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California Dreaming
September 2, 2003
by David A. White

Mexifornia: A State of Becoming
By Victor Davis Hanson
Encounter Books, San Francisco. 150 pp., $24.95

The strength of Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia lies in the fact that thoughtful readers of all political persuasions should be nodding their heads in agreement at various points throughout the book. While much of the political discourse in this country has been reduced to the rigid polemics of ideological arsonists like Michael Moore on the left and Ann Coulter on the right, the decency that guides Hanson's exploration of the demographic changes taking place in California is refreshing.

This is not easy; as the issue of contemporary immigration is so fraught with conscious distortion that one can hardly emerge from a discussion of the subject without odious labels being hurled in one's face. Hanson writes:

...caught in a paralysis of timidity and dishonesty, we still cannot enact the necessary plans for a workable solution. To do so, after all, entails confronting a truth that is painful and might displease thousands who have grown comfortable with the present chaos. Who wants to be called an isolationist or a nativist by the corporate Right, or a racist or a bigot by the multicultural Left?

His book is grounded not in corporate think-tank verbiage or academic subterfuge, but with the calm voice of one whose every-day life exists at the epicenter of the massive changes taking place all around him. Thus, we learn of illegal immigrants like Santiago Lara, a sad figure who "continues as an occasional farm laborer and walks permanently stooped. He neither speaks a word of English nor has a single child who graduated from High School" while acknowledging how millions more like him are forcing radical changes in the lives of Hanson's daughters and neighbors; students and colleagues. Hanson's ear is to the ground, and his heart is in the right place.

The book addresses the unique nature of Mexican and Latino immigration to the United States, the world of the illegal alien, how California and the rest of the country deals with the unprecedented influx -- to include past successes and present failures -- and the probable future of the state.

The thread that runs through this book is one of enlightened resignation. Here is a man who has witnessed a marked decline in the quality of life, the degradation of California's environment, and the emergence of what he describes as "apartheid" economic conditions owing to the lack of integration on the part of the Mexican population. This is while no workable solution is being offered by those in power; thus presenting the grim conclusion that the elites are actually benefiting from the present chaos.

As a consequence, rather than seeking to assimilate the new immigrants into anything remotely resembling an American ethos, we learn that resistance to such integration is actively encouraged by those in the academic and political establishment who see these trends as, in the rueful words of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., "divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures."

And so Californians like Mr. Hanson and millions of other Americans are subjected to the flotsam of these tides. He speaks not only as a land owner who must constantly deal with the garbage and abandoned cars being left by the tide of illegal immigrants passing through his property, but as a farmer who hires these same immigrants to work in his fields.

As a classics professor at California State University, he can write of the dignity and intelligence of his Mexican students, while lamenting the fact that he cannot teach them as individuals, but only as oppressed "peoples" backed up by an ideologically motivated establishment hell-bent on deconstructing Western Civilization and "white privilege."

As a historian, Hanson is also able to take a detached, if not passive, view of the scale of the changes taking place in California and recognize them for what they are; part of an endless cycle of human migrations that, while unprecedented in its scale and encouragement by the elites, still remains something of a constant throughout history. Consider this:

The more sober observers of all races know that if Mexico were separated from the border by a hundred miles of ocean, the so-called minority problem in California would vanish within a generation or two. As it now stands, the constant stream of new arrivals means that for each assimilated Mexican, there are always several more who are not. Unlike Southeast Asians, who came all at once to California and from thousands of miles away following the disaster in Vietnam, Mexicans have had no opportunity to mature together and slowly evolve as a distinct cohort into Americans.

Of course, some immigrant advocates see "the opportunity to mature together" as a demeaning threat to their own ideological agenda. As such, we now live in a nation where many local governments have prevented their law enforcement agents from reporting illegal immigrants to the Department of Homeland Security, while the State of California is considering offering these same lawbreakers in-state tuition fees, while U.S. citizens who seek to enroll in California state colleges from the other 49 U.S. states are charged higher non-resident tuition.

Regardless of one's ultimate opinion as to whether or not massive illegal immigration is a good or bad thing for the United States, reading Hanson's book brings into bold relief the fact that all who value honesty and unambiguous enforcement of our nations laws must recognize the inherent perversity of how this issue is being dealt with by the establishment. As Hanson writes, "People from the rest of the country look at the eerie, fascinating thing that California is becoming, and they wonder about their own destiny." If we do not believe in the protection of our borders, what is the fate of the nation-state in the 21st Century? If the government chooses to arbitrarily enforce only those laws it considers in its best interests, or is hogtied from enforcing those laws by corporate, academic and media wailing, what prevents the ultimate erosion of the rule of law as more and more citizens take the governments cue and obey only those laws that they consider in their own best interest?

While appreciating Hanson's down-to-earth yet bracing voice, what seems most curious about Mexifornia is his belief that popular culture, in all its degraded and superficial glory, will somehow act as a binding agent in his hope for eventual assimilation between the two nations. Describing some of the worst aspects of American consumerism, Hanson writes:

If such schlock is sweeping the globe -- and along with it American English, American business protocols, American sports, American advertising, American media and American casual behavior -- one can imagine the net effect of it all at its place of birth in America, of which California remains the epicenter. At a time when illegal immigration is at an all-time high, and formal efforts at forging a common culture and encouraging assimilation are at an all time low, the habits, tastes, appetites and expressions of everyday people have offered a rescue of sorts -- perhaps deleterious to the long-term moral health of the United States, but in the short term about the only tool we possess to prevent racial separation and ethnic tribalism. Informality in dress, slang speech, movies, videos, television -- all this makes assimilation easier, even at a time when professional racialists are calling for highbrow separatism.

Keep in mind that this is Hanson's best-case scenario. Unless one is an enthusiast of social control through consumerism and mass media, everyone from paleo-conservatives to anarchists who rage against the machine should reject this vision of the future.

Ultimately, what recommends this book is its overwhelming honesty. As long as representatives of the Bush administration remain tight-lipped at press conferences while keeping the gates open for the benefit of their corporate sponsors, and the mainstream media disregards healthy journalist skepticism for the dogma of feel-good multiculturalism, we will have to depend on the integrity of writers like Mr. Hanson to give us the bad news as well as the good.

David A. White is an independent writer living in New England. He welcomes your comments at xlt486@yahoo.com

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