A Reasonable Chinese Immigrant Reflects On 9/11; Peter Brimelow Responds

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A Representative Reader Reacts to Ehrenreich; Peter Brimelow Responds

From:  Pan Hu

Peter Brimelow writes: This powerful letter came from one of our regular correspondents shortly after 9/11; it's been on my mind ever since. I respond, after the usual appalling delay, below. While reading, however, note that despite his reservations, he still endorses immigration reform!

 

I would like to introduce myself as a Chinese-American currently studying at New York University. I have been reading your website for well over a year now, and in fact I am acquainted with your occasional columnist, Mr. John Derbyshire, who is your unofficial China expert.

As an NYU student, I was quite close to Ground Zero when the terror struck on September 11. Obviously, these past two weeks have affected me personally to a considerable degree. I've had to think a lot about things I had taken for granted before 9-11, and I have some comments to make that are pertinent to VDARE.COM's discussion, if you would not mind.

First, I realize that this is a time when ethnic resentments surface, and when everyone has the urge to take out his/her anger on a definite object of hatred. Naturally, I was also enraged by the attacks, and for the first few days afterward my mind was filled with thoughts of bombing some Muslim nation off the face of the earth. But when I came back to my senses, I realized how foolish it would be to bash Muslims as a whole for the actions of a despicable few.

One of VDARE.COM's principal arguments, it appears, is that a diverse and multicultural society is inherently fractious and easily balkanized. If so, one implication of this argument would be that in times of crisis (such as now), America would be very hard-pressed to hold together as a united country.

But from my own observation—and that of my peers—this implication has been decisively refuted in the days since the attack.

As a New Yorker, I am very proud to say that although our city has suffered the most at the hands of terrorists, we have displayed the greatest cool, reserve, and tolerance in our reaction. As I walked across Union Square Park with its poignant postings of victims' photos and hundreds of memorial items, I also saw quite a few large signs to the tune of "Arabs are not the Enemy!", "Peace not War!", etc. In fact, there were no signs calling for bloody vengeance.

Right then and there, a revelation struck my mind. After all, I was in New York City—the "multicultural sewer" so detested by American nativists, and the very face of the nightmare they envision as America's brown-colored future. Even though I was so close to the site of the massacre, I found myself in an atmosphere of love and compassion—not hate and resentment. I couldn't help telling myself, "If this is the future of America, it's worth fighting and dying for."

In other words: The diverse and multicultural city of New York—resented by those who think there is a "real" America somewhere in White Suburbia—has since 9-11 come to embody the best of our great country and civilization. It's true that not as many immigrants as you like are flying American flags from their homes, but it's equally true that virtually 100 percent of them can at least empathize in the pain, which in any case cuts across 63 nationalities.

I realize that VDARE.COM's authors and sponsors may disagree sharply with me. Speaking practically, I will continue to support VDARE.COM's concern for uncontrolled immigration, and in fact I am glad that the INS will impose stricter standards from now on. But on a matter of principle, I can no longer step in line with the blanket ethnic finger-pointing that some of your opinions would endorse, however subtly.

Days like September 11 make me realize that despite all our petty differences, U.S. residents of every race and religion still have so much in common. This is why New York has stood tall during this crisis. Were your theory of American balkanization to hold true, we should have had a huge spate of ethnic unrest in the city already. But we haven't.

As I already mentioned, being pragmatic I cannot oppose VDARE.COM's emphasis on at least lowering our current immigration levels. But on another dimension, how can America maintain its moral high ground if it inadvertently subscribes to the same kind of collectivist intolerance that characterizes its enemies? I say this not because I believe that you at VDARE.COM have this kind of collectivist intolerance, but because your various arguments provide good ammunition for those Americans (there are still some) that do possess it. See the point?

Maybe it's no coincidence that these criminals had to attack the World Trade Center. Notice that it's "World" Trade Center. The terrorists aimed at a target, which symbolized the ability of different races, religions, and nationalities to get along and work with each other, despite their myriad differences. By stepping out of your way and strongly asserting that the character of immigrants is as problematic as immigration itself, you are falling into the same trap of a collectivist, we-won't-get-along mindset.

Finally, I understand that many Americans are utterly fed up with the notion that their country should serve as the "land of opportunity" for people from lesser countries, and people who are often "lesser" themselves. You would ask, what's the point of being Mr. Nice Guy? As a Third-World immigrant myself, I would answer bluntly: Being Mr. Nice Guy can really pay off when you get in trouble. The fact that all US ethnicities and religions are presently united in their sympathy indicates their strong feeling that this country has been nice to them.

Being kind to the lesser and the weak, without a discernible element of self-interest, distinguishes America from the countries we routinely criticize—it's part of what makes America great.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Peter Brimelow continues:…in Alien Nation, I concluded with a section in which I tried to grapple with the possibility that the lion might lie down with the lamb, the sun might rise in the West, and I might be WRONG in my assessment of the consequences of current immigration, although it is based on a lifetime's study of politics.

Did me no good, of course. One reviewer called them "a few cover-your-ass sentences."

Pan Hu's letter is a very eloquent statement of the lion/ lamb possibility. And it would be churlish to deny the remarkable solidarity that New Yorkers showed under attack.

But I would respectfully make four points:

[1] It's also true that the hijackers got into the U.S., and were able to operate so effectively, precisely because of lax immigration controls. Indeed, the whole episode was arguably a Middle Eastern quarrel fought out in the U.S. because it has been imported by immigration.

[2] One of the curiosities of 9/11 was that, despite decades of affirmative action, the New York Fire Department turned out still to be an Irish Catholic regiment (with a dash of Italian), charging without flinching as their priests gave General Absolution, a scene very familiar in British Army history. The solidarity of that vital unit may very well have be derived from the fact that they were, in a Sailerian sense, a band of brothers.

[3] Multicultural/ multiracial solidarity in time of war is nothing new. Britain conquered an Empire with Irish Catholic regiments (see above) and had little trouble mobilizing India and the Indian Army during World War II). For that matter, Rhodesia had no trouble with its regiments of black askaris. This did not mean, however, that there were no underlying political problems.

[4] The fortunate or unfortunate fact is that people do tend to be most noble in the presence of death. The question is: can it be sustained?

Finally, I'm in favor of being nice – I like to think I'm pretty nice myself – but at whose expense?

 

September 10, 2002