Saturday, August 26, 2006

Final Thoughts on Paleo Pat

Alex left a comment on my latest post about Pat Buchanan's forthcoming anti-immigration screed, State of Emergency: The Third World Conquest of America, in which he points out a quote from the Time magazine interview that I inexplicably failed to include as proof of Pat's less-than-honorable views.

Here's the passage:
What do we have in common that makes us fellow Americans? Is it simply citizenship? Or is it blood, soil, history and heroes?
Alex draws our attention to his curious usage of "blood and soil", which, as it turns out, is far from innocuous. In German, "blood and soil" translates to "Blut und Boden", a phrase used extensively by Adolf Hitler to remind his fellow anti-Semites that Jews were "a race without roots or native land". Is Buchanan unaware of this connection? I doubt it.

Even if he is, the locution still exposes the fact that his concept of America is grounded in ethnicity. It would be preposterous to suggest that "true" Americans share a bloodline, but that's Pat for you. And his insistence on the connection to American "soil" can only be relative, seeing as how it's been "borrowed" from another sort of native.

My grandfather was born in England (full points on Buchanan's ethnic scale), but his side of the family only set foot on our soil around 1910. Was he somehow less American than descendants of black slaves brought to American soil in the 1600s, and whose blood mingled with Northern European stock only unwillingly? And what of the Chinese who arrived to build the railroads many decades before my grandfather left Manchester? It becomes clear that, taken innocently, Buchanan's use of "blood and soil" is nonsensical. Which leaves us with the other option.

His use of "history and heroes" is no less problematic. Americans—all of them immigrants save for the Indians—have always brought history with them. Much of the Irish immigrant experience, for example, was informed by a shared memory of horrible treatment at the hands of the British. Their Americanness was in part formed by this pre-existing bond that was not shared by other American immigrant groups. Does that make them less American? Considering that at least a quarter of the blood coursing through Buchanan's patriotic veins is Irish (and another quarter if you count Scots Irish), one would think not.

Despite what Pat thinks, America is unique precisely because there is a constant intermingling of Old World and New World history. The history of America consists of a million different pasts and a million different presents forged into a vibrant and fluid experience that is at once common and unique. Pat Buchanan would like to unravel that version of America. He would like to draw a line in the quicksand between the acceptable immigrant experience and the unacceptable. Any such effort can't help but be arbitrary.

As for American obeisance to common "heroes", if it means I'm going to have to share Pat's love for Richard Nixon, then I'd just as soon move to Canada.

And I don't much care for hockey.
Listed on BlogShares