More feedback on Huntington
The Economist does their take on Huntington’s Foreign Policy essay. Last three grafs: A large opinion poll co-ordinated in 2000 by the Washington Post found that 90% of new arrivals from Latin America believe that it is important for them to change in order to fit in with their adopted country. Only one in ten ...
A large opinion poll co-ordinated in 2000 by the Washington Post found that 90% of new arrivals from Latin America believe that it is important for them to change in order to fit in with their adopted country. Only one in ten of second-generation Latinos relies mainly on speaking Spanish. Latinos do not see themselves as a monolithic ethnic group. Nor do they necessarily agree with the politics of their countrymen back home. The New America Foundation’s Gregory Rodriguez points out that a significant proportion of the American troops being killed in Iraq are Latinos—and that the commander of the allied liberation forces there, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, grew up in a Texan county that is 98% Mexican-American. Mr Huntington is right to point out that absorbing large numbers of people from a next-door country poses unusual problems. The United States needs to heed George Bush’s call to bring immigrants out of the shadow economy where millions of them now work. It needs to scrap the failed experiment with bilingual education which has left so many immigrants unable to speak English. And it needs to stop pandering to ethnic demagogues with special programmes for ethnic minorities. But the cost of closing the borders would be far bigger than keeping them open, by starving the economy of some of its most energetic workers. Throughout its history America’s great strength has been its ability to absorb new people—and the new ideas and tastes that they bring with them. There is no reason to think that this will change just because the new people come across the Rio Grande rather than across the Atlantic.
Dan Drezner’s piece strikes me as fair and judicious. That does not, of course, mean “correct.” I would seriously dispute a number of his points — for example, that Mexico is redefining itself as a “North American” country. It seem more likely to me that the cultural gap between us and them is widening, not narrowing.
Just to reiterate — I didn’t say that Mexico was redefining itself as a North American country, though I believe this to be true. My point in the TNR essay was that Huntington thought this was true when he wrote The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order eight years ago. In closing, here’s an e-mail response to the TNR essay that I’ve received [No fair!! This is just a single anecdota!–ed. If Huntington can quote a guy talking to Robert Kaplan, I can use this.]:
I am a Mexican-American, I am a U.S. citizen. I live in El Centro, California, which is adjacent to the California-Mexico border. I want to make the following personal observations, which I believe are held by the majority of Hispanics. First, a little background; my father was born in the USA, but for economic reasons my parents found it necessary to live on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border, and work in the USA. Because of this, I was born in Mexico. I was 6 years old when my parents moved to the USA, legally and permanently. I strongly believe that the scenarios of doom that persons like Mr. Samuel Huntington and Mr. Victor Davis Hanson (“Mexifornia”) are based on premises that are not based on reasoned research and analysis of the Hispanic community. I, and my siblings, are the second-generation Mexican-Americans of my family. I and one of my brothers, and my two sisters, are completely fluent in English and Spanish. My other brother, is not. His Spanish is horrendous, as is his wife’s, also Mexican-American. Their children? forget it–they wouldn’t know a Spanish word if they got hit by one. My wife and I, also Mexican-American, are fluent in both languages. My oldest son was fluent at one time, he is 28, but is rapidly losing the Spanish. My other son, has trouble with it, and my baby, my daughter of 19 yrs old, can more understand it than speak it. I have a grandaughter, no Spanish whatsoever. I look around at my contemporaries and find the same phenomenom with their children and grandchildren. The American culture is overwhelming and very, very powerful. MTV, VH-1, and the like have immense influence on children as they grow up. Our children are no different than others and in that they probably know more about Janet Jackson, NSync, Kid Rock, pizza, downloading music, Bill Gates, etc. etc, in other words American popular culture, than they do about “their” Mexican culture and language. Over time, assimilation is complete. We hear all the absurd claims, among them the most absurd is the claim that we, Mexican-Americans, want a ‘Reconquista’, the reclaiming of the land that Mexico lost to the USA during the Mexican-American war. Again, among my contemporaries I know of no one that wishes to replace our existing way of life and replace it with a government run and managed by Mexico City, with all that that nightmare would entail. As with anything else, if you look hard enough you will find some group or another that will state just such a thing, but there are odd-balls in everything. For example, if you search hard enough I am sure that you will find some Americans that support a dictatorship in the USA, yet they don’t speak for the majority of Americans. As for those that claim that illegal immigrants pose a threat, are these the same illegal immigrants that risk their life, their families, their livelihoods, their savings, to cross into the USA, for what??? To impose a government and an economy that they risked so much to get away from??
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Twitter: @dandrezner
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