The pathfinder

But now Mark Steyn, who, despite the thousands of gallons of rhetorical gasoline he has poured on the Muslim problem over the years, has never once in any context whatsoever mentioned immigration or the possibility of restricting it, has now written a column discussing immigration restriction—or, rather, discussing the possibility of discussing immigration restriction:

I was in one of those hotels where they give you The New York Times whether you want it or not. And, even if you leave it in the corridor, the maid brings it into the room and places it invitingly on the table. And, even though you ignore it, you call down for a pot of tea and the room service guy moves it to put the tray down and then drapes the paper slightly over the edge between the cup and the single flower in the mini-vase as though posed for a “Still Life of Afternoon Tea with New York Times” that fetches $1.6 million at Sotheby’s. And at that point, fearing the next stage would be when I slid into bed to be awakened 20 minutes later by the hooker from the lobby curled up on the adjoining pillow and reading Frank Rich into my ear, I gave in and opened up the paper. Inside was a story of immigrants in Langley Park, Maryland “Struggling To Rise In Suburbs” (as the headline put it). Usual sludge, but in the middle of it, helpfully explaining Langley Park to his readers, Jason DeParle wrote as follows:

Now nearly two-thirds Latino and foreign-born, it has the aesthetics of suburban sprawl and the aura of Central America. Laundromats double as money-transfer stores. Jobless men drink and sleep in the sun. There is no city government, few community leaders, and little community.

At which point I stopped, and went back, and reread it. For it seemed to me at first glance that Mr DeParle was airily citing laundromats doubling as money-transfer stores, jobless men drinking and sleeping in the sun, and dysfunctional metropolitan government all as evidence of “the aura of Central America”. And that can’t be right, can it? Only a couple of days earlier, some Internet wags had leaked a discussion thread from the JournoList, the exclusive virtual country club where all the cool libs hang out. In this instance, the media grandees were arguing vehemently that Martin Peretz of The New Republic was, in the elegant formulation one associates with today’s journalism school alumni, a “crazy-ass racist”. The proof that this lifelong liberal (albeit a wee bit hawkish on Israel for today’s Islamophile lefties) is a “f**king racist” came in his observations on our friendly neighbor to the south:

“Well, I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations,” said Mr Peretz. “A (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict.”

Martin Peretz’s assumptions about “the aura of Central America” are not so very different from Jason DeParle’s, but Mr Peretz brought down the wrath of his own side’s politically correct enforcers. Even though his remarks are utterly unexceptional to anyone familiar with Latin America. But since when have the PC police cared about observable reality?

Langley Park is a good example of where tiptoeing around on multiculti eggshells leads: There is literally no language in which what’s happening in suburban Maryland can be politely discussed, not if an ambitious politician of either party wishes to remain viable. To exhibit an interest in immigration is to risk being marked down as, if not a “racist”, at least a “nativist”. And “immigration” isn’t really what it is, not really: After all, in traditional immigration patterns the immigrant assimilates with his new land, not the new land with the immigrant. Yet in this case the aura of Maryland dissolves like a mirage when faced with “the aura of Central America”.

Two generations ago, America, Canada, Australia and the rest of the developed world took it as read that a sovereign nation had the right to determine which, if any, foreigners it extended rights of residency to. Now only Japan does. Everywhere else, opposition to mass immigration is “nativist”, and expressing a preference for one group of immigrants over another is “racist”. Even though 40 years ago governments routinely distinguished between Irish and Bulgar, Indian and Somali, now all that matters is to demonstrate your multicultural bona fides even unto societal suicide, as if immigration is like a UN peacekeeping operation—one of those activities in which you have no “national interest”.

“It’s overblown that suddenly Islam is going to spread across the nation,” a candidate for Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party said on the radio the other day. “And, if it does, so what?” Jens Orback, the then “Integration Minister” of Sweden (and pity the land that needs such a cabinet official), was less devil-may-care. On Sveriges Radio five years ago, he advised his fellow Swedes to “be nice to Muslims while we’re in the majority so that they’ll be nice to us when they’re in the majority.” Another “Integration Minister”, Armin Laschet of North Rhine-Westphalia, tells his fellow Germans that “in our cities 30-40 per cent of children have an immigrant background. It will be them who will sustain this country in 20 years.”

Very few Swedes knowingly voted for societal self-extinction, yet in barely a third of century it’s become a fait accomplis. And in a politically correct world there is no acceptable form of public discourse in which to object to it. This is the triumph of the left’s assault on language. As my colleague John Derbyshire put it in another context: Better dead than rude.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 03, 2009 06:19 AM | Send

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