May 17, 2006

Starting point

Nathan Smith writes:

Like many of President Bush's speeches, his immigration address last night was awkward, yet quite moving. His core beliefs -- hope for the future, the dignity of every individual, a love of freedom -- shine through every time Bush speaks. They are profound and noble convictions, made all the more poignant by their contrast, both with Bush's personal demeanor -- his everyman drawl, never quite at home amidst the grandiloquence he is uttering -- and with the black legend that surrounds his name throughout the world.

Politically, though, there are just two critical questions here. Can Bush heal the growing rift within the GOP? And has Bush come up with a way to "fix" our "broken" immigration system? Answers: no, and no...

Those "core beliefs" are mine too. I'm not happy about the immigration situation, and I'm not wildly happy with Bush's response to it. BUT, "hope for the future, the dignity of every individual, a love of freedom"---these should be the underlying attitude of us all. And unfortunately they're not.

They should be the starting point for us. Wars, as Aquinas wrote, must be waged with "right intentions," and we are in a kind of war. We should start with the belief that this messy situation is filled with human promise, and presents us with a grave challenge (and an appealing opportunity) to make the world a better place. Which doesn't mean being pushovers and weaklings. The strength and faith needed to do right should also include the strength to fight what is wrong. To smash it flat if that's necessary.

If you know your history you know that most of America's immigrants were looked upon as plagues of locusts by at least some of the people already here. (Themselves probably descended from raggedy-assed ancestors who were just as undesirable when they got off the boat.) I was recently reading in David Hackett Fischer's superb Albion's Seed, (page 605) about the arrival of the first wave of Scotch-Irish in Philadelphia in 1717. They seemed like lean impoverished frightening savages to the solid Quaker citizens, who were very glad that they kept heading west and didn't stick around. "A swarm of people...strangers to our laws and customs, and even to our language," as one Philadelphian put it.

We should also be keeping in mind that it's the rule of law that makes freedom possible. We may not really be helping people by allowing them to flout our laws. And helping people should be our aim. We are the grown-ups in this hemisphere. We have much to teach. We are in loco parentis to a billion or so people who lack our advantages.

Posted by John Weidner at May 17, 2006 9:16 PM
Weblog by John Weidner