Friday, September 23, 2022

A Nation of Settlers

 From American Mind:

When we consider the lie that America is a nation of immigrants, the really important question to ask is: how does this lie serve the regime? What’s the instrumental purpose of this lie? And I think, that, if we inquire a bit, it’s political purpose is clear. If we’re a nation of immigrants, fundamentally, then we are wrong not to just throw open the door. We’d be violating our most sacred and eternal traditions not to do that. If you don’t want to do that, you’re not just a bigot, you’re not just a racist, but you’re fundamentally anti-American in some way. That is the narrative that this lie serves.

By contrast, David Azerrad said in a recent speech: “There is simply no precedent in human history for sovereign states voluntarily importing into their homelands untold millions of people of different colors, creeds, and cultures for decades on end. This is what tyrants do to conquer a broken people, to pacify them. It is not something that the natives willfully do to themselves.” And I think that that is pretty much right on the money.

To begin with, it’s important to note that immigrants have never been the dominant force in American society. Even during the last century, when we have had very historically high levels of immigration, we’ve never had higher than about a 15% immigrant population. Indeed in my own lifetime, Immigrants have been as little as 4.7% of the population, as they were in the 1970 census, which was the one taken just a little bit before I was born. When more than 95% of people, even in modern times, are not immigrants, your nation is not inherently defined by the other less-than-5%.

The 1970 census most closely reflects the demographics of the population just before Hart-Celler, the 1965 Immigration Act, took full effect on America. Essentially, the overwhelming majority of people in America 1970 were white or African-American. We had some Hispanics as well (about 3.5% of the population, but many of them had been here for a long time, 80% of them had actually been born in the United States, as opposed to a little more than 60% today. That’s how my mother grew up in Phoenix, around this sort of community. Less than 1% of our population were Asian Americans, and most of those were recent arrivals. Then, obviously, you had Native Americans, who had been here before the United States even existed as a political entity.

On an absolute basis, we now have more than three times the number of immigrants that we had at any previous time in American history. So, that’s just kind of the naïve empirics. But let’s talk about something a little bit deeper. And interestingly, some of the best arguments for my thesis, that we’re not a nation of immigrants, quite unintentionally come from the far Left.

There’s a leftist scholar, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who wrote a bestselling book using the currently fashionable framework, called Not a Nation of Immigrants. This came out last year. And though Dunbar-Ortiz deplores what she describes, while I’m generally, favorably disposed to it, I think that on the factual matter, we agree on a number of fundamental points. And that is because at first we did not begin as a nation of immigrants. We began as a nation of settlers. And I that’s, I think, a critically important distinction.

The pilgrims, when they showed up at Plymouth Rock, were not looking to join the existing Native American society. They were looking to build their own city upon a hill. Now, of course, that led to inevitable conflicts. There were plenty of atrocities on both sides, and those have been documented extensively. But that doesn’t erase the fundamental, empirical point about what was going on here. And it isn’t just radical historians that are saying this. This is a commentary that goes back to the early days of America.

One of the most interesting things about de Tocqueville, for instance, is that he does not mention immigrants or immigration at all in Democracy in America, written in 1830. The word immigrant or immigration does not appear even once. And that does not mean that there were no immigrants to the United States at that point—of course not. They did exist. But I think it’s important that de Tocqueville was touring the country before the first really great wave of immigration—and it really was immigration in this case—of non-British people to the United States after the failed revolutions of 1848 and the Irish Potato Famine, also of 1848. But there was nothing like that in the years before de Tocqueville’s period of time, and it’s important to note that this was the first 210 years plus of European settlement in the United States. We are closer in time to de Tocqueville today, than de Tocqueville was to the founding colonies of America. (Read more.)


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