[Previously By Brenda Walker: Banned In Lewiston? Female Genital Mutilation]
[See also Today's Letter: A Reader Is More Critical Of Mexifornia]
Victor Davis Hanson is known to many readers for his weekly columns in National Review championing martial values, in a writing style that comfortably folds in references from ancient sources. Hanson is an unashamed proponent of Western civilization, of the Athenian democracy, consensual government, free enterprise, private property, civil liberties and free speech. He is also a military historian and a fifth-generation farmer in California's Central Valley. Hanson's latest book, Mexifornia, provides a nuanced and patient look at the cultural chasm that divides our nation's largest state, and the transformation of his own community, Selma, Calif.
He describes the old Selma of the 1950s: about half Hispanic half Anglo, it was a place where immigrant children learned American language, history and values. Today Selma is almost 90 percent Hispanic, and the author tells how he can go into town and never hear English.
A professor of classics at Cal State Fresno, Hanson is keenly attuned to educational standards. Read the chapter where he recounts his boyhood schooling, which inculcated American values in homegrown and immigrant kids alike; it evokes countless other classrooms of the 1950s. Teachers, a number of whom were veterans, generally believed in America, and wished to assimilate immigrants into the mainstream culture. School children learned civics, American history and good manners, among other things.
The Selma students of Mexican heritage or birth were not excused from those subjects, but were instead encouraged in the strongest terms to get with the program—to learn unaccented English with a large vocabulary and behave appropriately within the dominant culture. How could they succeed any other way?
As a teacher of young adults, Professor Hanson espouses an increasingly untrendy line of study—the classics. Prof. Hanson recommends the study of such difficult disciplines for building students' character—rather than the fatuous feel-goodism that dominates today's classroom.
There are many barbs in this book; the toughest are aimed at the educational establishment, which has failed immigrant young people completely by supporting bilingualism, hyphenated identities and weakened academic standards—then dosing students with "therapeutic" history and mythology designed to cosset each ethnic group.
Prof. Hanson clearly believes in American culture and its power to include. He cites the success of the mostly Mexican-American farm hands with whom he attended school—people who are now gainfully employed in middle America, who don't fly Mexican flags on their car antennas. The grade school young Victor attended still stands, two miles from his farm. Once an effective institution that helped children grow into productive citizens, the school now has some of the state's worst scores in literacy and math.
This is a readable book, keeping a moderate tone. Californians may wish to send copies to friends and relatives who live in other states; it will explain what happened to their home state, and what lies ahead in Iowa, New Jersey, Virginia and other places.
Hanson draws a sharp contrast between the old Selma and the new. He recounts nostalgically the story of the Hispanic girl Gracie Luna who was Selma's spelling champ; then notes that the Latino homicide rate is now three times that of non-Hispanic whites. Hanson's patient voice is at times hard to fathom as he relates many instances of genuinely infuriating interactions with Mexicans—ripoffs from the mailbox, odious trash dumped on the farm property that requires a monthly clearing, wild and farm animals killed for target practice and ongoing theft of anything not nailed down.
Hanson has no illusions about the government of Mexico. He notes that it has always been run by "apparatchiks and gangsters," and that the current regime encourages out-migration to the U.S. because it means $10 billion a year in money sent home by émigrés. If Washington tries to crack down on this system, Mexico warns, the lost revenue could plunge our southern neighbor into chaos. It's extortion.
Mexicans suffer too. Professor Hanson observes that the corrupt status quo forestalls reform in Mexico. And while the Mexican immigrant is initially enthralled by the opportunity of America, he realizes over the years that his own language and lack of skills are profoundly limiting, restricting him to manual labor at the bottom of the social scale. His gratitude towards America turns slowly to anger and envy.
Sadly, Professor Hanson continues the myth that Mexicans do jobs Americans won't. In agricultural Selma, that may be accurate; not many Americans would pick crops. But what about mechanization, arguably retarded by immigration? And few aliens really want to stay down on the farm, either—hence the day laborers standing on thousands of street corners across the nation every morning to hang sheet rock, frame houses or garden. These are jobs that once provided middle-class livings for American workers, until an immigrant-flooded labor market made citizens seem too expensive.
We hear from Victor Davis Hanson the farmer and the teacher, but not from the military historian. This is a pity, since mass immigration on such a scale as we are enduring qualifies as an invasion. Conquering by babies rather than bombs is a tactic as old as the hills. As recently as the 1930s, Lebanon was a majority Christian country; now it is adjusting to an intolerant Muslim majority. See also Kosovo. Israel's survival as a Jewish society is threatened by the high birth rates of Arabs within its borders.
Will California truly become Mexifornia by a successful non-military invasion? Will Americans continue to flee the increasingly alien state for somewhere that is still recognizable as their country? (California's U.S.-born population actually declined by 1.5 million people in last decade while the overall population increased by over four million.) This crisis calls out for an analysis from a military expert—which Hanson strangely fails to provide.
Mexifornia lays out a dire situation in calm, almost complacent terms. Professor Hanson believes in the power of American civic education to shape young foreigners into future successful citizens. But the moral certitude of that viewpoint has been lost in the educational system at large. Instead of getting help growing up as Americans, Mexican children are smothered with a future-killing concoction of Spanish instruction, declining academic standards and self-esteem. If no changes are made to the current immigration policies, they can only result in endemic poverty and a two-language state.
Prof. Hanson recommends a combination of border enforcement and assimilative education. He does not say how we get there.
Brenda Walker [email her] is a writer living in California. She publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and www.ImmigrationsHumanCost.org.