My letter in today's Nashua Telegraph, in response to the most recent column on immigration by Pat Buchanan.
To the Editors:
Is Pat Buchanan the best the Telegraph can do for analysis that contributes to our thinking about immigration?
Buchanan’s fixed point, in column after column that you publish, is the idea that there is a white, Christian core of America, and that America will fail if enough people come here who aren’t already like “us.” In his most recent piece, Buchanan points out the long American history of discriminating against immigrants by religion, skin color, and nation of origin. That’s all true. What’s incredible is that Buchanan defends this as part of the core essence and meaning of America!
That’s not a writer who can help Greater Nashua think through the concrete challenges of immigration in our time. Every time I read him, I experience it as an attack on me. My family was part of a mass immigration of millions like them, and they certainly would never have been let in by the Buchanan test. Our religion, ethnicity, poverty, and supposed communism were all held against our group by many in the Congresses of that time. But here we are. We have served in the armed forces, started businesses, taught American history and citizenship, inspired others to believe in American values. Yet somehow, it’s Pat Buchanan who gets column inches in my town to attack us and other people who have arrived in similar patterns from other lands, in the name of America’s “national unity and national character.”
As I’ve written to the paper before, Buchanan’s divisive words overpower what in other hands would be reasonable questions. When does immigration lead to integration, and when does it fail to do so? When is a society’s “unity and character” enriched by immigrants, and when is it overwhelmed? Buchanan’s presence in the Telegraph does not help us think about these issues. “Arabs, Africans, and Turks” do not assimilate, period, Buchanan says. This isn’t analysis; it’s just lazy thinking. And that’s my neighbors and colleagues who love America that you’re letting him talk about in this way.
Buchanan’s ideology is actually a denial of many tenets of American greatness. Buchanan doesn’t believe in the power of capitalism. He doesn’t accept the power of free markets and commerce – the way the invisible hand causes people to accommodate to each other, the way that immigrants become part of our society through enterprises they create and new wants that businesses can serve, thus generating more wealth in society.
Buchanan doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. He denies that we have unique institutions and a culture that together increase our capacity to avoid the troubles caused by the mass movement of people in other parts of the world.
And of course Buchanan’s perspective on biblical religion ignores the core. Whether it was the Israelites of the Exodus or the family of Jesus, the Bible starts with God’s choice of “undesirables” as servants to bring divinity into a corrupt world.
Surely there are columnists out there who believe in America, who specialize in the experience of small cities, who write up close about the processes of immigration and integration led by civic leaders, businesspeople, new and veteran immigrants, city governments. Give Pat Buchanan’s space to one of them.
Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett