Here at the VDARE.COM Letters Editor desk, I get a lot of mail. Not all of it is intelligent or insightful.
But some readers do prod me to think harder about subjects that I may not have fully considered. Sometimes, I end up agreeing; sometimes, not.
A recent letter from a legal Mexican immigrant residing in Texas is a good example.
Miguel Mendoza wrote to me about my column regarding another Mexican-American, the former University of Southern California's quarterback Mark Sanchez. My piece dealt more with assimilation than football.
"I have to agree with you that assimilation is the key for success in America. And I certainly admire the Sanchez family history that shows how a Mexican day laborer could father such successful offspring who, in turn, had sired a long string of thriving children and grandchildren. I wish there were more like them."
Then Mendoza told me more good things about himself:
"I oppose those Hispanic radical groups such as the "reconquistadors" and the "Aztlan" movement. On May 1st, I did not take part in the marches to demand rights and citizenship from Mexico. Quite the opposite; I was working as usual at my job in Houston in computer services."
Having stated his opposition to illegal alien activism, Mendoza got to his point.
"I think is necessary to take a closer look at another issue that is closely related the subject of your article: Mexicans are not the only immigrants who have a close devotion to their former countries. If you doubt it, just take a look at both the Cuban and Jewish communities in the United States.
"When I arrived in America, the saga of young Elian Gonzalez was in progress. I watched the entire drama on television up to the moment he was rescued by INS agents. How did the Cuban people react? By waving the Cuban flag. In fact, I visited Miami in 2001 and I was surprised to see the intense Cuban patriotism.
"And as you know, up until recently Israel engaged in attacks against Hamas in the Gaza strip. Not long ago, Israel was doing the same against Hezbollah in Lebanon. How did the American Jewish community react? By gathering and waving the Israel flag!"
To make sure I didn't misunderstand, Mendoza wrote:
"Now, don't get me wrong, I do not in any way hate Cubans or Jews living in this country. In fact I totally agree with Israel taking these measures to defend herself and I despise Fidel Castro's regime.
"Yet, it is important to see that in the U.S. displaying or showing pride for one's national roots seems is a very American thing to do. Just look at the Irish celebrating St Patrick's Day and even Italian Americans wearing T-Shirts with the Italian flag even though many have never been to Italy."
"My point is that while I agree the that assimilation and loyalty to this great country are essential for all people living in the United States, especially immigrants like myself, it is also important not to single out a specific group, in this case Mexicans, for failing to do so."
Mendoza pointed me to a Ruben Navarrette column that addressed his concern:
"You can always find flags at ethnic holidays and cultural celebrations in communities named Germantown, South Boston or Little Italy. Walk into a Mexican restaurant on Cinco De Mayo, and you're likely to catch a glimpse of a Mexican flag…"
"Whereas other flags inspire pride and nationalism, the Mexican flag seems to threaten, frighten and inflame. It enrages Americans, generates backlash, unleashes angry calls into talk radio and leads to the careless use of words such as 'traitors' and 'separatists.'
"Interestingly enough—and here's the double standard—I haven't heard any similar complaints in recent days about Jewish Americans who waved the Israeli flag, or Cuban Americans who waved the Cuban flag."[ Flag Waving's Double Standard, by Ruben Navarrette, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 6, 2006]
Mendoza's view interests me because it's true that the overt Mexican demonstrations "threaten, frighten and inflame." And they also "generate backlash and unleash angry calls."
To explain fully why Americans react with such passion to blatantly nationalistic displays by Mexicans but pay comparatively little attention when other foreign-born people do the same, we have to start at the beginning.
First, unlike what Navarrette suggests, we're not talking about Italians in Little Italy during the San Gennaro Festival or Mexicans celebrating on Cinco de Mayo (when, by the way, you'll "catch" a lot more than "a glimpse of a Mexican flag.")
And there's a world of difference between Cubans who wave their flags for a limited period during a 24/7 national news story like Elian Gonzales or Jews who do the same in the midst of a military conflict involving Israel.
Gonzales goes home; the attacks end (at least temporarily), then Cubans and Jews go back to business as usual.
But Mexican agitation never ends. In fact, it rarely pauses. The flag-waving—be it literal or symbolic—is constant.
What creates such an intense, shocked reaction by Americans to these displays by unassimilated Mexicans is that so many of them have arrived in the US illegally, by the tens of thousands, virtually overnight and have spread throughout the country.
Many illegal aliens have not made any meaningful attempt to learn English. At the same time, dozens of expensive taxpayer-funded language classes and social service programs have been established or expanded to accommodate them.
Every time an American picks up his daily newspaper, he reads about the extensive, relentless Capitol Hill lobbying on behalf of Mexicans for amnesty/citizenship/more immigration.
Before Barack Obama spent a full day in the White House, a group of ethnic advocates marched in front of the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement headquarters demanding an end to workplace raids (better known as law enforcement) and a path to citizenship. [Immigrant Advocates Call for an End to Raids, by N.C. Aizeman, Washington Post, January 22, 2008]
In those stories, La Raza's anti-American views are quoted at length. But no reporter bothers to seek out the common American for his opinion. The inference is clear: Americans don't matter.
Worst of all, the federal government tacitly approves illegal aliens' presence. And as statistics show, most of the aliens are from Mexico.
Finally, there are no Italian, Cuban or Israel revanchist movements making claims on U.S. territory.
The logical result among Americans from the non-stop demands by the uninvited Mexicans: fear about our future and resentment toward those who threaten the us.
In an interesting footnote to my exchange with Mendoza, I discovered that none other than Navarrette understands fully the question of Mexican assimilation and the importance of leaving the flags at home.
When Navarrette was addressing a group of Jewish retirees just after May Day 2008, someone in the audience asked:
"A lot of us come from immigrant families. And we bonded with America. But now it seems like a lot of people aren't doing that. They wave the Mexican flag. Why do they do that?"
"I agree that immigrants should assimilate—for their own good. Besides, it doesn't make any sense to flaunt allegiance to one country while demanding rights from another. It's bad manners and bad civics. It also reflects bad memories. After all, these people don't owe Mexico the time of day. That country works for some folks—the wealthy, light-skinned, well-connected etc—but not for others. Mexican immigrants in the United States are here because the motherland offered them nothing but bare cupboards. Why should that breed patriotism?" [The Mexican Flag Double Standard by Ruben Navarrette, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 7, 2008]
Navarrette answers Mendoza's question better than I can. And it is exactly what I have asked directly of my former students: "What has Mexico done for you? Why do you show allegiance to Mexico?"
For the most part, the Cubans, the Israelis, the Italians, the Pakistanis, the Asians and the Punjabis are in the US legally. As Americans, they have the unassailable right to Freedom of Speech.
But for those who are in the U.S. illegally and have managed the not-too-difficult task of avoiding deportation, then the burden of proof of loyalty is on them. Mexico is in their past. Most flag wavers will spend more years in America than they ever did in Mexico.
In conclusion, I'll add that exchanges like the one I had with Mendoza comfort me. Like us, he's a patriotic American. Mendoza's father served in Vietnam and he urged VDARE.COM to "keep up the good work."
When you read as many nasty letters as I do, Mendoza's correspondence is a welcome relief.
VDARE.COM is routinely accused of being "anti-immigrant". But because of letters like these, we know there are plenty of immigrants who agree with us.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.