Sunday, December 23, 2007

Something Is Rotten In The Old Dominion

I humbly apologize. I have a responsibility to keep you informed on critical issues and I let you down. Although I touched briefly on an alarming development in the Commonwealth in my “Shame” posts about the election campaign of soon-to-be Delegate Manoli Loupassi, as soon as the election was over I dropped the ball. Then I read an article in today’s (December 23) Washington Post that announced the formation of “Save the Old Dominion,” a new umbrella group organized to lobby our General Assembly to enact legislation to further marginalize illegal aliens in Virginia. What a burst to the Christmas spirit of good will toward man. Save the Old Dominion, and its rival Help Save Virginia (along with such local groups as Help Save Manasssas, Help Save Fairfax, Help Save Loudon, Help Save Hampton Roads, Help Protect Culpeper and Save Stafford) are making it clear that Christian love this season only applies to citizens and those who are in this country with permission.

All these “help save” groups have me wondering. Just what do Virginia, the Old Dominion and all the localities need to be saved from? What exactly is the terrible danger to peace, justice and the American way? I know that we have been in dire straights before. During the American Revolution, British troops invaded Virginia, occupied Richmond, and chased Governor Jefferson beyond Charlottesville. Those were dark days; everybody suffered; but we survived. During the 1860s, either because of a rash decision to secede from the Union or, if you prefer, because of a northern invasion, our fair Commonwealth was devastated. Those were even darker days; thousands died; our economic infrastructure was destroyed; but we survived. What is the calamity that faces Virginia now in the 21st Century? It must be terribly grave to cause this outburst of savior groups.

Here it is friends: We’ve been invaded by “them”—illegal aliens. And, they’re much more dangerous than were either the British or Yankee armies. We knew who the British were; they were dressed in red. We knew who the Yankees were; they were dressed in blue. How do you identify this new enemy? Because they have no army, they wear no uniforms. They could even be living right on your block and you wouldn’t know it. Fortunately, there is one tell-tale sign that enables us to identify them—the vast majority of them speak Spanish.

What exactly is it that “them” has done that makes them so dangerous? They may have violated section 1325 of title 8 of the United States Code by entering into the country at a time or place other than that designated by immigrations offers or by eluding examination or inspection by immigrations officers. (I say “may” because in our jurisprudence we have this inconvenient presumption that those accused of crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty). The Congress has shown how serious it considers this crime by designating a penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months for a first offense. First time offenders are also subject to a civil penalty of between fifty and two hundred fifty dollars for each violation. In addition, of course, offenders are subject to deportation.

The crime of which our new “enemy” may be guilty is not exactly in the category of murder or rape or marketing drugs or espionage or treason or stuff like that. They have simply crossed our border without permission. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone violation of the law. If our legislature, whether the Congress, the General Assembly or the Richmond City Council, prohibits certain behavior I expect the law to be enforced. When people “get away” with violating the law, the law is held in disrespect, which is very dangerous for our society. On the other hand we have to keep this illegal alien thing in perspective. Aliens who have entered our country illegally are not, for the most part, dangerous felons.

I have no objection to a group of people who press for enforcement of the federal law. I don’t even object to a group that lobbies, fairly, for legislation that its members believe will benefit all the residents of Virginia. However, the “help save” groups go dangerously far in their crusade to purge the Old Dominion of illegal aliens. Let’s start with their names. Just by using “Save Virginia” or “Save the Old Dominion” (or any of the other saves) these groups are strongly suggesting that civilized society is seriously jeopardized by the mere presence of illegal aliens. You don’t need to save something unless it is seriously threatened with destruction. Thus, the savior groups are making clear their belief that illegal aliens are a real menace that must be stopped.

Further, the language the “help save” groups use is inflammatory. It tends to build strong anger not only against illegal aliens but against all Spanish speakers. I quote to you from the December issue of “The Front Line,” the publication of Help Save Manassas (Parental discretion is advised):

“Through a misguided attempt to promote multi-cultural awareness, our wonderful American traditions now find themselves under assault. Recently, we witnessed such an assault right here in Manassas at the annual Christmas parade. Do your fond memories of childhood include having someone dressed up as the devil in a Mexican dance troupe lunge out and frighten you? Probably not. Do you remember seeing the Mexican Flag displayed during a parade, promoting the tribalism of national origin over the unity of our American heritage? Seeing the devil marching in a Christmas parade is bizarre enough. But injecting a Mexican harvest ritual into Manassas’ sixty-two-year-old, all-American, traditional celebration of the Christmas season, represents a not-so-subtle attempt to introduce a political agenda. This so-called diversity, which the few seek to impose on the many, is in reality a dis-unifying deed. It can lead nowhere but to tribalism, a Balkanization of our community and nation, where we no longer share a common heritage, but are simply members of various tribes, briefly coming together to compete for America’s bounty.
* * * *
“Will we defend our culture from those who seek to change it to suit the needs of the ‘tribe of the week?’ If not, we risk losing those traditions that bind us together as a community and as Americans. If we reach the point where being American is redefined and reduced into the meaningless oblivion of being a ‘world citizen,’ we will soon find ourselves wandering down the broken road which other nations have already traveled, squandering their unifying, commonly shared values and beliefs. At the end of that road, only civil strife and death await us.

“We are obliged to defend our embattled culture before we inexorably veer off onto that destructive path. But we fight on many fronts. Whether our battle is combating the ‘press one for English’ insanity, or preventing the pollution of our longstanding cultural traditions with pagan harvest rituals from Mexico in our Christmas celebrations, we must engage in the struggle.”

Another article in “The Front Line” reads,

Unfortunately, the illegal alien problem is dramatically diminishing the stability and security of the American neighborhood. Numerous homes once occupied by “known quantities,” fellow Americans we knew or could at least identify with on many levels, are now being re-placed en masse by foreigners, many of whom are here illegally. The quaint rambler next door once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Smith may now be bursting at the seams with day laborers or multiple families of questionable legal status. In many cases, the occupants do not even speak our native language. Who are they? Do they have a criminal record? Could there be sex offenders among them? Are they all here to work or are some escaping the law of their ‘home countries? We can no longer be sure, and our needed sense of security fades.

The Front Line” is filled with photographs supposedly showing how the undesirables have ruined countless neighborhoods by their intolerable life styles. The message is clear, if we don’t get rid of this scum, your house will be next.

In my November 3 post I stated, “Marginalizing people leads to considering them less than human. This can lead eventually to such nice things as internment camps and even genocide.” Yesterday I warned about the dangers of our inborn xenophobia that can lead any of us to carry out terrible actions against “the other” to protect “us.” Unfortunately, the hate preached by Help Save Manassas creates the potential for violence against those they declare to be undesirable.

Oh, come on, maven! You are exaggerating. This is a good Christian country and no matter what rhetoric is used we’re not going to do terrible things to people even if they are not part of “us”. In the words of Sinclair Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here.”

How foolish of me. What was I thinking? Clearly we are not the people who kept African Americans in a state of bondage for nearly two hundred fifty years. We are also not the people who waged over two hundred years of genocidal war against the American Indians. Certainly, we are not the people who expelled American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their homes and kept them in concentration camps during World War II. We are Americans; we would NEVER treat our fellow humans so badly.

Hate is contagious. Once it spreads in a community, that community is in danger of breaking down. Today it’s the “help save” groups preaching hate against illegal aliens. Tomorrow the hate may be directed at others. The continued success of our Commonwealth requires that we not only tolerate but accept our differences. People like those who write “The Front Line” threaten the domestic tranquility of the Old Dominion. We cannot allow them to prevail.


RVA Foodie said...

Maven, thank you for shining a light on the swelling tide of bigotry in our midst. It almost seems as if every generation of white Virginians has a racially motivated call to arms. There was the defense of slavery, "Massive Resistance" to school integration, and now the anti-latin@ immigrant movement. My question is, how can we dissuade our fellow Virginians from succumbing to the fearmongering of these "Save Blah-blah" groups?

CG2 said...

The language of Front Line and the focus on culture and language rather than immigration status challenges the credibility of those in Help Save Manassas who claim to be "anti-illegal alien" rather than "anti-immigrant" or "anti-Latino."

You are right to see this movement as a threat to the vision of an inclusive Commonwealth equally welcoming to all.

Paul Hammond said...

Sorry I lost track of the entire post, but let me make a few comments.

Jefferson was slaveholding hypocrite with high ideals. I make no pretensions to be better than him. He was a flawed genius and a visionary.

2nd, the British were essentially us. As a matter of fact a large number of us fought on behalf of the British and suffered death and exile for their convictions.

3rd, it is not necessary to hate anyone to realize that wholly unrestricted immigration is a recipe for social disaster. Let me point out that the are not only 400 million other Americans south of the border that might prefer to live here (who wouldn't), but maybe 500 million Chinese, another 1/2 billion Indians, Africans and Muslims of all nationalities that would like a slice of the American Pie. I know all this screams of bigotry, but simply pointing out facts is not a racist act.

No nation, I repeat no nation ever, has absorbed the number of immigrants that the United States has absorbed in the last 30 years. Current immigration legislation will double or triple that number. We have enough trouble living with each other as it is. There's just not enough time and space to comment on the cultural, economic, social and ecological problems unrestricted immigration will cause. That's not a gift we want to give our children.