Helprin strikes out on immigration

I have been influenced by and have frequently cited Mark Helprin’s boldly strategic, thinking-outside-the-envelope essays on how to confront Islam. Therefore I’m sorry to say that his piece on immigration in today’s Washington Post is an exercise in attitudinizing. He looks down contemptuously on the Minutemen as “a febrile militia of Willie Nelson look-alikes … armed geezers,” and, with more appropriateness, he harshly attacks the business interests and the anti-American left who promote open borders. Yet he himself has nothing to say on the issue. He’s somewhere in the middle between those two distasteful extremes, too good and too pure for everyone. He offers not a single argument, except that immigration is an important national issue, and that we need as a nation to discuss the trade-off between its supposed economic benefits and the cultural merger of our society with Latin America that it is causing. Well, if Helprin wants a debate about whether the U.S. should be Hispanicized, or, more accurately, Mestizo-ized, why doesn’t he start the debate? Why doesn’t he say something about the issue? And if he has nothing to say about it, as seems to be the case, why does he think that others will have anything to say about it? The answer to these questions is the perennial answer: Helprin would very much like immigration to be discussed, but, given the fraught matters of nationality, culture, and race that are inseparable from immigration, he doesn’t want to do it himself—he wants other people to do it for him. He wants other people to get down in the mud (Peggy Noonan’s “mud,” that is) of discussing and fighting for our national identity and national survival. And when they do it, guess what (based on what he did in this column) he will do? He’ll put them down as febrile Willie Nelson types.

The one worthwhile thing in this disappointing article is Helprin’s description of the anti-American left,

who have embraced multiculturalism and bilingualism, and who, though they may be little blast furnaces of ostentatious compassion, are in their disdain for America as ruthless as commissars, would be delighted to see it changed any which way as long as it becomes unrecognizable. If you worry about the potential for California and the Southwest to calve like melting glaciers and cleave to Mexico, or vice versa, the left will mock your distress as it once mocked and reviled anticommunism. And in the same vein the equanimity of the business right is similar to the self-satisfaction of those who would have sold Lenin the rope with which he planned to hang them. This is the lobby, strange as it may seem, for illegal immigration.

That’s good. Nevertheless, it is wrong of Helprin, having said these true things about the America-haters and the self-satisfied Lawrence Kudlow types, to issue cheap put-downs of the very people who are trying to stop what the pro-immigration forces are doing. We’re left with the sad conclusion that the race-charged immigration question makes even bellicose former military men turn and run.

- end of initial entry -

Alex H. writes:

“That’s the problem with you, George—you want results, but you don’t want to get your hands dirty!”

—“Jack Bauer” (season 2 of “24”)

Given the content of certain of Helprin’s novels, I was really surprised at this lame, passive response to the invasion of our—his—country. A Soldier of the Great War, in particular, features some very vivid episodes in which the Italians confront the invading Austrians. E.g.:

The Guitarist [a comrade-in-arms of the protagonist] was in the communications room, and at five-fifteen he screamed that his lines had been cut. An infiltrator was in the trench.

The River Guard looked anxiously at the infantry, who looked back with contempt. “It’s not our redoubt,” one of them said.

“Go ahead,” another added nonchalantly. “Someone’s knocking.”

Everyone looked at Guariglia, who was the toughest, and the biggest, but it wasn’t fair, and they knew it. They knew his children as if they had met them, and they understood the love that had moved him to describe them again and again. Besides that, he had done more than his share of difficult and dangerous things. Then they looked at the Guitarist, who had not done his share, but he was a musician, he was soft, he had a family, and he stared at the ground. Microscopico was too small. Biondo was at the gun port. The others were in other bunkers.

With his heart fluttering, Alessandro [the main character in the story] threw the sheath off his bayonet. It hit the wall and clattered to the floor. In an instant he had picked up the rifle and was running through the doorway, then across the cortile, then past the machine-gunner and into the communications trench.

When he started out he had been afraid, but with each step his anger rose, until, as he rounded the slight bends in the trench, he was ferocious and electrified. He flipped the safety catch on the rifle and steered the raised bayonet adroitly through the turns. He felt bodiless, as if he were only two strong arms, a well oiled rifle, and a flashing bayonet gliding through the trench at top speed. He wanted only to kill the interlopers who had dared cut the lines.

—from Chapter IV. “The 19th River Guard”

LA writes:

As I said, immigration, culture, nationality, race—these are issues that turn strong men into evasive temporizers.
Howard Sutherland writes:

I just read Helprin’s piece. There is no sense whatever of America as America, a distinct nation with an American essence worth preserving. It is pure intellectualizing. He could be writing about the Roman Empire.

LA writes:

Sadly, yes. Helprin, who comes across like Winston Churchill on speed when he’s talking about the Muslim menace in the Mideast, suddenly takes on an abstract, bureaucratic, hoity-toity tone when discussing the Mexican invasion of America.

HRS adds:

Or else whites become real, organic, authentic again through an infusion of that blood McCain is talking about. Same result in the end, though.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 21, 2006 10:30 PM | Send

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