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Commentary: Fear of losing culture fuels immigration debate


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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- You must know what's really driving the immigration debate. It's the culture, stupid.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Some opponents of immigration, even the legal kind, fear changes in local culture.

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Immigration restrictionists -- and by that, I mean those who want to limit all immigration, even the legal kind -- like to pretend they're so high-minded. Yet they can't help themselves. They always take the low road and harken back to the nativism that greeted earlier waves of immigrants.

The restrictionists insist that what bothers them are merely practical concerns: that our borders aren't secure, that so many immigrants are coming into the country illegally, and that the new arrivals are burdening schools and draining social services once they get here.

Really? If that's the extent of it, then why does the conversation quickly turn to the impact -- both real and perceived -- that immigrants have on American culture through everything from taco trucks to Spanish-language billboards.

That seems to be the issue in North Dakota, where, according to a recent article in USA Today, towns facing tough economic times are nonetheless resisting a cultural transfusion that could save them. In Cooperstown, the locals opposed efforts to bring in a hog plant and a dairy, because those kind of dirty and hard jobs are likely to attract ... guess who? American kids who work at Starbucks? Nope.

The article quotes Orville Tranby, a local community leader in Cooperstown, who says that some residents have told him "face to face" that such facilities might attract Hispanic immigrants who could change the local culture.

You'll find the same fear in Lewisburg, Tennessee. Not long ago, an employee at a local library came up with the radical idea of a bilingual story time where children could hear tales read to them in Spanish. Townspeople wanted no part of that. They demanded that all books purchased by the library, or even donated, be in English-only.

These stories are ridiculous, but they're also helpful. They illustrate what some people are really concerned about with immigration, and it goes well beyond words like "legal" or "illegal."

It's the perception that the country is becoming more Hispanic, that Spanish is replacing English, that Hispanic immigrants are weakening American identity, and that Main Street is turning into Little Mexico. A leader of the vigilante Minuteman movement moronically called it the "colonization" of the United States.

This sort of rhetoric is all about fear -- that those who thrive in the dominant culture are losing their primacy, that the mainstream is being polluted by foreigners, and that our children are going to live in a world where they're going to have to work a lot harder to keep up.

It conjures up the alarm bells that Benjamin Franklin set off about German immigrants in the late 18th century, who he insisted could never adopt the culture of the English, but would "swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours." It popped up in the mid-19th century amid worries that Chinese immigrants were "unassimilable," which led to Congress approving the explicitly-named Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. And it helped welcome the 20th century when Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge warned that immigrants (read: the Irish) were diluting "the quality of (U.S.) citizenship" and others complained that Italian immigrants were uneducated, low skilled, apt to send all their money to their home country and prone to criminal activity.

Where have we heard that before? And when will we hear it again? After all, Hispanics may be the latest group to find themselves in a culture war with nativists. But they won't be the last.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/12/04/navarrette/index.html

Interesting commentary. What say YOU?

 

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name one well run hispanic country that has a decent standard of living other than the possibility of Spain (where virtually no legal immigration and no illegal immigration is coming from)

That and the fact that I have gotten a first-hand dose of their culture is why I dont want an influx of it.

Pencilpusher, I dont know if you meant that video as a joke at illegals or at Americans who dont like illegals, but I dont have much sympathy for someone who goes through a lot of effort and hardship in an attempt to break our laws. Why is it that we laugh at criminals who injure themselves (such as the Darwin Awards category) but feel differently about illegals? Fundamentally, its the same...you have someone who is knowingly breaking the law. Back when we had the situation where that idiot American broke the law in Singapore and was going to be caned I thought it was a bit extreme but still respected the fact that it was the law of that country. I didnt expect them to change their laws.

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So, basically, what this guy is saying is that we're not entitled to our own culture?

What the **** is it with this kind of thing? Why is it okay for everyone else to have a culture except Americans? Why must we "respect" and "embrace" (these are euphemisms for the actual goal, folks) everyone's culture but our own? Why is it okay for people to come in and burden an already burdened system, create trouble in schools (having to provide for teaching in two languages strains the resources of schools that are already undersupported), increase crime rates (check the stats on that one), and set up enclaves of their own culture that VIGOROUSLY resist assimilation, but the people who already live here and have worked to make this country what it is can't be upset at the idea that the culture they grew up embracing is no longer considered "politically correct"?

Why is it okay for people to break our laws simply because they want to? Why is it that our security is compromised on behalf of people who do not care about our country but merely want to sponge off of it? Why is it that it has become such a horrible thing to be PROUD TO BE AMERICAN? Why am I considered intolerant because I want to preserve MY heritage and MY culture and MY language?

I really wish I understood this. I wish I understood why some people look down on me for demanding that my government enforce its own laws and protect the people who enable it to exist. I wish I understood why some people are willing to support any culture except the one that ALLOWS THEM TO ACT THE WAY THEY DO. Mexico doesn't allow dissidents to speak out. It doesn't allow immigrants to have any rights whatsoever. Illegal immigrants are dealt with quite harshly. And yet, somehow, we should EMBRACE that culture and the people who, rather than fighting to change it, would much rather come here and take and take and take.

People like this make my blood boil because they're basically saying that I'm wrong to fear for the future of my culture in the face of what truly amounts to a cultural invasion. He speaks about previous waves of immigration, but there's one key difference: those waves were willing to play by the rules of this country. The current wave wants its own rules and the powers that be are ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN.

I understand the reality that we need laborers. However, I do not understand why it is that they are so indulged or why our government won't do a damned thing to stop the flood across our border.

It sure would be nice to have a president of either party who would OBEY the oath of office, where the new president swears to UPHOLD THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES AND PROTECT HER PEOPLE.

But we don't. We have political hacks and cowards. And it's a damned shame.

Direwolf

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That and the fact that I have gotten a first-hand dose of their culture is why I dont want an influx of it.

Pencilpusher, I dont know if you meant that video as a joke at illegals or at Americans who dont like illegals, but I dont have much sympathy for someone who goes through a lot of effort and hardship in an attempt to break our laws. Why is it that we laugh at criminals who injure themselves (such as the Darwin Awards category) but feel differently about illegals? Fundamentally, its the same...you have someone who is knowingly breaking the law. Back when we had the situation where that idiot American broke the law in Singapore and was going to be caned I thought it was a bit extreme but still respected the fact that it was the law of that country. I didnt expect them to change their laws.

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I have stated my stance on illegals quite often. They are criminals. If you come here legally. wonderful, welcome aboard.If you are here illegally you should be arrested and deported. I just thought the vid was funny.

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This article doesnt seem to say anything about illegal immigration NOT being a problem. Most everyone agrees that it is. This article takes up the idea that many Americans dont even want LEGAL immigrants coming into their country because of their fear of loosing American culture. Bilingual classes, spanish billboards, people HATE these realities. Even when Mexicans immigrate legally, they are still given a hard time when they want to do anything in this country that relates to their own culture.

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I have stated my stance on illegals quite often. They are criminals. If you come here legally. wonderful, welcome aboard.If you are here illegally you should be arrested and deported. I just thought the vid was funny.

I havent been around here that long. I wasn't trying to call you out, just saying I wasn't sure which end of the debate you were coming from. I was afraid it was a similar situation to the media making it seem illegal immigration is ok because that one guy saved someone's life. It was a great act....don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't pardon a bank robber just because he stopped his get-away to give someone CPR

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This article doesnt seem to say anything about illegal immigration NOT being a problem. Most everyone agrees that it is. This article takes up the idea that many Americans dont even want LEGAL immigrants coming into their country because of their fear of loosing American culture. Bilingual classes, spanish billboards, people HATE these realities. Even when Mexicans immigrate legally, they are still given a hard time when they want to do anything in this country that relates to their own culture.

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Hmmm.. example of them being given a hard time for doing anything related to their culture?

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Hmmm.. example of them being given a hard time for doing anything related to their culture?

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I gave a couple; bilingual classes and billboards in spanish. There have been arguments about both on these boards. Maybe I should have said it as: they get a hard time for trying to incorporate parts of their culture into ours, in these two cases, its their language.

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Hmmm.. example of them being given a hard time for doing anything related to their culture?

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I gave a couple; bilingual classes and billboards in spanish. There have been arguments about both on these boards. Maybe I should have said it as: they get a hard time for trying to incorporate parts of their culture into ours, in these two cases, its their language.

Edited: Today @ 12:31 PM by TerminusTiercel

 

Seriously though, why are we teaching classes in 2 languages? Is it really our responsibility to educate the children of illegal immigrants?

By all measure they shouldn't be here anyway.  It's really corporations that push this issue, because of their need for cheap labor.

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and if we didnt operate our borders like trying to stop a Mac Truck with toilet paper, we wouldnt have 18 million illegals who are attempting to change our culture so basically the article is pointless

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I dontknow if some of you cant read or just dont. Again, the article is talking about LEGAL immigrants who bring aspects of their culture, such as the language, to America, and THAT upsets some Americans.

Here is a quote from the article: "Some opponents of immigration, even the legal kind, fear changes in local culture"

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My point, though, is what's wrong with being upset at the idea of changes to your culture that you don't like? After all, if you think about it, the reason that the immigrants won't assimilate is because they don't want to lose THEIR culture. So, why on earth should it be okay for THEM (when they're the visitors here) and not for ME? Why can't I be worried about my culture being supplanted because people are more interested in catering to everyone but their own countrymen?

Direwolf

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My point, though, is what's wrong with being upset at the idea of changes to your culture that you don't like? After all, if you think about it, the reason that the immigrants won't assimilate is because they don't want to lose THEIR culture. So, why on earth should it be okay for THEM (when they're the visitors here) and not for ME? Why can't I be worried about my culture being supplanted because people are more interested in catering to everyone but their own countrymen

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Good point. But it is only natural to be effected by those living among you. It has happened in every point in history where two or more societies have intermingled. But this country was built on the idea that cultures can mix and live together, which should make it unique. So whose culture iin America is being affected? The Irish? Black America? Jewish America? All of these people already live next to one another. The idea that Mexican's are going to be the proverbial straw that takes America from a melting pot to a taco salad is ridiculous.

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havent been around here that long. I wasn't trying to call you out, just saying I wasn't sure which end of the debate you were coming from. I was afraid it was a similar situation to the media making it seem illegal immigration is ok because that one guy saved someone's life. It was a great act....don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't pardon a bank robber just because he stopped his get-away to give someone CPR

Hey man, no problem. I didn't feel called out at all. Hard to see emotions behind the typing but I felt no ofense at all in your questions.

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I gave a couple; bilingual classes and billboards in spanish. There have been arguments about both on these boards. Maybe I should have said it as: they get a hard time for trying to incorporate parts of their culture into ours, in these two cases, its their language.

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Those two things have nothing to do with culture, it is a communication issue. I myself feel if you wish to come here, even legally you should learn the language, WANT to learn the language just to make it easier to communicate. I don't go to Hong Kong and demand everyone else learn english. It's just common sense.If someone comes up to me, in the country where I was born and starts speaking their language, is it my fault for not understanding them or their fault for not learning the language spoken here?

Instead of seeing them as being hassled, one should praise the fact that there are bilingual signs and ATM machines and such provided for them.

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I dontknow if some of you cant read or just dont. Again, the article is talking about LEGAL immigrants who bring aspects of their culture, such as the language, to America, and THAT upsets some Americans.

Here is a quote from the article: "Some opponents of immigration, even the legal kind, fear changes in local culture"

I understand the article perfectly well...the problem in our communication here lies in your inability to see the big picture and to only see what the media wants you to see, much like most of the sheep here in America. Since you seem unable to extrapolate basic concepts, I will spell it out for you.

In order to change a country's culture, at least one of two things are necessary. Large numbers of people in relation to the country's total population or massive amounts of money. My point is that if it werent for the illegal immigrants, there wouldnt be enough Latins/Mexicans here to make any significant changes in our culture. In other words (just making sure you get it), there wouldnt be enough Latins/Mexicans here to change our culture if we were just talking about the ones that are here legally. That makes his article completely pointless.

Got it?

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Those two things have nothing to do with culture, it is a communication issue. I myself feel if you wish to come here, even legally you should learn the language, WANT to learn the language just to make it easier to communicate. I don't go to Hong Kong and demand everyone else learn english. It's just common sense.If someone comes up to me, in the country where I was born and starts speaking their language, is it my fault for not understanding them or their fault for not learning the language spoken here?

Instead of seeing them as being hassled, one should praise the fact that there are bilingual signs and ATM machines and such provided for them.

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Language is a part of culture. And I do very much believe that they need to learn English. But you confused me with the last sentence. Who is being hassled? I agree that it is a good thing there are bilingual signs and such.

The article said that people want stronger immigration laws because they think that will keep our culture from changing. I just think that our culture will change either way, but it will not become a Mexican based culture. America is more flexible than that.

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TerminusTiercel :Yea I got it, but I dont agree.

 

That doesnt much matter. The only way a foreign culture can change a country's culture (non-violent) is to have sufficient influence. Do me a favor and find one instance where a country's culture was changed in a relatively short period of time (again, non-violent or under threat of arms) where the 'invading' culture did not have either large numbers or large amounts of money. Look at the Muslim influence in The Netherlands. Subtract 18 million illegal aliens from the Latin/Mexican population in America and you dont have enough to make a significant change to the American culture. That would result in many less in schools, hospitals, on social services, and severely reduce the number of people in America that don't speak English.
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No one is being hassled, that was my point. I don't buy the "oppressed immigrants" angle that some try to sell( Not saying you are).

I just see that if anything, the USA has allowed and encouraged other cultures to set a foothold here. And I don't have a problem with it as long as it does not try to displace this countries culture. Believe me, I have HUGE problems with the US trying to set up our culture in other places, too.

I just don't want to see the day that the english language is the second language here.

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No one is being hassled, that was my point. I don't buy the "oppressed immigrants" angle that some try to sell( Not saying you are).

I just see that if anything, the USA has allowed and encouraged other cultures to set a foothold here. And I don't have a problem with it as long as it does not try to displace this countries culture. Believe me, I have HUGE problems with the US trying to set up our culture in other places, too.

I just don't want to see the day that the english language is the second language here.

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Ok. I think we mostly agree, but I dont know what "America's Culture" is? You said this countries culture might be displaced, that we have allowed others to set a foothold, but I think we already have multiple cultures inside one country's border. I dont know what would be displaced other than our language, which I also do not want to see placed 2nd in this country. EVER. The English language is one of the only things that unites the different people in this land. That and football!

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