Liberty Is Colorblind
Liberty is not a “White Thing”
“Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” –George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796)
During Super Bowl XLVIII, a Coca-Cola advertisement featured the familiar song “America the Beautiful,” written by Katharine Lee Bates after a trip across our nation in 1893. The song is a fitting tribute to our great country’s diverse landscapes, and the Coke ad rightly retained the moving and powerful words, “God shed His grace on thee.”
However, this Super Bowl rendition also included some stanzas that were sung in languages other than English, in a parallel tribute to the diversity of our people. Personally, I thought the ad was fine, and it didn’t offend my advocacy for “English First.”
I understood its message to be consistent with George Washington’s 1796 affirmation, “The name of American … must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” In other words, while virtually everyone reading this column has descended from immigrants – with all the inherent cultural multiplicity – we must form a unified front as Americans in order to be one people united for “Liberty in Law,” as Bates wrote.
That patriotic unification should not exclude our cultural differences, which make our social landscape richer than that of any other nation. To suggest otherwise is tantamount to thinking that America the Beautiful should be bulldozed into a flatland from sea to shining sea.
Both my maternal and paternal ancestors immigrated to our country prior to the American Revolution, but now, though many generations removed from our European homelands, Scots-Irish music and traditions still resonate in my soul. The ancestral origin of my next-door neighbor is Africa, and he has yet to develop a full appreciation for Celtic music or its domesticated bluegrass form, but our diverse ancestry is not an obstacle to our “just pride of patriotism” – nor should it be. We were both raised to be Americans, not hyphenated-Americans.
I know many first-generation citizens, and am honored to call them fellow Americans, though some of their traditions are starkly different from my own. Most of them have a love for America that exceeds that of many who were born here.
Given the contentious “immigration reform” debate that has been simmering for the past three decades, and has once again been moved to the political front burner ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, some of my colleagues took offense at the Coke ad’s substitution of other languages in “America the Beautiful.”
Indeed, the range of opinions about that ad is as varied as those of the current immigration debate. But the rancorous debate over how to manage illegal immigrants has largely neglected the most important aspect of citizenship – a devotion to Liberty.
For the record, I fully support legal immigration, and believe the current legal process is much too cumbersome.
Fact is, most legal immigrants, as with most among the 10-12 million immigrants who have crossed our borders illegally, come here for similar reasons – they seek opportunities that are not available to them under corrupt and oppressive regimes in their mostly impoverished homelands.
Illegal immigrants form a massive low-skilled labor pool for low-paying jobs, but that “economic benefit” is largely offset by an enormous burden on taxpayers saddled with the expense of providing social services for those illegal immigrants, and for Americans who might otherwise fill jobs held by them. (For a sense of how immigration is shaping our nation, the U.S. Census population clock notes that there is one birth every 8 seconds, one death every 12 seconds and one migrant every 36 seconds, for a net gain of one person every 15 seconds.)
At the right end of the immigration debate is the “round ‘em up and send 'em back” sentiment, which is not without precedent. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower instituted “Operation Wetback,” which resulted in the deportation of almost three million Mexicans who had illegally crossed our southern border. Ironically, that initiative was fully supported by the Mexican government, which wanted to thwart the hemorrhage of their native labor pool.
At the left end of the debate is a plan to award citizenship to illegal immigrants outright, with the objective of subjugating them to statist dependency, thereby creating another massive and reliable Democratic voter constituency. And Big Labor is selling out its current membership while betting its future on new immigrant members.
In the middle are amnesty proposals to allow immigrants to remain in the U.S. on provisional status, if they line up for the legal process of becoming citizens.
That middle road is the basis for the GOP’s Standards for Immigration Reform proposal released last week, which is largely a repackaging of the 1986 amnesty plan. Like the '86 legislation, the current reform measures are a reasonable attempt to deal with a very complex social, economic and political issue.
However, negligent regulation and enforcement of the previous legislation rendered it ineffective. And there is no reason to think that Barack Hussein Obama, who has a penchant for not enforcing laws that don’t fit his political agenda, will enforce provisions in new immigration legislation that do not comport with his Socialist Democratic objectives.
Further, given the plethora of broken promises to protect our borders, and given the dire consequences of so-called “birthright citizenship,” which is a gross misinterpretation of our Constitution’s 14th Amendment, conservatives should refuse to support any immigration plan that is not predicated by border protection and adequate regulation and enforcement of immigration laws.
Short of those prerequisites, immigration reform is just red meat for leftist Democrats seeking to expand their urban poverty plantation constituency.
Beyond the immigration debate, however, I would argue that Democrats successfully co-opt ethnic minority allegiance to their statist platform because Republicans fail to counter them with appeals for allegiance to Liberty and the opportunity it embodies, particularly in regard to the GOP’s message to those of Hispanic and Latino origins.
The establishment Republican message was so ineffective in 2008 that it gave rise to the most significant grassroots movement in recent history, the “Tea Party,” a powerful conservative/Liberty coalition that resoundingly won House control for Republicans in the 2010 midterms and held it in 2012. However, the quick infusion of these deeply committed small-government conservatives into the ranks of the existing GOP resulted in significant and self-defeatist infighting between Republican conservatives and moderates.
If these factions can unite around a message of Liberty and opportunity, they will be unstoppable. If not, they will not regain the Executive Branch or Senate.
While the face of the Republican Party across the nation is becoming more reflective of the ethnic origins of our people, the national GOP leadership has yet to figure out that their message must begin and end with Liberty. Notably, however, many of the conservative rising stars in the GOP – at the federal, state and local levels – are from ethnic minority groups, and it’s no coincidence that their campaigns tend to be framed in the universal appeal of Liberty.
Citizenship is much more than a birthright for indigenous Americans, or a legal change in nationality for immigrants. It is the embodiment of American Patriotism, a steadfast devotion to the First Principles of our nation’s founding: individual Liberty as “endowed by our Creator,” and the solemn obligation to extend that legacy to our posterity.
For the past quarter-century, from the time when Ronald Reagan framed his presidency in the language of Liberty, establishment Republicans have drifted back into complacency. They have neglected the opportunity to center their message on Liberty. Worse, they have regarded that essential tenet as one that only white folks could appreciate and embrace.
Liberty is colorblind.
The rising generation of conservative Republicans understand the fundamental principle, and the sooner they displace the old guard, the better.
Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis
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