I've never lived in California, let alone visited the state for any period of time, and after reading Victor Davis Hanson's "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming," I wondered how anyone in their right mind would want to go anywhere near there. Sure, if you're a wealthy celebrity who earns millions making movies in Hollywood, California probably isn't that bad of a place. If you're a wealthy executive with one of the Silicon Valley firms, California is likely just dandy. In other words, if you've got enough money to live in a heavily fortified compound, only having to drive into the city in a motorcade with enough security to wage war against a small country, California is great. Regrettably, the other 99% of the population doesn't have it so good. They have to contend with a crime rate that staggers the imagination, sky-high property values, and millions of illegal aliens largely responsible for most of the state's financial woes. California taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year to warehouse millions of poor immigrants. Victor Hanson, a lifelong native, examines the illegal alien problem in a way few other authors can manage. He's spent his entire life seeing the problem up close and personal, and it's a problem of earth shattering dimensions.
Hanson expresses little hostility for Mexicans or Mexican-Americans. He grew up in a small farming town where most of his friends and neighbors were--and still are--Mexican immigrants. The author understands that most Mexicans who went through the assimilation process in the 1950s and 1960s are industrious, proud citizens who went on to contribute much to American society. He also recognizes that many of the illegal aliens who arrive in California today are industrious individuals who likely would go on to become proud citizens with much to offer their adopted country. Understanding Hanson's background and views of Mexicans should immediately banish the label of "racist" to the garbage bin. He's definitely not a supremacist or a separatist. He is, however, gravely concerned with the present state of federal immigration policy and how both the political right and left view the millions of poor illegals flowing into the country. According to Hanson, the pro-business right sees opposition to undocumented immigrants as nativist and isolationist, and the left views critics of the immigration imbroglio in similar terms, labeling anyone who dares support a tighter border a racist and a hater. Hanson rejects both of these arguments as cynical emanations from a small cadre of special interests that have a lot to gain from exploiting the poor Mexicans entering this country.
And exploitation it is, an ugly exploitation that should shame any decent American. Hanson shows us how ugly as he outlines the typical illegal immigrant's experiences in the United States. The average Mexican who enters this country can expect a bleak future. Paid under the counter by business owners to pick fruit, mow lawns, and do other jobs American citizens disdain, the immigrant works long hours for little money. Worse, he's tossed aside when age and years of rough work reduces his body to a knot of aches and pains. The closeness of his homeland inhibits assimilation here, as do the race hustlers in the universities and government. These fools, mostly Chicano studies professors but also bureaucrats and busybodies, work night and day trying to convince illegal aliens that America is an evil, racist country that wants to strip away every vestige of Mexican culture from those streaming over the border. The old assimilationist idea, that those coming to America recognize the greatness of this country and will work hard to learn its habits and customs, never takes root in the new immigrants. Instead, a sense of entitlement to government subsidies and special favors unavailable to citizens becomes the new reality.
Special scholarships to the state universities, housing, welfare checks, free healthcare--these special favors and many more might help keep the immigrant relatively comfortable during their stay in the United States, but these benefits also serve to keep the immigrant insulated from currents that could bring them into citizenship. Why apply for that status in the United States when you get all this neat stuff for free? With all of this free money floating around, you would think Mexican immigrants are well off. You'd be wrong. Hanson rightfully points out that very few Hispanics, regardless of legal status, graduate from high school. Even fewer earn a degree in college. Why? Because there is no impetus to succeed, no external force that tells these people that they must conform to American expectations let alone try to earn citizenship. When Hanson attended grade school back in the 1950s and 1960s, he tells us, his teachers pushed an unabashedly pro-American agenda in nearly every class. And it wasn't just Mexicans under the gun, but Hanson himself when he touted his Swedish ancestry during a show and tell presentation. In the old days teachers, the media, and our institutions pushed newcomers to accept their new country and change their behavior accordingly. No more.
We better go back to a pro-assimilationist culture, argues Hanson, or we're all in grave trouble. If we refuse to deal with this problem, the author claims, California will turn into "Mexifornia," a country that is neither Mexico nor California but a nation that exhibits the worst of both cultures. Considering social movements in California often foreshadow trends in the rest of the country, the rest of our states will become Mexifornias if something isn't done to stymie the flow of illegals and prevent the continued exploitation of generation after generation of those immigrants. Hanson's book is must reading for anyone concerned about the reckless immigration policies foisted upon us by the government. We need to change our border policy for ourselves and for those people who come here seeking a better life.
on February 15, 2005
AN EXCERPT FROM PAGE 139:
I used to hear Spanish ballads out in the fields, blaring on the radios of plum pickers [who] wore khaki-like uniforms with straw hats and said "si señor -- no señor" when told to pick fruit by color or size. They looked and acted like the peasants in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Now the illegal alien plays gehtto-inspired rap, wears his baseball cap backwards, is amply tattooed, and is more likely to answer "OK already" or "No problema" -- mimicking Schwarzenegger rather than speaking Spanish. I miss the old world; those in this new world would not.
Hanson's delightful little book would make a happy companion to Windschuttle's "The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past." Windschuttle is also an academic, but he never leaves the ivory tower; his is always the (equally entertaining) view from ABOVE. Victor Hanson is also an academic, but he owns a farm south of Fresno, and this spellbinding book is multiculturalism as it looks ON THE GROUND. One of his more compelling conjectures is that academia and the press have helped legitimize "tribalist" (I love it!) victimhood, a hypothesis that has broad implications for the culture of poverty everywhere in the U.S.
This thought-provoking treasure is also, in its wit and entertaining style, the book Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities) or David Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) would have written if they weren't stuck back in old New York. (The New Yorker: "California, harbinger of everything...") His vignettes from life ring so true the reader can't help but laugh with recognition.
Hanson is honest about his nostalgia, honest about his predictable "today's youth ain't up to snuff" phase of life, honest about everything. But despite some blunders ("North America was originally settled by Northern Europeans"), a racist he is not. I waited until the penultimate page for him to mention what we can learn from the many strengths of the Mexican family, but he finally did.*
I'm a Massachusetts Yankee in California half my life now. I didn't expect to agree with everything this fourth-generation native said -- that's part of the fun -- but I got the sense that he didn't end up with the book he set out to write, either. Though very conservative, he's refreshingly devoid of a triumphalist agenda. Neocons will be disappointed by his definition of the Good Life, for example, and his unfettered thinking in general.
(This book show up under the topic of the war on terror. He mentions it only in the context of uncontrolled immigration, and only in passing.)
Hanson gets high marks for even attempting to tackle such a complex problem, but nothing makes for a better read than new ideas intelligently set forth in the most engaging possible way.
*See "Con Respeto" by Dr. Valdes for the hard-working illegal-alien perspective, or the fictional "Tortilla Curtain" by T.C. Boyle for another, more tragic view FROM BELOW.
on November 13, 2005
This is one of those rare books, that should be mandatory reading, by anyone who wants to open their mouth about immigration.
This book is laid out in a very articulate, non-agenda, balanced view of the state of immigration in the united states regarding Mexico.
If you are For or Against Undocumented workers (those with no formal US citizenship), then you should take a look at Mexifornia.
All sides are looked at. It is quite apparent that the writer was very concerned with not offending anyone too much. After reading,
or listening to, many political books, this is by far one of the least "preachy". It lays out the facts, as seen through the eyes of a
Peach Farmer in Southern California, and scholar of immigration history.
It also gives you a Democratic point of View, a Republican point of view, a Big business point of view, Liberal point of view, town view,
country view, worker view, old migrant view, new new migrant view. Even a point of view from both male and female migrants. And
the differences in past migration, and present. Very thorough.
A Very good book.
A must Read (or better yet, get the audio book)
on December 8, 2006
The author is a 4th-generation Californian of European descent, but has many close relatives and even more friends of Mexican descent. He is the rare commentator who articulates clearly both sides of the issues, the rare academic who lives the subject personally as well as abstractly, and he reveals clearly the motivations of all the partisans.
His harshest criticism is not of illegal immigrants -- though he points out their many negative aspects -- but of hypocritical Anglo and Hispanic leftists or liberals including those in university social science departments. It's their ideology that both encourages mass illegal immigration and keeps the new immigrants down and out once they get here. Conservative business owners who take advantage of illegal labor because it's cheap also get slammed.
I'm impressed at what a clear vision Hanson has, and how solid his arguments are. No demerits though he has no bibliography and there are no footnotes. He has lived the subject all his life, and sees its importance from the greater historical perspective of his profession as a classics professor (i.e., European cultural history).
Highly recommended, no matter which side of the fence you're on. So to speak.
on February 11, 2007
Four stars only because this otherwise excellent writer failed to provide citations of authority for the some of the facts and figures he gives. But otherwise this is a well-written and well-reasoned book that is appropriately critical of our country's current love affair with political correctness, multiculturalism and moral relativism. The best thing about the author is that he does not come from a position of racism and hatred of Mexicans;he has empathy for these people. What he never says, and what I would say to the reviewers here who accuse him of racism, is that he is simply complaining of a rapid change of the culture of his community. That is, in my opinion, what many people are complaining about when they complain of immigration. One day they realize that English isn't being spoken around them anymore. That the streets are no longer kept fixed; that school performance drops along with student enrollment; that government becomes less competent; and that crime rates skyrocket. These changes occur as more and more recent immigrants settle in an area and, quite naturally, take over the housing, the roads and schools, and the local goverment, and impose the culture of their native land on the area. So, the question becomes, is this a better culture than the current one? Are we complaining because the incoming culture is superior to our existing culture and we simply can't keep up? Because having to learn Spanish is not the issue. Having the government, schools, streets and state of peace detriorate --- this is the issue. Is the immigrants' culture superior to the anglo-based culture(or melting pot culture, if you wish)that it is displacing? We only have to ask that question of the immigrants, or take a look at the land from whence they came. There are some wonderful elements to the culture of Mexico -- the food, the passions, the respect for family, and other aspects of which I'm not even aware. But one has only to visit the country to realize that there are many more aspects that are quite inferior to the culture in this country. I would start with an utterly corrupt government and the peoples corresponding disrespect for the law, but the author details many other aspects that are definitely NOT superior to the indigenous U.S. culture. Indeed, in many ways the immigrants come to escape the burdens of the culture they are leaving. I do not understand why the political groups representing the Mexican immigrants do not see that the problem is with the numbers who come each year --- far too many to adjust to the culture they wish to enjoy, and as a result they end up destroying the very culture they wish to migrate to. I have grown tired of hearing the same old arguments advanced by supporters of even more immigration -- that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and that the immigrants are all hard-working people looking for jobs. Of course the U.S. *is* a nation of immigrants, but the sheer numbers and the finite nature of natural resources tells us that it cannot always be so, and as with any other wave, the number of people in the wave and the time period over which the migration occurs is critical to the stability of the land to which they are migrating. There is also the significant and differentiating fact (for those who point to the earlier waves of Irish, German, etc., immigration) that the body of immigrants from Mexico is hardly a cross-section of the mexican culture. Instead, we are receiving (now) mostly the most uneducated, and the least sophisticated of the Mexican population. Thus, the supposed "gift" the U.S. receives from this group is limited entirely to people suitable for fruit picking, floor washing, and other unskilled jobs. And that's it: No engineers, teachers, or businessmen, as has been the case with earlier immigrant waves. Certainly, the potential is there, but the very word potential implies that there is a mechanism in place to educate and train the immigrants. Here, at least in California, the numbers are so great that the means of education, training -- the means of creating the potential -- are being swept away in the wave of incoming people. Were the U.S. a totalitarian state, perhaps some control and change could be asserted to maintain the schools, the markets and the infrastructure while the people were educated and assimilated. But we are a democracy, and all those benefits derive from the citizens of each municipal area. This book points to all of these issues, but does not put it into cultural terms; it nevertheless paints an accurate picture of how the enormous waves of people coming to the United States, if not throttled back soon, will wash away the very thing that attracted the immigrants in the first place.
on January 4, 2007
As a resident of Los Angeles for 15 years I found many things about this book familiar. There is a big push for bilingualism in the workplace and schools but what I found was that Americans were being pushed out. When going for an interview for a skilled position I was told that if I didn't speak spanish I would not get work in Los Angeles. Think about it. Unless I am mistaken Los Angeles is a part of the United States. Hanson's book brought out many familiar scenes such as garbage dumping,overcrowded schools and hospitals. Many Americans of all races were leaving California in mass numbers and therefore services are becoming third world. Many scenarios in this book elude to that fact and since Hanson lives a good distance from Los Angeles it leads me to believe it is widespread in the state. I live in post Katrina Louisiana but the quality of life is so much better here than California. I never thought I would say that. People are worried about being labeled racist when what they should be worried about is the third worldlization of America. Let's start charging Mexico for every baby born here is every major surgery which is a luxury for the average American but somehow illegals can get it for free and every incarcerated illegal. I guarantee you if we did Mexico would help put a better border up themselves. PS illegals send their under the table money home so it doesn't in fact get recycled through our economy. If in doubt just look at California.
on January 5, 2007
Excellent, a real eye-opener. Unbiased and intelligently written. Hanson supports his argument that California, and by extension, the rest of the country is being innundated with illegial aliens whose culture in many parts of the country is becoming or is dominant. He is neither a bigot nor a ranting, raving xenophobe, but a dispassionate observer with first-hand experience as to the extent of the problem in trying to cope with overwhemling illegal immigration. His family farm becomes a microcosm for what is taking place around this country.
on August 23, 2005
Hanson is a well known classicist & military historian, but he is also a farmer who is trying his best to hang onto a farm that has been in his family for several generations & make it pay. His account of illegal immigration in California combines both his first-hand knowledge as a lifelong Californian & a farmer & the keen analysis & historical context of a scholar. He is also eminently fairminded. This is a great book & anyone in any part of the country who is concerned about this issue should read this book.
Hanson is both a farmer, living on the land he grew up on, and a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno. Thus, he is in a good position to objectively evaluate changes in his area.
"Mexifornia" is primarily written in a free "stream-of-consciousness" style, spiced with quantitative facts here and there. Lack of assimilation is a major problem, per Hanson. He sees the concept of multiculturalism (Western civilization merits no special consideration - all are equal) has proven to be the force-multiplier of illegal immigration from Mexico - acerbating the problem of assimilation. Another contributor is that illegals are not cut off from their home country - it is a simple drive etc. to return, vs. those who have crossed an ocean. Another factor is that they come steadily, not in one or two waves - thus, there are always "fresh" members of the Mexican community in the U.S.
Illegal immigration is a way for Mexico's elites to avoid reform. They don't have to address the lack of family planning, healthcare, education, jobs, etc. for the native population, while the monies sent back to families in the U.S. help relieve poverty.
At present rates by 2050 Hispanics will comprise 1/4 of Americans, and in the two year period '00-'02, California's population grew 872,000 - almost all due to immigration, and of course antithetical to preserving the environment. Unfortunately for the U.S., the newcomers from Mexico are not the fair-skinned elite descendants from Spain, but the most uneducated and destitute. The Latino death rate from homicide is 3 times that of the white population, cirrhosis of the liver deaths two times, HIV rates are double, and TB infections an astounding 13 times that of white Americans.
Other "contributions" from the illegal community include litter, hit-and-run crashes, shooting animals, drugs, and theft. Meanwhile, they are becoming more demanding - jobs, services, etc., and "justify" their thefts, etc. on the basis that the land was "stolen" from Mexico in the first place. Some have told Hanson that if the illegals in California turn it into another Mexico, they will simply move to Oregon, etc.
Increased numbers of illegals are building increased resentment within the U.S., but even timorous attempts at honest discussion earn the cheap slander of "racist." We are told that blanket amnesty will assure assimilation and prosperity, but statistics reveal that after 20 years Mexican immigrants still have double the welfare recipient rate. Cuban-Americans have done far better in the U.S. - they were Cuba's middle class, and have no interest (or ability) to return.
In 1970, Hanson writes that there were only 800,00 Mexicans in the U.S.; unfortunately he offers no explanation why the influx has since exploded. Now they succeed in watering down college courses (eg. "History of the Chicanos), as well as America's heritage (traditional U.S. history is receiving less and less attention).
A final observation from Hanson: "Professional" Latino's (advocates) passion is not put into the service of racial harmony, they never look at why gang violence and teen pregnancy are widespread among "his people" or how they can be prevented.
Recommendations include closing the borders, insisting on use of English language in government and education, and equal standards for achievement (eg. job placement).
One key area was not addressed by Hanson - illegal immigrants' effect on wage levels. Hanson does point out that white teenagers clog the malls, instead of working - and concludes that therefore we need the illegals. In reality, the illegals come in such numbers that they force wage levels down; in addition, the illegals are also older (more mature) and do not need to attend school - the result is that they are more attractive to employers, and the jobs less attractive to Americans. However, in areas without illegals there are plenty of retired folks, Afro-Americans, and teenagers willing, able, and doing the jobs that supposedly Americans don't want.
A refreshing point of view in an age of political correctness
on October 20, 2006
This book talks about the reality of the status of immigration in our Country. It is a great read and I recommend it to anyone concerned about the state of affairs in our Country today.
I want to mention also that it really gets my blood boiling to see the racism and zenophobia card played when someone brings this very important discussion to the forefront. This action is meant only to halt debate and paralyze thought. At one time immigration was good for America but that does not guarantee that it will always be. Tell me what good is coming of it now!
Immigration is destroying California and will spread like wildfire across the entire Country until it completely wipes out any sentiment of the American Dream remaining. The fact of the matter is that America is being transformed into a multilingual and bicultural country. History has shown that NO nation has survived the occurence of two or more competing languages and cultures and the strife that follows. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual but it is detrimental for a society to be. Immigrants used to come to America to be American. Currently, immigrants seek to hold onto and maintain their culture. Of course immigrants that come here should assimilate! Not doing so creates divisions and not unity. This kind of division has not and will not make America stronger. A House divided falls!