The Winchester:

Kim du Toit has a piece on the closure of the Winchester plant, and the end of an American era. It is an ode to one of the great symbols, a piece of technology that captured something at the heart of the culture: the miracle of technology, coupled with a vision of fearless human freedom.

The funniest thing about the Winchester lever-action rifle is how American it looks. Its directness speaks to the honest greed of westward expansion, its reliability to the honest hunger of its manufacturers for the big houses it bought them, its toughness to the honest brutality by which it was employed in various arroyos and dry gulches. It lacks subterfuge, subtlety, pretension, airs. It’s like the cowboy himself, elegant in its total lack of self-awareness. It’s beyond irony or stylization. It’s cool because it doesn’t care what you or anybody thinks.

Now open it; shove the lever—that oblong loop affixed to the trigger guard—forward. Feel it slide-clack through a four-inch range of motion and watch the drama as the gun undergoes changes: the breech, which contains the firing pin, glides backward, ratcheting the hammer back. At that moment you can tilt it a little and peer into the opened slot in the roof of the receiver.

You see before you the gun’s most private parts: the chamber, the slightly bulged space in the barrel where the cartridge is encapsulated when it fires; the follower, a little spring-powered tray that lifts a cartridge (which has just been popped aboard by the pressure of the magazine tube spring) up to the chamber; the breechface with its tiny hole out of which will pop, whack-a-mole style, the firing pin when the trigger is pulled and the hammer falls.

You see: trays, pins, holes, steel walls. You see a miracle of timing by which all these elements have been choreographed to mesh in a brilliantly syncopated sequence. But you’re also looking back into the 19th century and to what it was that made this country great. For what you’re seeing is a solution—elegant as any poem, efficient as any mousetrap, smooth as any crooner—to a set of problems that might be enumerated as follows: How do you package chemical energy of roughly 3,000 foot-pounds safely in metal that is at the same time light enough to be carried, strong enough to be operated and simple enough to be manufactured?

These things are not going away quickly, not after six million were made. I have one in my closet. The old Winchester will be with us a long time, even if this marks the beginning of the end.

And when those old rifles start to wear out, and only a few remain servicable? Perhaps we will move on to something else. Or perhaps we will see another miracle.

In 1941, Colt ceased production of the Single Action Army revolver, which must be one of the two most famous handguns ever made -- the other also being a Colt. Yet by 1956, they were re-tooled and began producing "Second Generation" Colt revolvers. The culture, you see, had changed: reinvigorated by Westerns on television, Americans had a sharp appetite for single action revolvers. Ruger had been offering one, and Colt found that it wanted back in to the game it had so long led. This second generation became the Third Generation, was licensed out as the Colt Cowboy, and now is back again at Colt as the Western undergoes another rebirth. The Single Action Shooting Society has a deal where members can get custom Colts -- hideously expensive ones, that Colt never imagined making when it thought it was done with the revolver in 1941.

Rebirths are possible, and often it is only when something is gone that you realize how much you needed it. That was the case with the Colt; and it is the case with the Frontier that the Colt and the Winchester symbolize, says Doc Russia.

We see young men behaving in a manner inconsistent with manhood. Men are not, as Jeff Cooper illustrated, learning to ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth. They are instead learning to bum around, play Xbox, and engage in droll sophistry. Look at today's metrosexual. You have a male who primps himself like a girl, and instead of behaving in a manly manner, he uses a woman's charms of emotional embellishment, and "snesitivity," which are attributes not best exemplified by men.

While I believe that part of this is due to enabling by women who want a man that is "non-threatening" and "a good listener," I think that there is a far bleaker emptiness that is at play here in the dearth of manhood.

Where, I ask, are the frontiers?

It was not so long ago in this very country when a young man could go out into the great vastness of America, and carve for himself a future in remote or undeveloped lands where there were no real rules yet. I look at my own childhood, and in retrospect, myself and my friends all had a certain restlessness in our hearts. Some have called it Wanderlust, the desire to go out and wander. Some call it cabin fever. I do not know what to call it, but I know that it is real. Unfortunately, there were no frontiers for us to venture off into at that time. No, we had nowhere to explore, aqnd found ourselves bored very quickly by the terribly humdrum existence that passes for life as a teenager today. So, we did like so many did, and tried to make things "exciting." What followed was a fairly quick series of events and mishaps that made for wonderful stories that I still tell sometimes. Unfortunately, these stories are laced thoroughly with terms like "overdosed on" "drunk and passed out," "cops showed up and cuffed"...

The military offers a road out here for many young men. As we watch the chaos on our borders increase, and the situation in Iran worsen, we may find the Frontier closer than we expect all too soon. Will we be ready? Doc says that the teenagers of America already are, if only they knew it:
[E]very teenager has felt this urge. This urge to just get up, flick the cigarrette away, smash the bottle on the floor, and stride out. Yes, I have many times sat in a party, surrounded by a few friends and a lot of strangers, listening to them all say the same damned thing as everyone else does, and wearing the same damned things like a bunch of cookie cutter angst-riddled teenagers, and felt this great, almost paralyzing fear as a single horrific thought overwhelmed me.

What if this is all there is?

And then the urge would strike, and I would want to get up and leave. No explanations, no diatribes, no monologues. Just get up and leave. Just get out and get away to somewhere that is more real, and more meaningful. Somewhere I am unfettered.

This longing is echoed in the very piece on the Winchester rifle with which we began. It too looks to the Frontier the Winchester symbolized, and mourns:
A famous ad that most boy baby boomers will recall from Boys’ Life, the old scouting magazine of the ‘50s, showed a happy lad, carrot-topped and freckly like any number of Peck’s Bad Boys, his teeth haphazardly arrayed within his wide, gleeful mouth under eyes wide as pie platters as he exclaimed on Christmas morn, "Gee, Dad . . . A Winchester!"

All gone, all gone, all gone. The gun as family totem, the implied trust between generations, the implicit idea that marksmanship followed by hunting were a way of life to be pursued through the decades, the sense of tradition, respect, self-discipline and bright confidence that Winchester and the American kinship group would march forward to a happy tomorrow—gone if not with the wind, then with the tide of inner-city and nutcase killings [.]

The Boy Scouts still exist, and still serve the young man who longs for adventure. They still offer chances to explore. Not just the Frontier, though also that, but other adventures also: so-called "Explorer Scouts" can end up attached to police units, firefighters, and other places where the modern world still needs a man's spirit. We do need that spirit, and we may find soon that we need it as much as we ever did.

Doc Russia says the heart of the young man from whom we will need that spirit longs for it. It looks around and asks, "Is this all there is?" It wants so much for the answer to be, "No -- and we need you for what is to come."

I remember that feeling he describes. All my life, it never seemed to go away. And then one morning, my wife woke me out of slumber and said, "Darling, it's time." We went to a hospital and passed through fire, and on the other side was a new world.

To all you young men out there wondering, I will tell you: you have never known adventure until you've held your living son.

Yesterday my wife and I took my son, almost four, to the gun range for the first time. I bought him ear protection made to fit a little head. He was perfectly behaved. He sat on the bench behind the range and watched with wonder that miracle of timing: the meeting of steel and springs and clay, that sent a whirling orange disk sailing through the air. A man on the range, his father, raises a stick to his shoulder. There is a sound like thunder, and that little disk -- so far away you can barely see it -- breaks apart with a shock.

We had to drag him bodily back to the truck, the boy grinning from earmuff to earmuff. I bought him a water gun on the way home, and this morning we hiked out to a lake nearby. He stood on the shore and shot at the geese paddling by. They would honk gently when he hit them, but did not seem to mind.

In time he'll have a Winchester, mine or one of his own. It may be that they will make them again one day.

I suspect they will, when we are ready for them. When we have restored the trust between generations: when we have taught our youths how to be men, and our men to love their sons. All good things follow from that, rebirth and a greater world.

McK 2

"Just a Victim of Being in Congress"

Can we all agree that, once you get yourself elected to a Constitutional office in the Federal government, you have to stop playing the victim card? Congressmen, like Presidents and Supreme Court Justices, occupy the highest levels of our society. One of the two major political parties has an interest in coming to your defense -- whatever you do. You get to make the law, interpret the law, or create regulations with the force of law. If you're one of them, you can't suggest that you're being oppressed. American society has not been unfair to you.

There is, apparently, footage of the incident "which will not be released," we are told. Now, what are the odds on that, as a gambler: that the footage establishes the guilt of the cop, and the Capitol Police are covering up for him in the face of all the power of almost half the Congress -- the organization that determines their budget and pay raises, among other things? Or that the footage proves the Congresswoman is guilty, and political power is being deployed by Congress against the Capitol Police to prevent it showing up on the evening news?

I wouldn't dream of giving odds on a fool bet like that.

Fair Fight Law

A Fair Fight:

We've all read numerous pieces about the anti-male nature of modern American legal society and education. I think the problem lies not the American culture, which remains strongly masculine, but major organizations and institutions: the law, academia, unions and especially public sector unions, etc. These have become infiltrated by a line of thinking that has been extremely harmful to men's ability to be men without being demonized, sued, fired, or otherwise messed with by officials of one type or another; and which seems to feel that boys need to be either disciplined or drugged into acting as much like girls as possible.

Kim du Toit's famous piece, which I linked to a few days ago, is hardly the only thing to be written. In addition to numerous books and articles, both scholarly and popular, the problem is a regular feature at two of the finest blogs around -- coincidentally, both run by women. I mean of course Dr. Helen and Villanous Company, run by our own Cassidy.

Well, so, where do we start putting things right? I think it's with this bit of wisdom Cassandra captured on today's post about the housing issue and young men. She wrote:

[I]f we tell [boys and young men] that the very qualities which make them essentially masculine are somehow anti-social and need to be suppressed, should we be surprised if they opt out of the race?
Indeed, we need to recognize that these qualities are natural, and to be protected and directed rather than suppressed. One of these qualities is aggression.

The military does a very good job with this, but we have a problem in the broader society. If an 18 year old private gets into a fight with another, whether over a girl or a point of honor, it's likely to be dealt with administratively. This gives the young bucks a chance to clash antlers without it ruining their lives, by getting them a permanent record of being antisocial or hostile. Nothing could be more natural to a young man than fighting other young men, not just for people but for anyone: it's featured in every nature documentary ever made.

(There is a famous list called something like 'things to remember now that you're out of the military,' which I can't seem to locate. It has a joke on this point, which as I recall goes, "If you get in a fight, your boss can't deal with you administratively. In fact, if he finds out he'll probably fire you.")

We need a way to expand this concept into the main American society, so that young men will be freer to express themselves naturally. We also need, however, to continue to constrain fighting: like drinking, it can be a good thing that relieves tension and adds to the pleasure of life; but it can also be very destructive to you and others around you.

I propose, then, what I shall call "the Fair Fight Bill." I suggest you write your state representatives and suggest that the laws in all 50 states should come to include it.

The Fair Fight Bill:

1) Any two adult persons, 18 years of age or older, who agree to engage in a fair fight will not be subject to criminal charges.

2) A fair fight will consist only of a fight in which:

a) Both participants declare, in writing and with a signature, their willingness to engage in the fight;
b) No weapons of any kind are used;
c) No additional persons enter the fight;
d) The Marquis of Queensbury rules are observed at all times, as certified by any licensed referee, justice of the peace, notary public, military officer, or peace officer.

3) Violation of any portion of subsection 2 will result in the full range of criminal charges becoming available against the violator.

4) Fighters, though not subject to any criminal penalties, will still be liable in civil court for damages caused by the fight, either to each other or to property.

5) Licenses for referees will be shall-issue, providing that they pass a background check showing they have no criminal history.

The issue of civil damages ought to act as a restraint. The absence of weapons and the rules, plus the presence of a referee to ensure them, means that serious injury or death will be very rare.

As an additional social benefit, allowing this outlet will tend to push a lot of fights that are going to happen anyway into the "fair fight" category. Because it's accepted and without criminal penalty, it serves as a safety valve. Things that might have led to far worse kinds of fighting will be resolved fairly and in the open.

The law will recognize two important truths which have become regulated out of our society: that violence isn't always bad, but like anything can be either good or bad depending on how it is used; and that aggression can be an honorable thing rather than a sign of criminality or mental illness. It recognizes our human nature and trains it, rather than trying to force people to be something they are not born to be.

There might be a great deal of good to be had out of that. So we have been told, at least, in other debates on other topics.

Cyn Mack

You Go, Cynthia -- And For God's Sake, Don't Come Back:

You know, there are days when I almost sympathize with Massachusetts:

According to two sources on Capitol Hill, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., walked through a metal detector in a House of Representatives office building. When an officer asked her to stop, McKinney kept walking. The officer followed her and tapped her on the shoulder.

McKinney then allegedly turned around and hit the officer in his chest[.]

My sympathy is only partial, since the worst scoundrels of Massachusetts are routinely elected in statewide elections; whereas our pretty little psycho girl only has to pull from a wee gerrymandered district in Atlanta.

Still, there must be some decent fellow in Massachusetts who hangs his head and cries every time he sees his "representatives" in the news. How do these people get elected? And re-elected? And re-elected again?

MILF negotiations

But What's It A Model Of?

Negotiations are ongoing between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Moro spokesman Eid Kabalu said this week that negotiators were making some progress in sorting out the form that the new government would take:

Kabalu said negotiators were discussing how the Muslims will run the proposed new government, but he was quick to say that both sides are seriously studying new formulas based on model countries such as Sudan, Palestine, East Timor, Northern Ireland and Bougainville.
Yep. He really said that. Model countries like Sudan.

And Northern Ireland.

And Palestine.

I know if I were designing what I hoped would become a peaceful and stable state, Palestine would be right at the top of my list of models. How about you?

The Alamo Movie

Movie Club: The Alamo

Back in November, we decided to have a Grim's Hall movie club. We got distracted by the holidays, I think, which is why we only got around to the one movie (Sands of Iwo Jima).

Per the comments to the last post, we're going to do The Alamo next. Amusingly, it was the movie I'd originally intended to do first -- a fact I'd forgotten until I went back to look up the original post:

1) Movies would be classics of film, available on VHS/DVD at most local stores. They ought to be either readily available at rental places, or for sale for less than $15 -- most readers, I think, could afford to spend $15 a month or so on a movie if they wished. It's the same as tickets for two at a new movie, but you'd be seeing something that has already proven itself over time.

2) We'd watch one or two movies a month, depending on how it works out.

3) Either I, or one of my co-bloggers if they sponsored it, would post a review of the movie to start discussion. We'd carry it on in the comments.

4) I'd like to aim at movies that capture classic American values, the kind of films that we'd like our children to grow up watching. To start with, I'd like to sponsor the John Wayne classic The Alamo.
Well, Sands of Iwo Jima was just as good. :) But this time, we really will do The Alamo. It shouldn't be too hard to find, either at your local rental place or wherever you buy movies.

Should we aim to try to watch the movie by Sunday, so we can have a post to discuss it at the start of next week? Sound fair?


More Good Reading:

Doc Russia gets angry at himself, and thereby proves he is a good man.

The Belmont Club asks a question about the 4ID and Turkey, and Chester responds. Wretchard also has some interesting speculation arising from recently translated documents.

Our friend Joel Leggett defends the Honky Tonk from the great state of Texas. He's got a great quote from The Alamo, in which John Wayne defines a Republic in terms -- partially -- of getting drunk or staying sober as you please. "For crying out loud, Texas is going to put a real crimp in one of country music’s favorite themes," he rightly complains.

Willie Nelson -- surely a warning against, as well as an advocate of, chemical overindulgence -- had with George Jones one of the great songs on the topic:

I gotta get drunk, I can't stay sober
There's a lot of good people in town
Like to see me holler, see me spend my dollar;
I wouldn't dream of lettin 'em down!
There's a lot of doctors keep tellin me, "George,
You'd better start slowing it down."
But there's more old drunks than there are old doctors
So I guess we'd better have another round.
Like Joel, I don't advocate getting drunk -- well, not often. Still, as Kim du Toit put it:
I want men everywhere to going back to being Real Men. To open doors for women, to drive fast cars, to smoke cigars after a meal, to get drunk occasionally and, in the words of Col. Jeff Cooper, one of the last of the Real Men: “to ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth.”
Just right.

Even Heathen Things

Even Heathen Things:

For reasons to esoteric to explain here, I was looking at an old 2005 post at Gypsy Scholar. The thing is fascinating:

Unlike, for instance, Islamic or Confucian civilizations, the West finds its identity in something other than itself -- indeed, in two other cultures to which it is secondary, those of ancient Greece and ancient Judaism. Thus, the West's founding texts are in Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew and by requiring repeated translation have kept the West aware of its borrowed identity.

This means that -- postmodernist critiques notwithstanding -- the West, at its core, is open to "the other."

Something very important follow from this: the West preserves sources.

Not every civilization does.

Brague notes that Islamic civilization absorbed the civilizations that it conquered by translating into Arabic the texts that it found useful, then used the translations and almost never returned to the originals. Why not? Because Arabic, being the perfect language chosen for Allah's revelation, perfected the originals. The translated texts were considered better in Arabic.

This is not to deny that Islam achieved a high level of culture. It did. But by denying itself repeated access to original, it closed off recognition of its own cultural borrowings. Thus, it shielded itself from self-critique.

The West, by contrast, in preserving sources and returning to them, checks itself critically against the other at its core.
Why is it that every time I encounter what I think is a new idea, I find that it is captured in a verse from The Ballad of the White Horse?
Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.
How did he do this? The man saw the whole of 20th century thought in advance, and replied to it -- not just in prose, as he did at length in Orthodoxy, but in verse.

Is there an explanation apart from prophesy? I have none, and it moves me to recognize the fact.

Immigration & Turbulence

The Garden of Turbulence:

If you had the standard American social studies classes as I did, there came a point at which you were introduced to the problem of immigration. The textbook contained a few paragraphs on the massive Irish and German immigration of the 19th century, and probably a few nasty political cartoons from the day showing the racist contempt Americans had for the new arrivals. There was a sentence or two recognizing that there was some social turmoil, but wound up pointing out that the two groups eventually became part of our vibrant American stream, enriching it greatly.

The teacher then always said -- I swear, it must have been in the instructions in the teachers' version of these texts -- "Of course, some people feel the same way about immigrants today."

Well, some do, I suppose. But if you're going to make the analogy -- and it is such a standard part of the American public education, that we're all stuck with the analogy -- you ought to present the opposing case fairly. In other words, how serious was the turmoil to which they were reacting? What kind of "turmoil" are we talking about?

It ends in the apocalypse of the July 1863 Draft Riots, the bloodiest urban insurrection in US history, with regiments recalled from Gettysburg firing grapeshot point blank at mobs of Irish slumdwellers....

While Irish and 'American' gangs were bloodying each other in the alleys of the Bowery, the Irish labour leader James McGuire, the German Communist Albert Komp and the native radical Ira B Davis were organising thousands of the unemployed into a militant American Workers' League. When the bourgeois press begged the militia 'to shoot down any quantity of Irish or Germans' as necessary to break the movement, native workers defiantly stood shoulder to shoulder with immigrants in Tompkins Square....

Two groups resisted assimilation into this solution. One was the radical wing of the labour movement, solidly rooted amongst the Red 48s [veterans of Germany's 1848 revolution] and socialists of Kleindeutschland, whose strategic goal was an independent labour party. Many of them were both abolitionists and anti-capitalists. The other was the Irish poor--the day labourers and sweatshop workers--whose appalling misery (brilliantly depicted by Scorsese) was now compounded by wartime inflation and inflamed by the terrific losses of Irish regiments in Virginia. The Irish were also alarmed by pro-Confederate propaganda that warned of a tidal wave of freed slaves in Northern labour markets if the Union won.

These two groups--the labour vanguard and the slum poor--played contrasting roles in the 1863 insurrection. The draft lottery that July was universally scorned by Northern workmen as an institutionalisation of class privilege, since the well-heeled could buy exemptions for $300. Accordingly, the massive demonstration and strike on Monday morning of 13 July was largely led by uptown Irish and German industrial workers, supported by volunteer fire companies.

By early evening, however, the trade unions had lost leadership to street gangs and Confederate sympathisers who directed the wrath of the Irish poor against both the mansions of the rich and the hovels of African-Americans. The Coloured Orphans Asylum was burnt to the ground and blacks were hounded down and hideously murdered....

The hysterical upper classes, meanwhile, demanded a retaliatory bloodbath in the slums. Six thousand federal troops, many of them Irish New Yorkers, dutifuly cleared the streets with cannonfire and bayonets. The heroes of Gettysburg became the butchers of New York. In scenes which foreign observers compared to the June 1848 masssacres in Paris, scores of rag-clad Irish women and children were cut down alongside their menfolk.
Was that the end of it? No, not by half. After the war, Tammany Hall became the leadership of the Irish immigrants in New York, and likewise their chief exploiter. Twenty-five thousand Irish veterans of the Civil War created themselves into a declared sovereign state and invaded Canada to seize land and found a new Ireland, planning to move on from their to take the old Ireland by sea.
Regiments of a self-styled "army of liberation" crossed an international border and fought British subjects in behalf of the Irish Republic....

Organized for the purpose of winning Ireland's independence by physical force, the Fenians revealed Irish-American nationalism in its finest flowering and full ambiguity. Rooted more in the hard life of the immigrant than in his Irish origin or his religion, the Fenian Brotherhood created its own sustaining myths and founded its own government within the United States. A member of Commons rightly called the Brotherhood, "a new Irish nation on the other side of the Atlantic, recast in the mould of Democracy, watching for an opportunity to strike a blow at the heart of the British Empire." It is the only organization in US history which armed and drilled publicly, and invaded Canada for the purpose of using seized land as a stepping-stone for the invasion and liberation of Ireland.
They called themselves The Irish Republican Army. Border raids into Canada continued for four years, before the Fenians withdrew their headquarters from New York City, and their most devoted remaining supporters shipped back to Ireland to wage war against the British.

Riots, insurrections, declarations of sovereign states within the United States, independent armies waging private war against our neighbors, massacres: add all these things together, and those political cartoons look a little bit different, don't they? They stop looking racist, and start looking like -- well, somewhat like the recent Muhammad cartoons.

I mention all this, of course, because of the recent marches. These assemblies, purely peaceful, are nevertheless on such a scale that they demand attention -- indeed, wanting our attention was why they marched. Well, they have it now: let us think about them.

Doc Russia, himself the husband of an immigrant and indeed a refugee, has some thoughts on them. I have some others.

Yet, so deep is the current of 'anti-anti-immigrant' thought in public education, it seems necessary to preface any thoughts about the need to restrict immigration with the above. Only when you take a moment to look at the true scale of the social turmoil from the last period can you get past the idea that the sentiment itself is dishonorable. It is not dishonorable, nor is it irrational, to raise the concern that open immigration can cause some pretty severe problems -- problems which we could avoid by handling immigration differently.

1) Though massive, the displays so far are peaceful. The spread of gang culture among Latin American immigrants parallels, but is less severe than, the spread among Irish immigrants in the 19th century. For now, I think we ought to bear in mind that the situation is largely as the rallies describe it: a case of people who are "criminal" only insofar as they have broken our immigration laws, but are otherwise honest people seeking a better life.

2) Mexicans have a sensibility about this issue which is different from ours. The Mexican constitution, like our own, includes certain enumerated rights. Among these rights is the right of Mexican citizens to enter and leave their country whenever they wish. That right is restricted as a matter of practical law -- even Mexican law requires them to make use of a proper port of entry, and therefore Mexicans who immigrate illegally to the US are breaking their law as well as ours.

Still, our own freedom of speech is also restricted by practical law -- against slander, for example, and 'dangerous speech' such as yelling fire in a theatre. We nevertheless believe it to be a fundamental right, because from birth we are raised to think of it that way. They likewise are raised to believe they have a right to free transit, and our attempts to stop them -- most especially threats to build a wall, to keep them out -- they honestly feel to be an infringement on a basic human right.

2.1) Addendum to the above: While the US system does not and never has recognized an international right to free travel, we do recognize it for US citizens moving among the several states. Our experience with it demonstrates that it really is a right that increases human freedom and happiness: as I've often said, in belaboring the importance of Federalism, the freedom to move from a state that has laws you find oppressive to a state with laws you find just is a powerful thing. Americans don't always agree, and the freedom to move from (say) New Jersey to Texas, or vice versa, greatly increases our individual opportunities to live according to our own lights.

You can imagine how we would react to New Jersey telling its citizens that they could not leave: that Texas was unavailable to them. You can imagine how we would react to Texas and New Jersey making a compact to prevent their citizens from moving back and forth. That's how the Mexicans feel about our laws: not that they aren't laws, but that they are so manifestly unjust that it is right and proper to ignore them.

They may be wrong about that, but it is an understandable moral drive. Particularly when your family is starving, but even when it isn't: I'll bet most readers can think of at least one class of law they consider so unjust that they would not only work to change it, but defy it openly until change could be effected.

If you can't, you're not a free man except by accident.

3) Even granting that most immigrants are morally upright in spite of the illegality, peaceful of intent and desiring only to move freely to find a better life, massive immigration can destroy a culture. I know it can, because I have seen it myself.
Yet I have seen the culture I grew up in pass away. My father's work brought us to a rural county in the North Georgia mountains when I was quite young. It had been largely unchanged since the 1830s: the same families who won the land lottery in the early days of Georgia's settlement of the mountains were still there. It was in its way a complete culture, with its own ideas about religion and ethics and your place in the world, who was important and what it meant to be rich.

Most of the kids I went to school with had no real interest in education, as they believed they would do what their fathers had done, which was what their grandfathers had done, and their great grandfather's: take over the family farm or business, and keep up the family's place in the community. They knew who they would probably marry from a young age, at least to five or six alternates, because they knew all the local girls and could tell which families were close enough to their own in status to be acceptable to each other.

The boom of the Sunbelt brought a flood of immigrants from other regions of the country, though, and they needed places to live. Eventually, Atlanta's expansion pushed into the county, and many cattle pastures started being bought up for subdivisions, new schools, new businesses. With that came rising property values and property taxes, higher taxes for the building and maintenance of the schools, the construction of new roads.

Between the flooding of the county with new people who didn't share the culture, and the fact that the rising tax rates forced so many of the people out, the entire culture collapsed. The poorest were forced to leave, the upper-middle class was suddenly poor and scrambling to survive among their new neighbors, and even the folks who had been the upper class were now only middle-class. A new kind of "rich" appeared, and began laying claim to the structures of power.

The newcomers also brought a different politics -- they all voted Republican, whereas the existing local politics had been Southern Democrat. They brought a different perspective too: they were from many different places, and looked back to those places and abroad to others where they might yet go. They also brought a demand for not just more schools, but better ones: their children would be equally rootless and mobile, and would need educational capital they could carry with them from job to job and place to place, as there would be no family farm or business on which to rely.

Nor, of course, were there those things for the folks who had grown up expecting them: what they had been counting on their whole lives was swept away, by forces totally beyond their control.

It was a small revolution, and not violent, but it destroyed the culture as fully and completely as the Norman conquest did for the Anglo-Saxons.
The broader American culture continues to exist, of course: and those of us who survived the destruction, like castaways, seek other places in which we can root and build anew. Nor was it, as I said, all bad: when I find a place to root, I won't try to put things back just the way they were. The pursuit of education, which the newcomers brought as a different kind of capital but which I have come to love for itself, is a genuine improvement. The immigrant enrichment of our vibrant American stream is real, and to be treasured.

All the same, even when immigration is entirely peaceful and lawful, if it passes a certain level it can completely rend the social fabric. That is a real danger that has to be managed as best as it can.

4) Note that the newcomers I reference above were not Mexicans, but other Americans; and indeed, other Red State Americans. We also had Mexican immigrants, in fact lots of them. They wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots; they got drunk on Friday and Saturday, went to church on Sunday, and work on Monday. In other words, except that they spoke Spanish and flew Mexican flags instead of Confederate ones, they fit right in. They did not cause problems greater than what the local population caused itself, and in a generation or so were assimiliated and so similar to the older population as to be almost indistinguishable. One of my sister's bridesmaids was a second-generation immigrant of this type, named Diaz, who was no different from anyone else.

The concerns about immigration, in other words, are neither racist nor ideological -- they are simply concerns about avoiding the extraordinary turmoil that comes with mass movement. In that turmoil, bad things flourish like plants in a garden where the soil has been painstakingly made right for them. Sometimes these are criminal gangs, whether the Irish Fenians or the MS-13; sometimes it is political corruption, like Tammany Hall or the wave of "Republicans" who were elected in the wake of the immigration in Forsyth County. Many of these new officials were scoundrels who we'd kept out of office for decades because of their corruption -- but the incoming folks didn't know them like we did. They only knew that they voted Republican, come election day.

There is a tipping point beyond which the social fabric tears. Up to that point, immigration does no harm and much good. Beyond it, even when the 'immigrants' are other Americans from different subcultures, the destruction is total.

5) I think, then, several things:

A) A wall is a bad idea. Mexico is one of our most important trading partners: we get more oil from them than from any Arabian state; almost all of our winter fruits come right across that border. Walling them off, given their understanding of the human right of free movement, is going to be taken as a tremendous insult. It will cause us problems we don't need, both in terms of access to oil supply, and in the ability to handle the problems that afflict both nations which are best addressed by cooperation. These include the weakness of the Mexican economy, made worse by its corrupt political structure, which is the chief generator of the waves of heavy immigration.

B) I have seen it suggested -- in the comments to Doc's post, for one place -- that we consider annexing Mexico and making it a territory, bringing it slowly into statehood. I can't imagine, given what I know about Mexico's culture, that such a suggestion could work. Just as we are taught from birth that immigration is a good thing, and fears about immigration simple racism, so they are taught that America is an evil, domineering neighbor that seeks to control them. The whole history of Mexico is taught in Mexican public schools as one American plot to steal their sovereignity after another. (A good overview of the problem is given by former US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffery Davidow in his book.)

It may be that someday there will be the kind of political comity that could make them want to become Americans, but it isn't there now. What is there is a belief that we have always wanted to dominate them and steal their sovereignity, and this would only play into that sentiment.

Pity, because it really would be the best solution -- if they were willing.

C) The 'guest worker' program is something I'm still considering. I do agree with Kaus, though: we need to lock down the existing border before we can do it. I have said I don't think we should build a wall, and I don't; but we should do much more with mobile patrols, and improved technology.

D) In general, we need to address the immigration that does occur by dispersing it. Half a million people in Los Angeles is -- even if they are wonderful people -- too many new immigrants for one place. Its culture and politics will tip increasingly, until LA is no longer America. Half a million people spread out among two-hundred-fifty million Americans, and there's no problem: indeed, given the many good qualities of the Mexican culture, and I think there are large parts of America that would be improved by the addition. I liked what the Mexicans did for Forsyth County: they largely fit in, and to the degree that they changed anything, it was only to broaden the local culture (and especially the cuisine; nothing against Southern Fried Chicken, but I do love a good salsa).

They have a lot to offer. We just need to ensure that the immigration that occurs happens in a way that encourages integration of their culture into ours, rather than the creation of two separate and opposing cultures.

E) How can we control flow when they have the option of making an illegal entry across such a huge border? It's not as hard as you might think: there are relatively easy points to cross, particularly the California corridor; there are also very hard places to cross, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico.

We have increased border enforcement on the easy points to the degree that it has driven much of the flow out into the desert. This is a deadly business. While I certainly don't agree with the ACLU's take on it, I will borrow their statistics: a 600% increase in deaths since the new policy was adopted.

If we did adopt a guest worker program -- I reiterate that I have not decided if I think it is wise -- we could manage flow to a large degree by opening a few of the easier crossings. From there, we could offer transportation to work sites across the country. By only offering transport to places where the population of immigrants did not seem to be approaching the tipping point, we could control a lot of the harmful effects of immigration while still enjoying the benefits.

F) Insofar as we wish to diminish immigration, the best way is to improve the Mexican economy and political system. Because Mexico has created a population susupicious of US interference, the most direct ways in which we could offer our help are closed. We should encourage them, however, to continue to improve their democracy -- it is only this most recent President, Fox, who does not come from the PRI, the political party which held power for eighty years in spite of 'elections.' Elections are becoming increasingly real and meaningful, and that's good.

We should encourage them to stop carrying on about the evils of America. It's not in our interests, certainly; but insofar as they might really benefit from our help, it's not in theirs either.

We can probably do more to slow or stop immigration by investing in Mexico than we can in any other way. Is that expensive? Consider Doc's issue: the health care situation. We're paying out tons either way. At least this way, by making investments now that may pay off increasingly as they mature, we can get ahead of the game. I think it would be less expensive in the long run, and as Mexico is one of our biggest trading partners, it would pay off for our economy as well.

Immigration poses a real challenge, and if it is not checked or managed it can create powerful social disruption -- even in the best case, where immigrants are almost all moral and hardworking. Nevertheless, these people are not an enemy, and we ought not to treat them as such. We have a lot to gain from each other, and should think about the issue in those terms. Yet we must also keep our minds fixed on the turmoils of the 1800s, as a warning of what can happen if we do not consider the matter carefully; and as a warning against those who want to try to batter any restraints, restrictions, or management of immigration as if it were simple hate. It is not; these concerns are real, and we have every right to prepare against them.

There you are. Half a million people marched to bring our attention to this issue, so I suppose we should consider it carefully and honestly. This is my best understanding to date; if any of you have other ideas, I'll be glad to debate them.