Links roundup, 9.29 and thoughts on illegal immigration

First – I am approaching the 2 month mark of my re-launch of my blog. I am not sure how one measures the success of a blog. If I am to measure the success by the number of comments, it has been a great failure. But I have averaged 175 readers a week, and that is not bad. I think I will keep it up and see how things go. But let me make clear – all are welcome to comment here! Don’t be shy.

On to some links and some other thoughts:

A stir was caused a few days back when Mark Shea commented on Child Free advocates. In particular he discussed a remark from Dave Forman (co-founder of Earth First) who said, “The AIDS epidemic, rather than being a scourge, is a welcome development in the inevitable reduction of human population. … If it didn’t exist, radical environmentalists would have to invent it.” Now that is pure evil, and Shea called it as much. His response to the reaction today is quite amusing. Once again, the rationalists come off as extremely irrational.

George Weigel offers his thoughts on Benedict’s trip to Britain, and the intemperance of New Atheists in Britain.

Finally, some thoughts on illegal immigration:

A few friends and I have been discussing illegal immigration. One friend is pretty sympathetic with the arguments made in a book called Mexifornia, which was the starting point of the discussion. Here is a summary of what I said:

My view is that the primary problem posed by illegal immigration is not illegal immigration per se. Rather it has to do with one of the main issues identified in Mexifornia – teaching illegal immigrants to be American.

This point from Mexifornia helps me clarify one of my chief complaints about the Tea Party immigration rhetoric, and the reason why I called it sometimes xenophobic.  Too often the immigration rhetoric is about purification.  But it should not be about purification, as if we would become America again were we to just purge this or that group of people.  It should be about assimilation.

I am teaching a basic gen ed course this year, and am doing a readers digest great books course.  One of the things that anyone who reads the western intellectual tradition realizes is that the western tradition has never been about purity.  It is not a homogenous tradition, there are all manner of disagreements about all manner of issues.  What is remarkable about the tradition has been its ability to assimilate various perspectives – its capacity to synthesize and appropriate various perspectives into something like a unity.  We recently read some of the Odyssey and Aeschylus’ "The Eumenides".  Both have fabulous metaphors for this.  The olive tree with one root but two trunks (one wild and one domesticated) in Bk 5 of the Odyssey.  The furies and the rule of law in Aeschylus’ play.  I love St Gregory’s example in his Life of Moses – where Moses uses the stolen gold of the Egyptians to craft the Tabernacle, just as Christians should steal and repurpose the philosophy of the Greeks.  Choose whatever metaphor or find whatever example you like – the barbaric and the civil, faith and reason, religion and science, equality and difference, etc etc etc.  Point is that synthesis and appropriation have been the hallmarks of the West.  

My point is that the West has never been about purification but instead had been about synthesis and appropriation.  Insofar as MinuteMan / Tea Party immigration rhetoric is too often about purification, it is wrong-headed, xenophobic, and arguably anti-western.

So what is the task with respect to immigration?  Well, it has little to do with illegal immigration per se.  The problem is not resolved by rounding up the brown skin people and kicking them out or building walls to keep them out.  It is not that we are letting in too many or the wrong kinds.  Nor does it require a total no-saying to their cultural heritage.  What is does require is synthesis and appropriation.  This is the only kind of pluralistic society that is at all plausible.  Absolute multiculturalism is civilizational suicide.  Plato is right – the marker of a great city is its unity.  There has to be some kind of overarching but yet dynamic cultural heritage to which all assimilate.  

So how do we teach anyone, immigrant, illegal immigrant, or natural born, to be an American?  I don’t think there is any political mechanism here.  And this is not done by bringing in or leaving out this or that kind of person.  It is a cultural question.  But here is the problem: the vast majority of Americans are either painfully ignorant of their tradition or they actively despise it.  So what do we need to do?  Well, we need to stop hating ourselves.  God bless Benedict for making this one of his primary missions – to defend the goodness of the western tradition.  As educators and parents we can also take up this task, the task of defending the Western tradition against the postmodern and reductionist forces who are actively seeking to undo it nd undermine its influence. One hopes that through education those who are ignorant of the tradition come to see it as good, and that those who hate the tradition see the error of their ways.  But it is not so much about preservation or purity – which implies that the tradition is static and lifeless – it is about bringing what is good from the tradition forward in our own lives and in our political communities.

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About Kleiner

Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.
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