I’ve got a really bad habit. I read things and start wanting to form opinions before I’ve even finished the article, let alone mentally processed it and done some checking around on the subject. I suppose that first part is a pre-initial reaction or second paragraph reaction. I fall in the trap that a lot of people do. I have an interest in the subject but want to cut right to my point instead of digesting the material and seeing whether or not this changes the way I think about things. At least I recognize this and make a concerted effort to combat it. The second part is that my mind goes in about 20 different directions and I can’t really control it very well. I think that I should let it wander around pinging off ideas and see if anything sticks and makes sense.
Anyway… the article that illustrates this recent form of brain-buzzing was this. One thing about this is that it is a reaction to a reaction. So, if I add my reaction to it, things become very muddled because now things are third-hand news. Is that even news? That seems a bit more like a rumor or Chinese whispers. Unfortunately, the world begins to devolve into the internet abbreviation, TLDR, too long, didn’t read. So, in order to correct the mistakes of the world, I read the links within the article…
The more I hear and read about immigration issues, the more I’m convinced that there’s more than one issue at work.
The issue of immigrants contributing to society is an interesting one. Most people (all except the Indians) have family who chose to come to America, or were forced to come here. Our family came from Ireland to America for a couple of reasons. The first was that Ireland wasn’t a very nice to live at the turn of the century. It was under absolutely brutal occupation by the British. The second was an economic reason. It was a very poor place, as well. The US looked like a good place for someone who already spoke English and wanted to get away from the fighting and make a decent living.
The need for cheap labor in the US was large and our family fit the bill. The Irish were seen as non-white and a threat to the culture. We were large families with “clannish tendencies” and Catholic. The Poles and the Italians were in the same boat – probably lower because they didn’t speak English. 100 years or so later, we’ve adapted pretty well to America. That’s not to say that the Irish completely changed to become American in the sense of word that natives in 1900 claimed that the Irish weren’t. They left their mark on America and America left its mark on them. Neither one was the same afterwards. Now, we are an extricable part of America.
You can apply the Irish story to all the immigrant waves throughout America’s history. We’ve all changed the country for the better or for the worse. The Chinese, Mexicans, Italians (and on and on…) do the same.
Now I ask myself – what does this do to today’s picture with respect to an immigration debate. There’s no doubt that waves of immigration are making this country increasingly populous. Some fear that this will have disastrous effects on the environment and will ruin our quality of life and our country will become a third world country. This is a similar argument that Malthus used – that the population was growing faster than the food supply. When you extrapolate from the trend, there will be massive levels of starvation.
The one problem will Malthus’s estimation was that he ignored technological innovations that would increase crop yields. He also did not anticipate demographic changes in industrialized countries. Family sizes shrank dramatically as the country became more and more industrialized. This seems to be a condition that is almost a demographic law.
One other issue at hand is culture. Many people are afraid that as more and more “foreigners” come in, the incoming culture will win out because immigrant growth rates are higher than native rates. This is more of an emotional issue.
When you look at the history of populations in the world, this is a real trend. The Vikings, Germanic tribes and Normans throughout centuries systematically wiped out the native English population that had lived there since the Ice Age. Their languages and cultures were completely replaced. Vikings were encouraged to rape English women and kill English men. Within a couple of generations, nearly all English people were at least part Germanic.
It is frightening to think that the culture that we hold so dear to us will disappear or at least dissipate due to the influence of immigrants’ culture. It’s scary to think that the Irish and German culture of both sides of my family will be replaced by Hispanic or Asian culture. They are so foreign to me. I’ll never adopt those cultures apart from partial exposure to them by way of restaurants, movies and neighbors/friends/coworkers. On the other hand, I wouldn’t expect anyone not from a similar background to get terribly excited about my culture. The truth is, most people don’t care about other people’s culture unless it’s on a vacation or in a restaurant.
So, I think the whole debate is based on a couple of things. One is the fear of the US becoming a province of Mexico or China. The culture here will disappear and be replaced by a completely different one. It’s scary but I’m sure that the incoming foreigners will have to adapt to our culture. Never forget that each one of us has a background that is a blend of some native population mixed with another conquering population.
Another part of the debate is control of the amount of labor in the country to prevent the already existing labor force from having to adapt to an ever-changing economic environment. This is basically the US sticking its head in the sand and lying to itself that it doesn’t have to change to grow. It’s trying to legislate this idea into reality. The problem is that shutting out foreigners to one of the most attractive labor markets in the world isn’t going to help. Individuals may keep their jobs but people’s incomes relative to world prices will stagnate and eventually fall.
Interestingly enough, I don’t consider myself very American. I’ve felt closer to the Irish part of the Irish-American label slapped on us. Even so, it’s not really something I dwell on. I suppose that my ethnicity is something of a background to me. It’s the context in which my upbringing and understanding of the world has come about.
I like to think of myself as myself. I’ve never really associated with groups. Fanclubs, associations, political groups, organized religion… they’ve all been huge turnoffs to me. The idea of anything where I have to subjugate my ego to some cause leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. So, I’ve resigned myself to myself. That’s all I can control and all I’m equipped to do.