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Will the U.S. Become Balkanized?

Speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Albuquerque in 2001, George W. Bush declared that, as Mexico was a friend and neighbor, “It’s so important for us to tear down our barriers and walls that might separate Mexico from the United States.” Bush succeeded. And during his tenure, millions from Mexico exploited his magnanimity to violate our laws, trample upon our sovereignty, walk into our country, and remain here. In 2007, backed by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, and Barack Obama, Bush backed amnesty for the 12 million people who had entered America illegally. The nation thundered no. And Congress sustained the nation.

The latest mass border crossing by scores of thousands of tots, teenagers, and toughs from Central America has killed amnesty in 2014, and probably for the duration of the Obama presidency. Indeed, with the massive media coverage of the crisis on the border, immigration, legal and illegal, and what it portends for our future, could become the decisive issue of 2014 and 2016.

But it needs to be put in a larger context. For this issue is about more than whether the Chamber of Commerce gets amnesty for its members who have been exploiting cheap illegal labor. The real issue: Will America remain one nation, or are we are on the road to Balkanization and the breakup of America into ethnic enclaves? For, as Ronald Reagan said, a nation that cannot control its borders isn’t really a nation anymore.

In Federalist No. 2, John Jay wrote,

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs …

He called Americans a “band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties.” The republic of the founders for whom Jay spoke did not give a fig for diversity. They cherished our unity, commonality, and sameness of ancestry, culture, faith, and traditions. We were not a nation of immigrants in 1789.

They came later. From 1845-1849, the Irish fleeing the famine. From 1890-1920, the Germans. Then the Italians, Poles, Jews, and other Eastern Europeans. Then, immigration was suspended in 1924.

From 1925 to 1965, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants were assimilated, Americanized. In strong public schools, they were taught our language, literature, and history, and celebrated our holidays and heroes. We endured together through the Depression and sacrificed together in World War II and the Cold War. By 1960, we had become truly one nation and one people.

America was not perfect. No country is. But no country ever rivaled what America had become. She was proud, united, free, the first nation on earth. And though the civil rights movement had just begun, nowhere did black peoples enjoy the freedom and prosperity of African-Americans.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that America is today in “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago.” In some ways that is so. Equality of rights has been realized. Miraculous cures in medicine have kept alive many of us who would not have survived the same maladies half a century ago.

But we are no longer that “band of brethren.” We are no longer one unique people “descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion.” We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion, and roots.

We no longer speak the same language, worship the same God, honor the same heroes or share the same holidays. Christmas and Easter have been privatized. Columbus is reviled. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in. Our politics have become poisonous. Our political parties are at each other’s throats. Christianity is in decline. Traditional churches are sundering over moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Islam is surging.

Our society seems to be disintegrating. Over 40 percent of all births now are illegitimate. Among Hispanics, the figure is 52 percent. Among African-Americans, 73 percent. And among children born to single moms, the drug use rate and the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate, are many times higher than among children born to married parents.

If a country is a land of defined and defended borders, within which resides a people of a common ancestry, history, language, faith, culture, and traditions, in what sense are we Americans one nation and one people today? Neocons say we are a new kind of nation, an ideological nation erected upon a written Constitution and Bill of Rights. But equality, democracy, and diversity are not mentioned in the Constitution. As for what our founding documents mean, even the Supreme Court does not agree.

More and more, 21st-century America seems to meet rather well Metternich’s depiction of Italy—”a geographic expression.”

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

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#1 Comment By JohnE_o On July 16, 2014 @ 8:16 am

Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in.

Well one has to admit that of those three, Cesar Chavez was the most effective Labor Advocate.

The other two, not so much – it was almost as if they weren’t all that concerned about the working conditions of agricultural laborers.

#2 Comment By Francis On July 16, 2014 @ 10:19 am

Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in.

Well one has to admit that of those three, Cesar Chavez was the most effective Labor Advocate.

The other two, not so much – it was almost as if they weren’t all that concerned about the working conditions of agricultural laborers.

I meant to comment on this ridiculous, bating statement. I regularly watch what history-related programming and this is not limited to the commercial channels. Lee, Jackson, Longstreet and other Confederate Generals are regular topics and not once are they disparaged.

I cannot remember the last time I saw a program dedicated to Chavez.

As a side note, I view most in the Tea Party like Confederate soldiers: 99’ers foolishly following 1% masters. Chavez should be a hero to the Tea Party more than their cherished Lee and Jackson.

#3 Comment By SDS On July 16, 2014 @ 10:22 am

Re: Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon.

“As well they should be. The guys were traitors for crying out loud! They fought a war against their own countrymen.”

“Yes, that does tend to happen to those who take up arms against their own country.”

If it was understood that seceding from the union was a valid action; then these men were NOT making war against their own countrymen….

If we are now (and were then)in a perpetual prison; then I see your point….and I guess Mr. Lincoln answered that question.

#4 Comment By JonF On July 16, 2014 @ 10:29 am

Re: We have lost the tragic sense of the Civil War because we no longer have a common history.

My great-great grandfather (whose wartime tintype photo and some of whose letters home I have), who fought and died for the Union, presumably saw the Confederates as something other than “patriots” and “men of honor”, and the war as something other than a sad misunderstanding. He would never have gotten his gun and enlisted, nor reenlisted in 1864 when the original three year term was up. There’s no indication that he actively hated Southerners, though he did remark that slavery seemed to have made them all lazy.

The Civil War is only tragic in the ancient sense of Fate (or Karma) paying back upon a people the deserts for their sins. It is not tragic in the sense of an unfortunate accident that could have been avoided.

There is no defense– none, zip, nada– for the Confederate States of America. For some time after the war the business was papered over by lazy politicians singing glib kumbiyahs to patriotism. And yes certainly, no Southerner alive today bears any burden of guilt for the crimes of the men of 1860. But treason and wickedness should be called as much, not defended, nor mythologized with Moonlight and Magnolias. Even Gone With The Wind (the book, not the movie), about as pro-Southern a book as ever hit the bestseller list, is pretty blunt about the idiocy of secession.

#5 Comment By JonF On July 16, 2014 @ 10:33 am

Re: The 1950s was the last time the US faced reality without fear.

Um, duck-and-cover drills? McCarthyism and assorted “red” scares?

#6 Comment By JohnE_o On July 16, 2014 @ 10:35 am

Peter Rieth, I take exception to your characterization of ‘unthinking’ with respect to my assessment of Łee and Stonewall’s decision to take up arms against the US.

Here in the South where I live, there is a strong tendency to explain away the Rebellion.

After long thought and study of the various Declarations of Secession, I’ve concluded that they were motivated by mercenary creeds and self interest.

There was nothing noble about their actions and they were not Patriots.

You might not agree with my conclusions, but they are not unthinking.

#7 Comment By E. H. Looney On July 16, 2014 @ 11:20 am

Rebel against your mother country and your anointed king? Heroic! Patriotic! Three cheers!

Rebel against Washington, D. C.? Treason! Villain! Scumbag!


#8 Comment By philadelphialawyer On July 16, 2014 @ 11:42 am

M Young:

“Who are you going to believe, John Jay or some anonymous internet commentator.”

You can believe who you want, but Jay was writing an election campaign piece. Moreover, all of the facts mentioned in my post are just that, facts, that can be looked up. I would also point out that no serious scholar of the colonial or Revolutionary period would make Jay’s claims today.

“That some people were descended from slightly different Germanic stock, or practiced a slightly different form of Christianity, didn’t make the country ‘diverse’ as the meaning is today.”

But it was quite diverse, and I never said it was “as” diverse as today. Plus, you are engaging in some pretty ahistorical revisionism. Folks at the time saw very little confluence between what you are broadly lumping together as “German.” Tell John Adams that he was a “German!” People then spoke quite literally about the “English race.” And, again, it was hardly the case that even all Englishmen were the same. As for religion, it seems to me that folks, whose differences you minimize, and call “slight,” were killing each other over those difference not long before. In the previous century, Anglicans and Puritan fought a major civil war in England, and, in Boston, Puritans were hanging Quakers over those “slight” differences.

“Blacks, quite frankly, didn’t count…”

As I mentioned. Do you think we should try to nullify today’s diversity by going back to that practice? The point is that the population was always quite diverse, even if the power elite was relatively more homogenous.

“….and neither did Native Americans (the latter were treated, then as now, as separate nations.”

But Native Americans now can vote, in general elections, and have full political rights. Again, are we to nullify the diversity that entails by taking away those rights?

“And you’d be surprised how deep rooted even the founding generation was in America–John Adams was a fifth generation American.”

Not surprising at all. Adams’ direct descendants still meet once a year. But Adams was the exception, not the rule.

“No, America had a founding culture and people.”

See Fischer. What you call “a culture” was quite diverse. Even if I grant the notion of a founding “people,” still, there plenty of other people around too, and we can’t eliminate the diversity that they provide the way it was done in 1790, unless we mimic their racism, religious prejudices, etc.

“The presence of a few small linguistic groups doesn’t change that in the slightest.”

First of all, diversity does, actually, undercut claims of unity. Secondly, the groups were not “small.” Pennsylvania, as has been pointed out, was heavily German speaking. The Dutch still were the dominant social group in New York City (where dozens of other languages besides English were already being spoken, long before the so called immigration waves), and elsewhere in the Hudson valley and New Jersey. And, of course, Native Americans and African Americans had their own linguistic traditions as well.

In other words, there were folks from what today are seen as three races (many more were seen then) with roots in three continents and what today are numerous nations speaking many different languages and worshipping in many different ways. And even among what might be called the dominant “people,” they lived their lives in many different locales with highly varying climates and economies and degrees of urbanization. There were also large cultural differences already to be observed on a regional basis, particularly between the North and the South and between the settled sea coast and the mountainous frontier. And John Jay knew all of this, and that is why he argued so desperately for “unity,” because the facts did not back him up.

#9 Comment By philadelphialawyer On July 16, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

M Young:

“There weren’t ‘millions’ people in the SW or Louisiana purchase, let alone Spanish or French speakers.”

Well, how about Puerto Rico? That adds another three quarter of a million Spanish speakers right there. In any event, the point was that the USA, through its own actions, right back to the peace treaty of 1783, acquired territory on which there were numerous speakers of French and Spanish, and of indigenous languages. And, of course, many of these folks have multiplied since then. We can hardly blame the Creoles or Cajuns of Louisiana or the Spanish speaking folks of New Mexico or the native Hawaiians or Alaskans for providing too much “diversity” in the USA.

It might also be added that white Americans imported the ancestors of the vast majority of folks with African heritage as slaves. So, their presence here, including their distinct subculture, and the resulting “diversity,” is not really the fault of “immigration” (as that term is usually understood) either.

#10 Comment By philadelphialawyer On July 16, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

Lee and Jackson are included because of Mr Buchanan’s odd infatuation with the Confederacy. They have NEVER been seen as heroes in the North, particularly not by the WASP ascendancy whose loss in status Mr Buchanan laments. The WASPy, Republican-dominated North, which portrayed Lincoln as THE great American hero (even over Washington) in it pubic schools and books, anyway, had no use for the CSA. In non official and popular culture, yeah, the “gallant” South and its “gallant” leaders figured more prominently.

Another tic that might be mentioned is Mr Buchanan’s seeming nostalgia for that very WASP ascendancy. As an Irish Catholic, of course, Mr Buchanan would have been viewed by that group as a member of another, and distinctly inferior, “race” (Yes, the “Celts” were seen as a different race from the “Anglo Saxons” in the 18th and 19th centuries.) And thus he himself would have represented unwanted “diversity,” both racially and religiously.

#11 Comment By Franklin Evans On July 16, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

E. H. Looney: Perspective is nine-tenths of the laud.


#12 Comment By Patrick On July 16, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

This is puzzling:

On one hand, it was the *states* that ratified the Constitution: they could theoretically “unratify” it for themselves.

On the other hand, it was agreed that 9/13ths ratification made the Constitution binding, which meant the few states opposed were bound by the majority of *states*. And since Lincoln’s election was perfectly legal and done properly, it is difficult to see why, if the southern states had agreed to the ratification rules of not needing unanimity to have their state bound by the ratification, why they had a right to leave *as individual states*.

I thought Confederate officers were treated poorly, too, after the war.

#13 Comment By Chris in Appalachia On July 16, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

“Are you being forced to live with gazelles? People, humanity–we are your own kind.”

See, this is the kind of self-righteous shaming that social conservatives need to fight back against. We shouldn’t be afraid that someone might call us uneducated, redneck, backward, racist, etc. That’s what unfairly got Mr. Buchanan kicked off of television. What we need to do is point out that the most vehement supporters of multi-culturalism are also the most rabid foes of social-conservative Heartland culture. There is no room in their multi-culturalim for our culture. And many of us made a good faith effort to coexist in the last decades, but we never expected this smug vengeance from them. So, sure, try to shame us by saying we are “taking our ball and going home.” Well, we lost the game, so why should we stick around on the ballfield and let you do a victory dance on our heads?

#14 Comment By J.D. On July 16, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

Yes, I think everyone who visits this site is very familiar with the notion that Lee and Jackson were the real “patriots,” that secession was “peaceful” (despite the violent seizures of federal property and the attack on the Star of the West), and that Lincoln “invaded the South.”

This doesn’t alter the fact that it is ludicrous to lament that we are no longer “one nation and one people” and bewail our impending “Balkanization,” and then turn around and suggest that the heroes of a violent secessionist movement are representative of that “united” country that no longer exists.

#15 Comment By kcb43042 On July 16, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

I happened to be listening to Vicki McKenna in Wisconsin today when she read excerpts of this article.

I actually like reading the article more than I her interpretation and commentary before and after she read the excerpts.

I do not believe that we should have to worship the same God to be a united Nation. In fact, Amendment One of the constitution says as much and I would argue that the suggestion is anti-American.

I do not believe that immigrants are the problem. I have a son who went through ridiculous hoops to get authorization to live and work in Australia. When they investigated them moving here, his Australian born wife would go through the same stringent measures.

Globally, immigrants bring so much with them. My son and his wife host a Thanksgiving dinner every year because it is a lovely custom. We have beer and spaetzle from our German immigrants and wonderful cuisine from around the world.

I don’t think you’re talking about immigrants when this gets discussed among those on Conservative talk radio. I think it is a police or military issue – not immigration. Or, it is a social issue that needs a military presence. Think it through. But please don’t mindlessly throw out the truly wonderful baby with the bath water.

In any event, I don’t think it helps any issue to approach it one-sided. And, Xenopobia is never attractive.

#16 Comment By Kasoy On July 16, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

When America loses its moral anchor the Judeo-Christian beliefs, then relativism will divide the nation – a democratic free for all where everyone has the right to define what is good & evil.

The confederation of the Red states where the traditional morals & beliefs are adhered to will be the least painful dissection of the Union.

#17 Comment By Ken T On July 16, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

“Rebel against your mother country and your anointed king? Heroic! Patriotic! Three cheers!”

But I would never expect to hear a Brit complaining that Washington and Jefferson “were dropped from the pantheon”, or trying to uphold them as patriots.

Yes, it is true that one man’s traitor is another man’s revolutionary hero. Always has been and always will be. Why would you expect that to change?

#18 Comment By Thomas On July 16, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

Is this a universal axiom that applies to the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Let me see if I can get this right. You can sever relations and conduct a revolution against the British Empire but not old “Crazy Abe,” right?

#19 Comment By JonF On July 17, 2014 @ 6:32 am

Re: On one hand, it was the *states* that ratified the Constitution: they could theoretically “unratify” it for themselves.

There is no mechanism in the Constitution for its unratification and when South Carolina (who else) suggested establishing a secession mechanism at the 1787 convention the idea was rejected.
The only mechanism for the Constitution’s dissolution would be a new constitutional convention; any state that failed to ratify the new Constitution would thereby be outside the Union. This option was certainly available in 1960, but the eleven CSA states chose rebellion instead.

Re: ebel against your mother country and your anointed king? Heroic! Patriotic! Three cheers!
Rebel against Washington, D. C.? Treason! Villain! Scumbag!

The colonists in 1776 had some grounds for rebellion (taxation without representation, that stuff). The men of 1860 had– what? The election of a president they didn’t like.

#20 Comment By Ken T On July 17, 2014 @ 10:10 am

“You can sever relations and conduct a revolution against the British Empire but not old “Crazy Abe,” right?”

The point you keep missing is that “traitor” vs “hero” is a matter of perspective. There is absolutely no question that our Founding Fathers were traitors to England. They took up arms against the country to which they had previously sworn allegiance. They committed treason, by definition. We call them “patriotic heros” because we agree with them. That does not change the definition of what they did, and no matter how friendly England and the US are today, it would be ridiculous to expect England to hail them as “patriots”.

The same is true of the Confederate leaders. They took up arms against the country to which they had sworn allegiance. That is by definition treason. You are free to agree with them, and consider them heros, but you cannot expect the rest of us to consider them anything other than traitors.

#21 Comment By Patrick On July 17, 2014 @ 11:40 am

@ JonF:

“and when South Carolina (who else) suggested establishing a secession mechanism at the 1787 convention the idea was rejected.”

Thanks. Is that in Madison’s “Notes”? I’d never heard of that.

“The men of 1860 had– what? The election of a president they didn’t like.”

A friend of mine always says about the Confederacy: “Boo hoo – they should have moved to Canada, hipsters” (recalling when a lot of lefties whined over George W. Bush’s election).

It seems like King George III actually “breached” first, as it were – by not giving the colonists the rights of Englishmen…The Confederacy: yeah, it seems like a legal election with a bad outcome – it is assuredly not running afoul of the Constitution that they’ve agreed to (thus ceding some of their sovereignty).