Migration: Immigration vs. Invasion

Tensions in America over immigration are, once again, reaching a fever pitch. Nativism has been a problem since the founding of our country; even Franklin and Jefferson fought over the citizenship of German immigrants in the late 1700s. There have been violent anti-Catholic movements directed at the Irish and Germans, and the the Asian Exclusion Act during the Gold Rush was just one manifestation of the fears that the Chinese would steal American jobs. Now we see anti-Muslim feelings and anger at the prominence of Mexican immigrants in various industries.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

The cyclical nature of this problem — as one group assimilates, they begin hating another that is trying to immigrate — feels futile and depressing, until I remember that the alternative is much worse. Though violence may be the last refuge of the incompetent, when the stakes are high enough and the alternatives have been exhausted, it is what people will turn to. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t — as when the South fired the first shots of the Battle of Fort Sumter and ultimately lost their bid to see slavery continue as a vital economic institution. The American Civil War certainly settled that question — as perhaps nothing else could have.

The notion that “violence doesn’t solve anything” is one of the greatest myths wrought by civilization. Regrettable though it may be, it is war that sets our borders and the threat of it that preserves the safety of our resources within it. For example, the western border of Germany remains at the Rhine due largely in part to the Battle of Teutoberg Forest, where Rome lost three of its roughly eleven legions.

Violence isn’t always evil. What’s evil is the infatuation with violence. — Jim Morrison

Violence has solved a lot of problems for a lot of societies over the years — even if it is just to bleed off a part of the youth bulge — but as a general rule, more developed societies prefer non-violent solutions to problems. It’s why we settle things with laws instead of brawls; economic strength in lieu of military might. It’s why we try to hold elections, instead of coups. Even bulls and wolves prefer ritualistic displays of strength to actual combat, where possible.

Before we took our concerns about large-scale immigration into the political arena, with all its structure and stylized conflict, quotas and tests, there were actual wars over migration. The Viking expansion was backed by the longship and the sword, not visas. But when you back a people into a corner, they will lash out… especially if they think they have a better chance of winning by fighting than by remaining calm.

I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence. – Malcom X

Martin Luther King and Ghandi advocated non-violence. They were hugely influential and vital to their causes. I don’t think the Civil Rights Act would have been passed without MLK… I just don’t think the Million Man March would have been as effective without the context of the era’s race riots. I don’t think the Indian Independence Movement would have been successful without the Bombay mutiny.

The Jewish people, when they found their Promised Land, had to fight for it, as detailed in the Book of Joshua. The colonization of the Americas certainly had its share of armed conflict; the Spanish conquests of the Aztecs and the Incas,  the many American Indian Wars, and more.

As bad as gang violence can be — whether it’s derided as with the modern MS-13 or romanticized like the Irish Mob and the Italian mafia — and as much as the difficulties facing large marginalized ethnic groups can provoke gang development, I still view immigration as superior to conquest. Better a melting pot than an abattoir.  If there must be death at all, better murder than genocide.

Resources — arable land, clean water — are limited. As the climate — political or environmental — changes, population pressure grows. Migration is an inevitable response to that. The Syrian refugee crisis facing Europe is only the most high-profile, recent example. I, for one, am glad that we’re facing it with bureaucracy instead of pikes… and offering housing instead of enduring raids.

Let me know what you think!