February 24, 2004

The world is upside down

There's nothing really new here, but I'm still sometimes brought up short by the difference between stereotypes and realities.

Here's Samuel Huntington, a "life-long Democrat" and old-fashioned cold war liberal, with a Foreign Policy article The Hispanic Challenge (from a forthcoming book entitled "Who Are We"):

...the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants ... This reality poses a fundamental question: Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish).

The impact of Mexican immigration on the United States becomes evident when one imagines what would happen if Mexican immigration abruptly stopped. ... most important of all, the possibility of a de facto split between a predominantly Spanish-speaking United States and an English-speaking United States would disappear, and with it, a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integrity.

And here's David Brooks, senior editor at the Weekly Standard and the New York Times' house conservative, with a NYT op-ed piece "The Americano Dream":

Frankly, something's a little off in Huntington's use of the term "Anglo-Protestant" to describe American culture. There is no question that we have all been shaped by the legacies of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. But the mentality that binds us is not well described by the words "Anglo" or "Protestant."

We are bound together because we Americans share a common conception of the future. History is not cyclical for us. Progress does not come incrementally, but can be achieved in daring leaps. That mentality burbles out of Hispanic neighborhoods, as any visitor can see.

Huntington is right that Mexican-Americans lag at school. But that's in part because we've failed them. Our integration machinery is broken. But if we close our borders to new immigration, you can kiss goodbye the new energy, new tastes and new strivers who want to lunge into the future.

That's the real threat to the American creed.

And by the way, David Brooks puts a hyperlink to "Foreign Policy" in the on-line version of his NYT op-ed piece. I haven't seen that before -- is it a first lunge into the future for the Gray Lady?

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 24, 2004 08:20 AM