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Jewish World Review
May 22, 2006
/ 24 Iyar, 5766
Too little, too late
I wonder how many Americans, listening to President Bush bringing his too-little, too-late immigration address to a close, felt like he ran out of track when he concluded: "We honor the heritage of all who come here...because we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans, one nation under God," end of speech. Every allegiance-pledging American, of course, on hearing the phrase, "one nation under God," automatically adds "indivisible," not to mention "with liberty and justice for all." The president did not.
It's likely that Mr. Bush simply didn't wish to sign off with the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance, which would have been out of place. Still, he invoked the pledge, and ended up omitting "indivisible." Purposeful or not, the omission is apt. We if I may say "we" to indicate the United States of America are anything but "indivisible" at this sorry point in history, and, as a perilous result, we think and we act less and less like a "nation."
A nation has borders and defends them. "We" do not. Otherwise, building a fence against an unprecedented invasion by Mexico wouldn't be considered a harsh and radical position in the political mainstream. A nation has laws and upholds them. "We" do not. Otherwise the Babbitts of the business world wouldn't illegally build American commerce on the backs of law-breaking (and ill-paid) aliens, and seek their mass legalization (along with their families). A nation defines itself as a nation. "We" certainly do not. We are, as we are endlessly told, a Nation of Immigrants, a concept that blows to smithereens the unique nature of the "nation" to which immigrants have traditionally assimilated: the European-derived, mainly Anglo-Saxon polity, born of the Enlightenment and extraordinarily blessed by Providence, which the current president is now rapidly phasing out.
Of course, long before immigration finally became The Big Issue (thanks, Rep. Tom Tancredo; thanks, Minutemen), the nation of "We the People" had become a confederation of "We the Peoples," an amalgam of groups professing or tolerating multiculturalism, sharing a common welfare state and participating in an ever-burgeoning economic zone that stretches from the People's Republic of China to the peoples' repositories of Wal-Mart.
But so what if we all have more stuff? That's just not enough for the long haul, especially when the long haul is the next 20 years during which the Senate immigration "reform" bill now under consideration would permit up to 200 million new legal immigrants to take up residency in the US of A this according to two different studies conducted by the Heritage Foundation and Sen. Jeff Sessions (Alabama Republican), as The Washington Times reported. What kind of nation survives a seismic demographic tsunami like that?
No nation. Just people, people, people. Masses and masses of alien individuals would permanently overwhelm any lingering concept of American nationhood a concept already undermined by the so-called culture wars of the 1980s. In that more or less academic struggle of yore, national identity lost and identity politics won. Now we see ourselves increasingly as a land of identity groups and, therefore, extremely divisible as a nation-state.
If Mr. Bush and too many legislators are any measure, the American perspective has become blurry and ill-defined, focused on short-sighted policies conceived in emotion and dedicated to the proposition that all men, women and children from south of the border are created to do "jobs Americans won't do." Which doesn't exactly sound equal. And certainly doesn't sound well thought out. Goodbye, republic; hello oligarchy?
To survive, to prosper and to project power, great nations must be guided by reason and principle not childish feelings. But with national interest no longer at heart, our leaders have only heartstrings. Steve King, Iowa Republican, a forthright opponent of the Senate bill, described a kind of sob-sister visit presidential advisor Karl Rove recently paid to hang-tough, no-amnesty House Republicans: "Rove told lawmakers Bush is sincere about enforcement," the Associated Press reported Mr. King as saying. "But, [Mr. King] added, `The president doesn't want to enforce immigration law because he's afraid he'll inconvenience someone who wants to come into this country for a better life.' "
Oh, brother. How about inconveniencing 10 million, 20 million, 200 million "someones" who want a better life? I have this terrible feeling I finally understand what a "compassionate conservative" is: an emotional train wreck. It's time to get a grip and build a fence a pledge, possibly, to become indivisible again.
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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, Diana West