20 March 2010

America, Israel, and National Identity

I headed out to the laundry Friday afternoon, since it is usually deserted, leaving me access to dryers (insert Andy Rooney whine: why is it that laundries always have about half the dryer capacity of washers??) and quiet to read. This Friday didn't work out that way. It was also a Friday shortly after the latest cockup out of Israel over settlements.

While I'm trying to read, an Hispanic woman (from which country I don't know) sits on the other side of the room jabbering in Spanglish on a cell phone. Hmm.

OK, so here's the conundrum. The US government, and an increasing number of Americans, are less than thrilled with the situation in the Middle East (although the Israel lobby hasn't yet lost the majority). For our part, Americans have no use for illegal aliens, and not much use for any kind with Hispanic origins.

It gets more complicated. Demographers have figured out that non-Jews (Palestinians and Arabs) will eventually be the majority in land controlled by Israel and that Hispanics will do the same to the US (starting in the southwest, of course). Not that there isn't lots of contrary publishing on both sides of both country's problem. These two trends are driven mostly by breeding rates than migration, and that's the crux of the ancillary problems.

But that yakking woman rekindled the real issue: it isn't that foreigners are invading (or breeding in) a country, but what culture they bring with themselves. In both Israel and the USofA, the foreign culture is truly foreign. In the case of Israel, it's largely a religious conflict, as we all know and religion does tend to make for messy wars. Here, the question is whether Hispanic culture (if there is such a thing) is supportive or destructive of historic American culture.

Aye, matey, there's the rub. Western hemisphere Hispanic history is largely colonial, autocratic, plantation and Roman Catholic. American success has been largely democratic, industrial and Protestant. To put it simply: Hispanic emigres come from cultures where repression and reproduction are major factors of life. Historically, intergenerational economic progress comes from more education and fewer children. There is not much evidence that the Hispanic community has figured this out. Do we really want a USofA where a growing number of the population grew up with dictators and drug cartels as a normal part of life? Do we want the USofA to be just Greater Mexico? Can there be any objection to merely asking the question?

Well, just asking the question raises the hackles of many, even those aligned with the Israel Lobby; asking the question is implicitly impugned to be ethnic cleansing or another Final Solution. But America should be for Americans, shouldn't it?? Now, as it happens, my earliest ancestor came here in 1638, so I'm in no danger of being found to be a recent interloper. Phew.

Israel has a similar problem, only times two. Not only do the Arab populations reproduce faster, so do there own leisure class of Orthodox; not a pretty sight. Just to be clear: Orthodox men spend their time just reading a book or two; they don't work, and they do keep their wives pregnant most of the time. They don't produce lots of Einsteins, just more Orthodox rabbis, and demanding places to live. Religious welfare is still welfare, nonetheless.

Both countries face a difficult question: does a society have the right, or even obligation, to preserve its basic traits? Who decides what those traits are? In the case of the USofA, certain elites either imported (black slaves to plantations, Chinese to build railroads) humans or encouraged trafficking (agribusiness in our time) in them without much, if any, regard for the impact on the society and culture. Ghettos and Chinatowns sprung up. Surprised??

The hypocrite alarm goes off during such musings, naturally. For both versions of ultranationalism, ours and Zionist, history doesn't start and stop at necessarily convenient points. If it's proper that jews post World War II, from anywhere on the globe, have a right to live on ground they claim was theirs a couple of thousand years ago, then what of native Americans?? Their descendents have a greater right to this ground than do jews to Palestine by virtue of exclusively living on the land for tens of thousands of years, while that area of the Middle East has been controlled by numbers of conflicting tribes over the millenia. Fair's fair, is it not?? The land called Palestine has been Arab for a millenium. The jews lost control during generalized contemporary warfare those thousands of years ago; they just lost their war. Native Americans lost to a technologically superior invader; war of the worlds, from their point of view. Who has the greater claim to the land?? I'd say the native American. How many of the Israel lobby campaign to restore the land to native Americans? None that I know of.

If immigrants refuse to assimilate, enforcing their notions of societal structure on the "host" country, they shouldn't complain about being rejected. It isn't their country.

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