a sense of public anger unfairly directed at them for the present intolerable situation of illegal immigration, even though employers and ethnic politicians were mutually at fault. It is a natural human reaction to push back. Therefore, while no one in his right mind prefers to return to Oaxaca, or to suggest that the protocols of Tijuana are superior to those in San Diego, it is difficult to admit just that, and to confirm your critics’ position. So we of the host country are to remain mature and to read between the lines: “Yes, I wave the Mexican flag. And, yes I fully agree with the La Raza complaint against America. But I do so more from hurt, not sincerity. And you, of the majority culture, are therefore supposed to fathom that natural human compensation, of one in a sort of humiliation forced to leave his own world to seek the world of others. As I wave my Mexican flag, grant me that small indulgence for a while — that I most certainly do not wish to live under the flag I wave, but prefer living under the flag I cannot wave, for understandable psychological reasons.”

2) There is no overt sense of Mexico or the United States. There is a just a there and a here. Millions go “there” and then end up “here.” Who cares what we call it? Borders are irrelevant, just constructs. The American Southwest looks a lot like Mexico. People just go where work or entitlements are, and don’t worry why or how that is so, at least in the larger existential sense. The attraction of the United States is not “capitalism” or “democracy” or “the law,” but mostly that one can achieve a lot higher standard of living there than in Mexico, while oddly enjoying much of the cultural landscape of Mexico, given the sheer millions involved in illegal immigration. That is, life in an Orange Cover or Parlier is a lot more livable than in a comparable small town in Oaxaca, in the sense of sanitation, security, water, health care, transportation, consumer goods, and education. But it is also not really all that foreign either — signs are in Spanish; most speak Spanish and are of Mexican ancestry. Food, culture, and behavior have as much in common with Mexico as with America, resulting in the best of both worlds: a Mexico without Mexico. Why worry about why or how that is so, much less silly things like flags: just enjoy that it is so, and let others more neurotic sort it all out.

3) The more one hammers American culture — its history of supposed racism, its unfairness to the nation of Mexico, its white male privilege — the more it is likely to grant concessions out of guilt. If the host nation either cannot define its own culture or cannot explain its attractions, why then should the immigrant do so for the inept host? If under the present system, a 17-year-old can young person can cross the border illegally, reside illegally for a brief tenure, and then apply to school without worry of audit, and eventually qualify for affirmative action as a victim of historic prejudices, why would anyone seek to dismantle such an advantageous system? The prevailing mood, then, is that the host or mostly majority culture is played out, devoid of pride or knowledge of its own tenets, and all too eager to offer compensations the more one indicts it. So the more one indicts it, the more benefits will accrue. Why stop?