“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” begins the famous poem by Emma Lazarus emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty. When I was kid, it elicited a frog in my throat. The idea of it still does. But something’s gone wrong. Wildly wrong.
And what’s wrong isn’t so hard to figure out. Back in those days, and in the days before that, most of those coming to America wanted to assimilate into this burgeoning democratic society. Those that were having trouble, that were stuck in old-country ways, were known as “greenhorns” and worked hard to escape that pejorative, to become true Americans themselves. They wanted to be one of us, to live the dream together, win or lose.
These days, not so much.
These days — inspired by jingoism of nitwit ultra-nationalists like La Raza and amplified by our own cultural ambivalence — legal and illegal immigrants coming from south of the border often prefer to keep their allegiance to their home country. For many, perhaps most, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans Cinco de Mayo is their national holiday, not the Fourth of July. And heaven help Team USA when doing battle on the soccer field with Mexico.
These are small matters, of course, but they prefigure much larger ones. And now we are confronted with an immigration problem that may ultimately dwarf the one on our southern border. The Middle East is in flames, half of its countries, possibly more, in a state of disintegration. Migrants are fleeing in every direction, mostly to Germany where the doors have been opened, at least for now, by Angela Merkel. Not to be outdone, our morally narcissistic leaders have jumped into the fray, proclaiming our doors at least ajar for the downtrodden of Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and who knows where else. (We already know about the Chechens.)
Who are these people? Our Latin neighbors are culturally Christian and assimilable at least in that sense. But the Middle East? Are these Syrians “yearning to breathe free”? Really? Then where have they been the last fifty years while Syria has been an unmitigated totalitarian hellhole ruled by one Assad after the other? Fairly passive about freedom, I would say, except for the handful who managed to come here. The truth is — freedom and democracy are not a profound, or even a superficial, part of their culture. We found that out most obviously in the Iraq war that was inspired, rightly or wrong, by an idealistic urge to democratize the Middle East. How did that go? (Let’s not go into here how almost everyone in our government, from Donald Rumsfeld to Hillary Clinton to John Kerry, signed on to that goal. It was natural American optimistic idealism, even though the “liberals” now act as if it never happened or they were not involved.)
It seems now that we did not realize just how antithetical Islamic culture was to ours, how deeply embedded in the seventh century. We thought somehow that “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!” would prevail over centuries of misogyny, homophobia and sharia. Oh, well. So now what? Do we admit these Syrian and other Middle Eastern migrants, over three-quarters of whom are apparently male? What are they going to do when they find they are alone on the streets of our cities, unemployed, impoverished, without female companionship and unable to send for their families (if they ever intended to do so)? Blame the West, of course. Will they join ISIS or some similar lunatic group of violent fanatics (if they weren’t already members)? The ideology of their birth gives them perfect justification.
This new migration is as perfect a recipe for disaster as you could find. I hate to sound like an exclusionist in the melting pot, but I would be lying to say that we should admit any of these people. Well, maybe one or two, after they are vetted for a dozen years or so (not exactly cost effective). And, ironically, the only way for the Middle East to change is for these people to stay and fight it out. (Yes, it could take a thousand years.)
Donald Trump, who evidently feels the same way, opened the door on the immigration question and got branded a racist for it. Of course he’s not. He was only talking honestly, if a bit coarsely, about social problems we’re having. For the left, it’s much easier and more effective to accuse him of racism. Otherwise, they’d have to deal with the problem. Who wants that? It might cost you votes. Nevertheless, bad as this southern immigration may be with all the attendant crime, we can survive it. We will assimilate in the end. We can come together.
This potential Middle Eastern migration is a different matter. Far more fateful in our evolving, oh-so-modern society. You have to laugh when you think about the culture clash as Islamic kids deal with the transgendered bathrooms in our schools. But you stop laughing when you think who’s going to win that clash, ultimately. And it’s not the transgendered.
UPDATE: As I completed this post, I notice via Instapundit that the strongest opponent of sharia law in the United States among all the presidential candidates has risen to the top of the polls. That is Dr. Ben Carson. So what I have written above may not be the opinion of a minority crank.
(Artwork by Shutterstock.com.)