Dr. John Tanton: How a Rural Ophthalmologist`s Vision Changed Our Lives
current issue of
The Social Contract
entirely devoted to a loving study of the leading
vigilante gang, the Southern Poverty Law Center—or $PLC
as it is known at VDARE.COM.
(The issue reproduces our
Patrick Cleburne`s analyses of the $PLC`s
$PLC named us as a “hate group”
2005, but we`re professionals and don`t care. A
more prominent SPLC target,
Dr. John Tanton, the now-retired Michigan eye surgeon who
played a key role in so many patriotic immigration
reform organizations, is, in contrast,
citizen who has taken up arms for his country“
and I`m afraid may well care. I can`t but believe that
he wasn`t personally hurt by some of
immigration reform groups`
no avail,, of course.
post here an appreciation of this gentle and innocent
man by our regular columnist,
Don Collins, and his accomplished wife, Sally G.
Coalition note: Don alludes honestly to the fact that he
and Sally come out of the Patriotic Immigration Reform
component—whose existence has
long meant that the movement has been
unscrupulously portrayed by e.g. the
Editorial Page as simultaneously too left-
right-wing (!). VDARE.COM takes no position on
family planning (see pro-lifers` support for immigration
but thinks we can all agree that Dr. Tanton is a great
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 20, Number 3 (Spring 2010)
Issue theme: "The Southern Poverty Law Center – A Special Report"
Donald A. Collins
and Sarah G. Epstein
For both Sally and me, our association with
and his wife
has proved to be something of a family affair,
defined by our innate trust of each other and a
steadfast devotion to
urgent policy issues
in which we all believe.
Here almost by accident came a person into our lives who
profoundly influenced us, but cast a vision that has
indeed embraced the World. Not many rural
ophthalmologists do that!
Introduction to the now urgent immigration reform issue
began for me in the early 1970s when I was serving as
the volunteer program chair for the
Pittsburgh World Affairs Council.
At a PWAC luncheon then, I sat next to our distinguished
speaker, Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., who was in his
retirement serving the head of the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
He had a distinguished military career, capped as a
four-star general when he served from 1968 until 1972 as
Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
He told me personally, and then in his speech to a group
of Pittsburgh civic leaders that day, about the
uncontrolled surge in U.S. immigration
he had observed.
We all later realized this had resulted from the
unfortunate immigration legislation of 1965, which
opened the doors to what has since been over 50 million
immigrants, legal and illegal, and their children.
far surpass those of
I first met
John and Mary Lou Tanton
in about 1980 when I was living in
A friend from Pittsburgh suggested we meet. We thus
dined together one evening with them in a restaurant on
which I still remember as having a colorful canopy over
our heads. My late wife, Joan, and I were quickly
convinced that the earlier concern expressed to me by
General Chapman had indeed blossomed into a
full-blown immigration invasion.
John has a quality of credibility which comes across
instantly to his listeners. As our friendship ripened
over these many subsequent years, I have often
personally seen that quality in action, one which no
doubt has made it possible for him to
enlist so many voices
to pursue immigration reform in various ways.
While some of those voices have expressed thoughts which
vicious political enemies have used to try to defame
this Renaissance man, his guiding principle remains that
can stand a variety of opinions and indeed must hear
them for the fulsome debate that this issue demands.
For example, while I was living full time in San
Francisco, John sponsored a series of
several of which I attended. One, held at a modest hotel
in Santa Barbara, California, involved bringing in a
noted academic ethicist to talk about the morality of
immigration reform. Those of us advocating less
immigration based on the Rule of Law were buttressed by
that perspective, despite the drumbeat of Open Border
("America is a
nation of immigrants")
(This phrase, so often used by Open Border proponents,
and powerful business, ethnic, and religious advocates,
has served to rationalize adding 50 million new
was able to keep too many average Americans asleep on
the immigration crisis until it became too obvious to
Because of my interest and participation in these Witan
events, John asked me to join the Federation for
American Immigration Reform (FAIR) board.
In the early 1980s, he had arranged for me to visit the
Mexican border to observe the crossings at Tijuana into
the U.S. I was not sure about the honor of such a treat
when flying above the so-called Mixing Bowl through
which many illegal aliens scurried as nightfall
progressed, but which I could spot with my floodlight
beam from the two-man
in which I was riding. When gunfire was reported there
on the copter`s radio, that privilege
seemed even less attractive.
But then, so characteristically, John always quietly,
softly, but endlessly asks his friends to test ideas and
be involved in what he stimulates as a self-learning
process based on facts, not rhetoric.
Let`s understand that being visionary means taking
constant rhetorical body blows. The second and really
only remaining argument for failing to bring real reform
to American immigration policy is now the
ad hominem attack,
calling anyone who seeks a rational dialogue on real
immigration reform a racist, nativist, or xenophobe.
The lead agency in this spurious
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC),
naturally singled out
as its primary target. The
SPLC also labels as
any advocacy agency that seeks rational dialogue on
immigration reform, which differs from a call for
another amnesty law for illegal aliens like the one that
failed in 1986.
All of these organizations from the
Center for Immigration Studies (CIS),
and others are, per the SPLC`s propaganda, being
controlled and manipulated by this retired optometrist,
beekeeper, and environmentalist as the immigration
reform movement`s evil
Having for years and years been present at what are
often lengthy FAIR board meetings and then enjoying many
genial social times with John and Mary Lou, neither
Sally nor I have ever heard one single statement that
would identify either as having anything to do with
racism, nativism, or xenophobia.
If people around the U.S. could have known earlier at
first hand as I have the enormous reach of John`s
interests, based on his understanding of biology,
medicine, history, culture, religion, and politics, this
Socratic man likely would be elected to high office.
Let me confess a shared personal bias, however. My many
personal contacts with John over so many years have been
stimulated and enlarged by our exchanges about an issue
which has failed to be factored into the immigration
debate enough and into urgent action by government
leaders around the world. It is this issue and its
effect on environment that has been at the root of our
mutual motivation for immigration reform: The
dangerous growth of human numbers
well beyond the sustainability of our planet.
As I wrote in my May 5, 2010 op/ed in the Pittsburgh
that `population bombs,`"]:
" The Population Bomb,
Paul R. Ehrlich`s 1968 best-selling book that
warned of mass starvation in the 1970s and `80s, was
wrong, but only on its time prediction. His famous bomb
has already detonated! Only instead of being one bomb,
the rise of population has caused multiple detonations
that will continue now and in the years ahead.
“Adding 2 billion to 4 billion more humans to our
current 6.7 billion won`t help, but the real impact of
population growth is the main story, a dire situation
that we must treat urgently. Human numbers remain
the elephant in the living room
— consistently and dangerously ignored by most leaders
of both developed and undeveloped nations.
programs remain greatly underfunded. We spend billions
on disease control, but far less on birth control."
John came to this underlying issue years ago, as an
before he got involved with the immigration issue, and
this remains a driving motivation for both of us.
In sharing this highly personal piece on a trusted,
honorable, personal friend, let me mention that despite
his continuing difficult battle with a degenerative
disease, he continues to spur his colleagues to action.
For example, a note arrived to me in the mail from John
on May 7, bearing this request:
"Don, How about an article on what the underlined means?"
He attached a card referring to
Article IV, Section 4
of the U.S. Constitution, which states,
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in
a Republican Form of government and
shall protect each of them against invasion; and
on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive
(when the legislature cannot be convened) against
domestic violence. "
That`s our John! Always for the Rule of Law and looking
for the facts to support effective policies!
As Sgt. Friday opined on
"Just the facts,
I cannot think of John and his wife Mary Lou without
thinking of their
love of the outdoors
and knowledge of the plants and creatures that abide in
the wilder places of our country. They have always been
steadfast environmentalists in wanting to preserve such
Their support of Planned Parenthood and all those who
would endorse reproductive freedom showed their keen
understanding of the need to help women and their
families regulate their fertility, which would lead to
stabilization of the world`s fast growing population.
Realizing how rapidly U.S. population was expanding
John founded among several, a non-profit organization
that focused on developing a U.S. population policy
about how many and under what conditions would
immigrants be allowed to come here. Thus the
was born in 1978.
John immediately knew its headquarters needed to be in
Washington, D.C. And this is where my personal
connection with John, Mary Lou, and FAIR began. My Aunt
Betty Gamble summered in Harbor Point, Michigan, not far
from John`s Petoskey ophthalmology clinic. She went to
John for her eye care. John had already appointed a
young lawyer with strong ecological views,
to be Executive Director of FAIR.
Knowing through Aunt Betty of my strong interest in
family planning work with Pathfinder International and
John insisted that Aunt Betty phone me, saying Roger
Conner was coming to D.C. and that I was to take care of
This included helping him find appropriate office space.
I did indeed help find a small office on P Street, N.W.
and before long was invited to be a FAIR board member.
Over these intervening years, John and Mary Lou and I
have been together at many meetings, we have talked
fervently about our
population and immigration reform issues,
and on non-issue matters such as his hobby of beekeeping
and their insatiable curiosity about so many interesting
subjects related to our natural world which was
energized and expanded during their many travels.
Having such friends who share mutual interests and are
willing to take up the work of helping improve our
troubled planet has proved a special inspiration to me
and Don as we plough forward with our work in family
This quality of inspiring others to join and help his
important vision will certainly be remembered as a
primary legacy of
He seeks to engage people from many walks of life,
helping them with his broad knowledge to a wider
understanding of not only the immigration reform issue,
but the quality of planetary life that has been so
endangered by human numbers.
Donald A. Collins [email
him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.
Sarah G. Epstein serves on the boards of several