Sometimes it's better to be on the outside looking in. Like those on the left, we on the right are much more effective and much more comfortable on the attack than on defense. And although his enemies have been largely swinging and missing, George Bush and his conservative base are suffering an acute bout of second term-itis.
The first symptom was the nervous rash that developed during the Harriet Miers affair, when many untrusting conservatives savaged her Supreme Court nomination until the poor woman withdrew her name from contention. Next came severe inflammation over the Dubai ports snafu where Republicans and Democrats joined forces to scuttle the deal.
Now the long-festering sore of the illegal immigration issue has come to a head, causing a further split in the party. A recent irritant seems to be the images of half a million immigrants waving Mexican flags at rallies protesting the House version of legislation to stem the tide. Americans of most ethnic and racial backgrounds see this as a slap in the face and an arrogant display of biting the hand that feeds.
Some typically try to cast the problem as one of civil rights, which of course is ridiculous. America's non-Caribbean black population -- who were here before most of us whose families didn't make the Mayflower trip -- faced dreadful discrimination because of skin color rather than national origin. The question is not one of race but of legality and assimilation, both valid issues yet extremely complex.
Many who oppose guest-worker type programs acknowledge that while they themselves are the children of immigrants, their forebears entered this country legally. While true, this claim is a bit disingenuous, as the great European exodus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries proceeded mostly via East Coast seaports where it was easy to control -- the question of legality wasn't really an issue.
Were there an opportunity for desperate families to flee the abject poverty of Ireland or the cruel repression of Eastern Europe in a less costly or quicker fashion, would they have availed themselves of it? The fact that they had oceans to cross instead of a few miles of desert naturally negates the question but renders it no less worthy of consideration.
As for assimilation into American culture, that grand tradition has for decades been under attack by our liberal friends eager to weaken it in order to make us more "global," and thus more worthy in their eyes. Our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, is considered by them to be as dead as the language in which it's written.
But for two glorious centuries, the phony and noxious notion of forced multiculturalism was preceded by that of the grand American melting pot, into which every immigrant contributed without the government wielding the spoon. Today, multiculturalists seek to divide by emphasizing what makes us different rather than what should bring us together; in the process producing envy and resentment, the left's favorite tools. Witness the sickening travesty of banning American flags at school protests.
At the same time, many on the right howl when supporters of guest-worker programs drag out the claim that immigrants will do the jobs "that Americans won't do." The truth, at least in my corner of the Northeast, is that these illegals are doing jobs that others used to do, but this is largely due to our modern lifestyle.
Years ago, the burger-flipping and supermarket jobs were filled by American teenagers; stay-at-home mothers raised their own children; non-union apprentices on their way up the ladder filled the construction ranks and all but the rich did their own landscaping, which used to be known as yard work.
Today, with most women working outside the home, husbands have no need for second jobs such as driving cabs or pumping gas. As a result, this has created cottage industries where child-rearing and yard care are delegated to others who work two and three of these jobs at low pay in order to mimic the ascension of their employers. We used to call this the American dream.
Some on the right who support the House bill think this is an open-and-shut case of right and wrong. And while they denigrate the Catholic Church's position on this, I wonder if they feel that a law criminalizing human aid to illegals is any more moral than one which legalizes the murder of children in the womb? Caring for the poor and defending innocent life are the Church's mandates, and good priests would risk jail for both.
Now before my email box is deluged with love letters, let me state that I'm of two minds on this issue. While I'm fairly certain that my grandparents would have used any means to ensure that I was born here in the land of opportunity, I also firmly believe in the rule of law. But we should take special care to de-politicize this issue and try to compromise on a bill which upholds our sovereignty yet is compassionate and wise.
Whether such a compromise is possible is an itch which may be unreachable for some in the GOP who denounce President Bush as un-conservative. But in doing so, they should try and remember the Eleventh Commandment as espoused by the last president to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. In his second-term attempt at compassionate conservatism, Ronald Reagan got it wrong; we have a chance to get it right.
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