Richard Rodriguez on the Terrorist-Illegal Immigrant Connection


Richard Rodriguez has a characteristically brilliant, haunting, and elliptical essay up over at Cato Unbound. In discussing "Mexicans in America," he zeroes in on the weird conflation of illegal immigrants willing to work their asses off in the pre-dawn hours with Islamic terrorists:

The fear of illegal immigrants along America's southern border has increased proportionally as America's support for the war in Iraq has waned. Americans feel a need to cleanse the country of illegality. September 11th makes that dream of cleansing urgent. We went to war in Iraq to play the actor in history rather than the victim. The wounded nation wanted a war movie with screeching skies and exploding earth and apocalyptic diction. But with the passage of years, after the daily news of car bombings, IED's, the growing tally of war dead and maimed, and with images of hateful, ungrateful brown mobs protesting America's presence in their cinderblock neighborhoods, Americans have grown skeptical of our ability to will a democracy onto a landscape we do not understand.

So we resort to our own desert. The anger we lately tapped to hunt the Arab terrorist, we now direct toward the migrant worker. The illegal immigrant becomes bin-Laden's doppelganger. In order to turn our familiar use of the Mexican peasant into a fear of the Mexican peasant we have had to internationalize him. The migrant has illegally crossed an international border, we say.

The whole thing, which includes many other fascinating insights (he even manages to make John Steinbeck look good!), here.

Bonus: The first respondent to Rodriguez is Victor Davis Hanson, whom RR calls "ungenerous" in his opening bit. Hanson lays into what he calls Rodriguez's "baffling obsession with skin color" as "yet more evidence of the astonishing decline of a once insightful writer." That's here.

A decade ago (!), Reason interviewed Rodriguez about race, bilingual education, affirmative action, Catholicism, and capitalism here.