In a recent Newsweek cover story on the politics surrounding the recall of California’s Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, the article describes the pervasive “crisis” that grips residents of the Golden State.
“Beyond the numbers is something more profound: a sense that California has lost the ability to govern itself and is in need of cataclysmic political renovation. The state’s sulfurous civic life makes the last days of Rome look serene.”
Lurking beneath the surface of California’s political, social and economic cauldron-a $38-billion deficit, high unemployment, failing public schools, sky-rocketing college tuition rates and health care costs-is a steady cultural transformation of the nation’s largest state that author and scholar Victor Davis Hanson describes in his latest book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming.
Hanson lives near ground zero of the swelling Mexican exodus, outside the rural town of Selma in the vast Central California San Joaquin Valley, on a farm founded by his Swedish great-great-grandparents in the 1880s. In addition to farming, he teaches the classics (original Greek and Latin) to gifted students at nearby Fresno State University and devotes his spare time to lecturing and writing essays and books.
Hanson casts a bleak future for his native state as he describes a looming cultural crisis, which if not adequately addressed, foreshadows what he calls the multicultural big bang-the likely consequences of California’s massive illegal immigration.
By 2050, the state’s attendant high immigrant birth rates and chain migration will bring California to house 60 to 70 million souls, over two-thirds of whom will be Hispanic. More importantly, as Hanson points out, this largely unassimilated population will consequently become increasingly marginalized from the rest of mainstream middleclass America.
Unflinchingly candid, Hanson gives us a first-hand politically incorrect glimpse of what that landscape will soon look like. It isn’t just the depiction of the state’s balkanization, but the coming indigenous conditions that resemble entire areas of Latin America-a realization that is not lost on recent Mexican immigrants. If the present trend remains, what will result is the abject reduction of the country’s largest, most populous state to a Third-World colony.
Hanson relates a conversation with a Mexican-American neighbor who, in a remarkable bit of candid self-deprecation, proclaimed, “If you let us make California into Mexico, we’ll just go to Oregon.”
Some might ask, “What’s the problem? Isn’t California a big rich state with lots of room and plenty of money still to be redistributed?” Or, “Hasn’t the country always relied on newcomers to fill the ranks of its unskilled laborers?” Hanson’s book is the answer to why this uncontrolled wave of Mexican immigrants is different from all the previous waves of newcomers to our shores and why it’s a ticking time bomb.
To see for myself that which he describes in his book, I drove from my home in the San Francisco Bay area, 200 miles south to Parlier, a little town near Hanson’s farm where no Swedish gringos live anymore, only Hispanics.
Like huge tracks of Los Angeles, it is a small pocket of Third-World Mexico. Much like northern Tijuana, it is a template for what the author predicts Mexifornia will become. Predictably, at least half the businesses in the town are closed, those that are open display signs in Spanish. The only greenery anywhere is from the patches of lawn surrounding local cinder-block housing projects.
As Hanson explains, since there is almost no local tax revenue, Central Valley towns like Parlier and Mendota are themselves wards of the state and the federal government. The overriding atmosphere is one of grim despair.
Despite the fact that virtually all our dinosaur (his term) Chicano studies professors still characterize the U.S. as a fundamentally racist society, Hanson contends it is in fact Mexico that treats its Indians and Mestizos as untermenchen who are consequently and uniformly the poorest and the most desperate to leave, and in fact are encouraged to do so by Mexico’s ruling political elite. The privileged by birth are not streaming north. In Mexico, he reports, racism is fully institutionalized.
Just a couple of miles from Parlier, on my way to interview Hanson on his farm, I stopped by Selma, where there is still a plurality of non-Hispanic peoples and just plain folks from all over (ironically, a truly diverse community).
Although the town is small compared to neighboring Fresno, it remains clean and the outskirts are bustling with new businesses-fast food eateries, numerous hotel chains, and a giant auto mall. At Archie’s Place, the city center’s coffee shop, the waitresses know everyone by name. The town was, in a sense, an opposite of Parlier. Everyone appeared to have an air of friendly contentment, not to mention a fluency in English.
Just a few miles west of Parlier and Selma, off Highway 99, down a two-lane road, sits Hanson’s two-story, white Victorian house-an island in a sea of flat farmlands. Tall mature trees and lush gardens add to its pre-modern look as well as obscuring the house and grounds from plain view.
As a professor of classics, one steeped in the history of Western Civilization, he makes a compelling case that allowing California to slip into a hybrid Hispano-American culture is unfortunate because, quite simply, the squalid Mexican culture is comparatively inferior.
As Hanson puts it, “Our political elites and educational system, through multiculturalism, cultural relativism and a therapeutic curriculum . . . promote the values that the immigrants are fleeing-tribalism, statism, and group rather than individual interests.”
Moreover, readers who likely assume that the Mexican-American barrios are really nothing new because our country has always contained pockets of slums, soon-to-recover areas, blighted only by new eager Americans of various foreign lands, may again be surprised to read that Hanson believes those barrios like Parlier will not go away or recede, but will continue to grow exponentially throughout the American Southwest and beyond.
Finally, much of the book will likely offend the politically sensitive reader because the crux of what Hanson is writing about is the fact that-with the exceptions of his gifted Latino students-the bulk of the Mexican-American population is failing. And the primary reason is because they are failing the basic test of assimilation.
He names the guilty parties who encourage them to resist assimilation-multiculturalists, politicians, and the thousands of bureaucrats (minor and major government officials) who promote affirmative action, bilingual education, university Hispanic-education departments, and their media patrons-all of whom have a vested interest in an ever-larger unassimilated population of underprivileged Hispanics.
The guilty are also the elites of the Mexican government and its upper classes who are all too glad to dispense with their indigent brethren and corporate interests who feel that they won’t be able to compete without an ultra-cheap, illiterate labor pool.
Although Mexifornia is not optimistic, I’m still much the Hanson fan because, in the midst of disturbing and seemingly intractable truth, he affords us lots of “Hansonisms,” those scraps of knowledge handed out, that give us a view of our own Western Civilization and history. The book has many. Here’s one:
“California has always been a great, though risky multiracial society, united by a common language, culture and law-something not seen since the creation of the Roman Principate, in which Pax Romana was to give…the Gaul, the Spaniard, and the Thracian alike the Italian notions of government, water via aqueduct, Juvenal’s Satires, and habeus corpus. But that subjugation of race to culture is forever a fragile state, nor a natural condition…. Thus, each time a university president, a small-time politician on the make, or bien pensant liberal journalist chooses the easy path of separatism, he does a little part in turning us toward Rwanda or Yugoslavia.”
Hanson’s Mexifornia outlines a grim future for California and is a must-read for Americans who care about the posterity and survival of their nation’s cultural legacy.
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