I foolishly used an early version of my article. Rather than repost everything, I am putting in a few omitted extracts:
“Poor Mexico,” sighed Porfirio Diaz, “so far from God, so close to the United States.” Though a hero in the Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862) in which the Mexicans defeated French troops supporting the Emperor Maximilian, Diaz is one of the least appreciated of Mexican dictators. He did his best to live in peace with God (or at least with the Church) and with his powerful northern neighbor, but since his ouster the Mexican state has been defined by its opposition to the Catholic Church, the United States, and Diaz himself.
Mexico is not an easy country to understand. Though, like the official United States, official Mexico has defined itself by political and social revolutions, no one in his right mind would try to sum up Mexico as a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” or speak of exporting the Mexican way of life to the rest of the world. If America is an idea, Mexico is a palpable fact, dense and impenetrable as a jungle teeming with life and fraught with lurking dangers. From the point of view of most educated Americans, Mexican culture is far stranger than, say, the culture of Italy or Poland, and, though Mexico is far more European than the United States, a few days spent in the real Mexico present a challenge to the point of view, not just of North America but of the West itself.
Everything about Mexico seems paradoxical to the Anglo-Saxon—a fiesta of life punctuated by the dance of death. Human nature being what it is, a common response to the unfamiliar and the paradoxical is fear and loathing. Mexico’s greatest poet, Octavio Paz, thought Americans instinctively feared the zoot-suited Pachucos who prowled the streets of California cities in the 1940’s, but it is just as likely that many middle-class Americans felt the same amused contempt for the Pachucos as they did for the “low riders” of the 1960’s and 70’s. When people in America think about Mexicans, the first though is probably not, alas, of a bandits like the Californio Joaqin Murieta, who (at least in ballads) avenged the wrongs done his people nor of writers like Octavio Paz, who have made Mexico the cultural equal or superior of the United States. More typically the image of the Mexican comes from such Hollywood icons as Leo Carillo, who pioneered the role of the silly but occasionally dangerous bandido or, for a more recent generation, Cheech Marin:
“Mexican Americans don’t like to get up early in the morning, but they have to, so they do. Mexican Americans love education, so they go to night school, and they take Spanish and get a B.”
Greater Juarez, the American Future?
Relations between our two countries are most acute in the regions where the two peoples live in close proximity. If Mexicans and Americans are to amalgamate, we might expct to see that process already in operation on the US-Mexican border, which is ringed by a series of border towns that seem to reflect each other as much as they represent the cultures of their respective cultures. From the West, where San Diego—epitome of American opulence and consumerism—is faced by tacky and squalid Tijuana that every year launches tens of thousands of illegal immigrants into California’s underground labor markets, to El Paso and Juarez, a common city divided by historical conflicts and a border that is more irritating than relevant, to Del Rio and Acuña, Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, McAllen and Reynosa, Brownsville and Matamoras, America and Mexico are redefining themselves and each other in a cultural equivalent of Spanglish.
El Paso-Juarez may be the most emblematic. The two cities, originally one, are roughly of the same size; both have suffered seriously from urban decay and to a more grotesque degree from the “urban renewal” planned by short-sighted and greedy developers and politicians. There are pleasant neighborhoods in both cities, and, while El Paso has a more interesting historic core with one good hotel and one good restaurant and while Juarez exhibits signs of a growing economy, it is Juarez that attracts the tourists (and not simply for cheap booze) and El Paso that draws the workers.
El Paso, with its barrios comprising most of the sprawl, is scarcely an American city. A majority of the inhabitants speak Spanish at home, a surprising number of billboards, even on I-10 coming from the airport, are in Spanish. The American border guards hardly speak any more English than their Mexican counterparts, but there is this difference: Mexican immigration officials and guards on the Juarez side tend to be polite and friendly—though some of their cops maintain a ferocious grimace reminiscent of group photographs of Villa’s lieutenants—while our Mexican immigration officials on the US side combine the ferocity of the Federales with the manners of a sullen teenager rampaging through a shopping mall.
Ciudad Juarez is emblematic not merely of the border but of modern Mexico. Rafael Loret de Mola (a prominent Mexican journalist) has put it simply: “Juarez es Mexico. La ciudad y el héroe, cuya epopea le encumbró….” (“Juarez is Mexico, the city and the hero, whose epic story has exalted it.”) It was in this city, then the southern part of El Paso del Norte, that President Benito Juarez took refuge form the French troops, and it was Juarez that Gen. Francisco Villa took and retook, to the delight and shock of the American spectators across the Rio Bravo.
With over 2 million inhabitants, Juarez is one of the larger cities in Mexico. Although the sense of Mexican identity has been intensified by proximity to the US, the city fathers appear to be doing their best to ape suburbanized America. For Loret de Mola, this would only confirm his view that Mexico is virtually a captive nation imprisoned by an expanding American Empire. The Paseo del Triunfo de la Revolución (a major commercial street) has been ravaged by Americanization. The bullring has been torn down to make way for a shopping development, and the widened street is now adorned with chain restaurants and chain motels. Juarez and the other border towns show the worst side of Mexico. Is this the American future?
Border towns are always dangerous places, if only because criminals can cross the border, commit a crime, then slip back into his own country. While El Paso has been one of the least violent cities in the US, Ciudad Juarez, though peaceful compared with the capital, has among the highest murder rates in Mexico. That is saying a great deal. In 1999, the US homicide rate, over all, was 5.7 per 100,000. This is a high rate compared with most countries in Western Europe, Italy (2.25), Belgium and England/Wales (1.41), and Ireland (.62), but America seems safe when compared with Mexico, which despite very strict gun laws, has a homicide rate of 17.58—over three times the US rate. Just as significant, perhaps, is the Mexican celebration of violence and death, which Mexican writers trace back, correctly or not, to the Aztecs. This is a source not of shame but of pride. As one song about the Mexican Revolution puts it: “They say there’s death in Mexico, that every day they kill each other there.”
It is difficult to make comparative generalizations, but according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (a “federal advisory committee” whose mission is to advise Americans on security issues in foreign countries): “In the categories of murder, rape and robbery, Mexico’s Distrito Federal (Mexico City and the surrounding region) posts 3 to 4 times the incidence of these crimes than does New York City, greater Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.
What this means when Mexicans enter the US can be measured by the fact that in 2003, while about 27% of prisoners in federal prisons were aliens, 67% of that figure were Mexican—or 18% of the total. When other Latin Americans were added in, the percentage reaches 23%.
While some of the murders in Juarez can be attributed to the drug wars, a more puzzling question is the high number of women who have been murdered, both in Juarez and in other parts of Chihuahua state. Juarez officials naturally like to blame outsiders for the violence, but there is some truth to the story that poor men and women in southern Mexico come to border towns hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to work in the Maquiladora factories. About half of them are women, who (according to reports form Human Rights Watch and the AFL-CIO) are subject to sexual harassment, violence, and discrimination. The women, once they find work, begin to imitate what they have seen and heard of the North American lifestyle: They try to control the money they earn, and they think they have a right to go out with their friends on the weekends. This liberation leads to conflicts with husbands and boyfriends, who take revenge by beating and killing the women. There is also suspicion in Juarez that soldiers from Ft. Bliss routinely cross the bridge into Mexico in order to commit crimes. The story, though absurd on the face of it, may be not entirely fantastic: the FBI reports significant gang activity among Ft. Bliss soldiers.
The usual tensions and conflicts that have always marked the US-Mexican border have become acute in recent decades. As in Sicily, the huge profits to be made by importing drugs into the US have produced a fierce competition between rival drug lords and between the gangs and the police. The Mexican police and military play an ambiguous role. In some cases their conflicts with the drug smugglers result from their attempts to enforce the law; in others they are more interesting in extorting bribes; in still others they are merely criminals. One of the most effective death squads hired by the drug cartels, “Los Zetas,” consists of former Mexican soldiers. Mexicans complain, with some justice, that a large number of the hired killers—a majority, according to some Mexican officials—are US citizens.
There are plenty of dishonest policemen in the United States and even entire police forces that have been corrupted. In Mexico, however, corruption and criminality are more the rule than the exception, and border cities like Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, and Juarez resemble battle grounds. Caught in the middle are Mexican journalists, whose courage in reporting on the drug wars has made them a target.
Juarez and the other border cities are an ugly hybrid of the worst of American and Mexican cultures. But they are hardly much different or much worse than the barrios of Los Angeles and Chicago. They are also, if immigration is not controlled (unlikely) and American education reformed (impossible) the American future.
More of Paz
Octavio Paz was writing about the 1940’s, but revisiting the themes of the Labyrinth of Solitude in 1979, he did not paint a picture of compatible cultures:
“Our countries are neighbors, condemned to live alongside each other; they are separated, however, more by social, economic, and psychic differences than by physical frontiers. While the more obvious differences in wealth and power might be overcome, he added, “the really fundamental difference is an invisible one, and in addition it is probably insuperable. To prove that it has nothing to do with economics or political power, we have only to imagine a Mexico suddenly turned into a prosperous, mighty country, a superpower like the United States. Far from disappearing, the differences would become more acute and clear cut.”
National Myths: Mexico
North American culture was formed by the Reformation and the Enlightenment, while the Spanish culture brought to Latin America was the product of the Catholic Counter-Reformation that tried with all its might to suppress the Enlightenment. While the Spanish Catholics, in approaching native cultures, were inclusive, English Protestants were exclusive, marginalizing and segregating the Indians in reservations. One result is the prevalence of the Indian element in the Mexican gene pool. Unlike the United States, whose identity is the product of mostly European immigration, Mexico, despite the obvious fact that its political and economic elite have a great deal of European blood, defines itself as an indigenous nation. The exploits of Cortez, far from being regarded as the founding of a Spanish-American civilization, are condemned as a brutal conquest of a high civilization.
Mexican independence was not achieved by Indians and mestizos, though both groups played a part, but by the criollos, that is, descendants of Spanish settlers who resented their second-class social and political status. Even after gaining their independence, Mexicans continued their hostility to Spanish land-owners, but their cry of “Down with the Spanish” could be interpreted as a less than veiled threat against the criollos, who maintained their preeminence down to 1858, when a civil war between liberals and conservatives led, first, to the defeat of the conservatives, then to the disastrous French intervention that put Maximilian on a very shaky throne, and finally to the execution of Maximilian, the triumph of Benito Juarez, who plays the part of the George Washington of Mexico, and the triumph of the Mestizos.
An important part of the Mexican national story is their long-standing conflict with the United States. This conflict found its most dramatic expression in the secession of Texas and the Mexican War, neither of which are forgotten in Mexico, but many Mexicans have also resented U.S. investments in their agriculture and oil. President Cárdenas’ nationalization of foreign oil reserves and property in 193 was a popular move. The establishment of Maquiladora factories, on both sides of the border, combining the advantages of cheap Mexican labor and American technology, was supposed to help the Mexican economy, but the advantages have been reduced or eliminated by the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has tended to put small farmers out of business and yet permitted the drain of US jobs from Mexico (as well as from the US) to Asia.
Investments into Mexico were seen in the United States as nothing more than good business, but to many Mexicans—and not all of them Marxists but even some conservatives—they were simply “war by other means.” Diego Rivera’s famous murals in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City powerfully portray a set of cynical American tycoons exploiting Mexican resources and collaborating with a corrupt Mexican political (and religious!) leadership to subjugate the people.
The Mexican mythic imagination has been conveyed by revolutionary murals, novels and poems, and by a series of lively shoot-‘em-up films that commemorate revolutionaries and bandits alike. The subjects of these films are often derived from the popular ballads known as corridos. Classic corridos celebrate the heroic life—and more often death—of bold men who cannot be intimidated. Significantly, many are entitled “Fusilamiento de so-and-so.” A good example is “Fusilamiento de General Argumedo.” Typical of popular ballads, the song exists in several forms, but in most, Argumedo asks General Murguía for a public shooting:
Listen, my General
I am also a brave man,
I want you to execute me
Publicly before the people.
Denied this consolation, Argumedo, who had fought for a series of revolutionary leaders–Madero, Pablo Orozco, Huerta, and Carranza—showed no fear but smiled:
Sierras, cities, and towns,
Where I confronted bullets
That resembled raging fires.
Some corridos are nationalistic, as in one that takes up Cárdenas nationalization of foreign oil interests, and there is a major cycle of songs about Francisco Villa, the bandit-turned-revolutionary-turned bandit who slaughtered unarmed gringos for the fun of it. A grateful state of New Mexico has commemorated Villa’s attack on the American village of Columbus, NM, by dedicating a state park to the memory of his raid. More recently the heroes of corridos are the brave drug lords who, in the course of pursuing their profession, outwit or kill the US authorities. These “narco-corridos” are deservedly popular, and there are entire radio stations (for example in LA) devoted to them. Monoglot Americans would probably be disturbed, if they could translate the words of such popular ballads as “El Gringo y el Mexicano,” but “where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly [though perhaps safer] to be wise.”
National Myths: America
Uncontrolled Mexican immigration is exerting great pressure on the brittle American identity. The United States has not been a nation for well over a century. It is more like an Indian stew: Never taken off the fire, the mess of wild carrots and fish is gradually transformed by the daily addition of squirrels and squash, birds and deer, and the odd bit of human body—none of them skinned or gutted. By the end of a month, the burgoo has gone through so many transformations as to be unrecognizable. In the same way, a largely Anglo-American Protestant country was transformed first by North-European, then by South-and-East European Catholics and Jews, and in the latest phase, by Latinos, principally Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, and above all, Mexicans.
In the 19th century, America, though crude and ill-formed, possessed a certain exuberant self-confidence that impressed all but the most civilized visitors. Immigrants had only two choices: either retreat to an ethnic ghetto or rural community, where their language and folkways were maintained, or assimilate. Their children (unless they lived in San Francisco’s Chinatown) would have no choice. Few immigrants could return home, and, once an influx trickled out (as after 1921), direct contact with the mother-country ceased. Foreign language newspapers began to die on the vine, and the various ethnic organizations formed to preserve an Old World culture were gradually transformed into social clubs.
Latino immigrants can and do return, frequently, to Mexico or Guatemala, and even if they do not, their language and culture is being constantly reinforced by a steady stream of new arrivals. And what indoctrination do they and their children receive from schools and television teaches only the politics of historical resentment and ethnic privilege. Enrolled in a bilingual program, carefully instructed to hate the United States as an oppressor, and exposed to no cultural influences that do not encourage recklessness and indolence, Latin-American immigrants have few incentives and fewer opportunities to embrace whatever is left of traditional American civilization.
Ultimately, assimilation can only work when there is a vigorous culture that can shape the children of immigrants in it own image. In a healthy society, history and myth reinforce the sense of group identity and common purpose, but in the United States, there is hardly a national hero or symbol that has not come under attack. Students of English literature no longer need to read Shakespeare and Milton; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have been replaced in the national pantheon by minority representatives such as Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez; and for the old heroic story of the pioneers carving their future out of the wilderness we have substituted a story of white male patriarchal oppressors who beat slaves, massacred Indians and Mexicans, exploited women and children, and subjugated homosexuals.
Mexican immigrants arriving in the US today are greeted by a shoddy mass culture—food chains, mass music—that offers few incentives except to the lowest characters. The choice of most immigrants is either to assimilate, jettisoning language and cultural identity in favor of mass culture, or remain Mexican. Ironically, the latter may be the better choice, since the longer immigrant children remain in the United States, the worse off they are, and “the more ‘Americanized’ they become, the more likely they [are] to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unprotected sex, and delinquency.”
Immigrants who arrived 100 or even 50 years ago were confronted by an American myth that emphasized the courage, generosity, and rugged independence of the American spirit. That patriotic myth, however, has been displaced by a new myth, in which ruthless white patriarchal males had eliminated the Indians, exploited blacks, subjugated women, and poisoned the environment. The American ideal lay not in the past but in the future, at the end of a long road, signposted by the liberation of slaves, women, children, homosexuals, and immigrant minorities. Lincoln, though a man flawed by the prejudices of his day, took the first big step forward a just world, and he was followed by labor agitators, the leaders of the NAACP, feminists, and the various movements advocating the rights of immigrants, especially Latin American immigrants. Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers, Lulac, etc.
The New Myth also offers a new version of US relations with Mexico. For earlier generations, the defenders of the Alamo were heroes who were ruthlessly slaughtered by Santa Anna, the archetypal Mexican leader: corrupt, violent, and incompetent. The Mexican War was a just response to Mexican aggression, and the vast territory acquired by treaty after the war deprived Mexico of an unsettled land they could never exploit.
The American Left, by contrast, has applied their universal paradigm of American oppressor/minority victims to Mexican-American relations. Although only the tiniest fraction of Mexican-Americans today are descended from Mexicans who once lived in the American Southwest, all Mexican immigrants have automatic entrance to the privileged class of victimized minorities. Of course, this privilege is not translated into bank accounts or good jobs—those are reserved for immigrants who learn to speak English and to play by American rules. But students in public schools are encouraged to cling to their native tongue and taught the litany of complaints against the Anglo ruling class.
Peter Skerry, over a decade ago, argued that Mexican-American leaders, in deliberately playing the race on all occasions, were beginning to influence even third generation Hispanics to think of themselves as a persecuted minority. His evidence—that fewer and fewer Chicanos described themselves as white and that increasing numbers were now claiming to be victims of discrimination. Victimology, certainly, plays a major role in the multi-cultural educational programs that are perpetuating, and in some cases creating a Chicano identity.
The Culture of Revolution
At heart, the celebration of the Mexican identity in American schools is an attack on Euro-America. It is not hard to find the evidence. In a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Michigan Tech, “Native American storyteller, lecturer, and poet Bobby Gonzalez” speaks on “The Legacy of Columbus: 500 Years of Racism and Resistance.” In Racine, Wisconsin, it is the occasion to teach students about “immigration rights” by showing a PBS video series, “Matters of Race” that enrages the students by its “depictions of open racism on the part of white townspeople in the film.”
Through such programs young Latinos and Latinas are taught to discover their true identity as victims. One graduating senior (class of 2006) from the University of Minnesota had been adopted from Colombia by a loving Anglo family, who “valued” her culture, but she felt bad about not speaking Spanish. Through multi-cultural studies in high school and college, however, she learned to see things from a Latin American perspective and decided to major in “Chicano Studies.”
“As I continued to study Chicano Studies I realized just how ignorant I was and I felt betrayed by our education system because there is so much they do not teach us in high school. We learn about how bad African American people were treated and how they were slaves and they were hung but we never learn that so were the Chicanos right beside them. I remember the day that one of my professors told us that Chicanos were hung and he showed us pictures, I was shocked because my whole life before then I thought it was only African Americans who were treated that brutally. It was as if he turned a light on inside my brain because I then realized that I was going to use the knowledge I was learning in Chicano/a Studies to teach our youth…. I know that my job in life is to work with youth and to continue to educate myself, continue to research our history and teach it to the students I work with.
I now work at Academia Cesar Chavez Charter School and I am part of a school whose mission is to teach Latino culture, value and history. “
Similar stories are told in a variety of Chicano studies programs. Chicano radicals may have little influence today, but they are funded and encouraged by public schools and public universities. Watered down, the same attitude of alienation is projected by Spanish-language story books and textbooks aimed at elementary school children. If the children of Mexican immigrants are reluctant to integrate into the American mainstream, the problem lies as much with American governmental institutions as with the mental attitudes of the immigrants themselves.
Some years ago, when I began speaking and writing on the immigration question, I ran into trouble very quickly. So long as I was content to quote George Borjas’ and Donald Huddle’s statistics on the economic impact of immigration, my arguments were treated politely by advocates on both sides, but when I made the mistake of raising the question of culture, of the kind of country that America would be turned into by mass immigration, I was informed by opponents of unrestricted immigration that anyone who raised the cultural question would be accused of bigotry. How convenient, I thought. Anyone who goes to the root of the immigration question is a bigot, just as anyone who points out the shaky moral and legal foundations of affirmative action is a racist, and anyone who argues for moral order is a fascist, and anyone who criticizes a reckless decision to go to war is unpatriotic or even a traitor.
The future of American culture is the heart of the immigration question, and if the cultural question remains taboo, the doom of America is fixed, even if the means and the will were found to seal the border and repatriate large numbers of illegal Mexican immigrants. Economic analysis of immigration, important as it is, does not touch this most fundamental issue, which is the kind of country we are leaving our children and grandchildren. Economics is a blind science that cannot tell the difference between citizens and foreigners, friends and enemies. We are told, for example, that the soundest criterion for legal immigrants is their educational level and potential earnings. This may be, but if 400 million hardworking and intelligent Chinese immigrants were admitted, our economy would boom, but our grandchildren would be Chinese, not American. Chicano activists understand this reality, which is why they talk about Reconquista and dream of rebuilding the Aztec world of Aztlan. Professional critics of immigration policy who pretend this question does not exist are like the coward who hears burglars invading his home and pulls the covers up over his head.
America’s weakness and self-hatred were not forced upon the American people at the point of a bayonet. We accepted the propaganda and paid for the soft-core Marxists who shoved it down the throats of our schoolchildren. In the decades following World War II, American culture was transformed. Our historical and cultural roots were torn up, and, to the extent we have an historical imagination, it is of ourselves as the descendants of oppressors, exploiters, and murderers. Now in our weakness and self-contempt, we fear high Mexican birth rates, because Anglo-Americans refuse to have children, and we cannot stanch the hemorrhaging border for precisely the same reason that we insist on teaching our children to hate the people and habits that made their country. The fault, my dear American Brutuses, is not in the stars–nor in demographic forces or tectonic shifts of geopolitical power–but in ourselves that we are underlings.
The first step toward addressing and resolving the cultural problems presented by mass immigration is to quit denying their existence. The second is to give up the glib and futile language of assimilation and recognize the fact that immigrants will affect us as much as we affect them. The third is to recognize that the larger part of the problem is of our own devising: American mass culture, including the schools that purvey mass education, are breeding grounds for anti-American resentment and American self-hatred.
To halt and reverse this process, Americans must be willing to take several boldly conservative steps. Quite apart from whatever is done to control legal and illegal immigration, we have to transform the teaching of humanities, in elementary and high schools as much as in universities. The conservative defense of the “traditional” curriculum has been, up till now, predicated on liberal and leftist concepts like “freedom of expression” and “respect for diversity.” Western culture is not valued as something good in itself or as our precious heritage but only as the foundation for an “open society” that encourages toleration of opposing points of view. It is time to dispense with such fantasies, which have little to do with the flesh and blood people who created and defended the West, and to revive the older understanding, that the purpose of a nation’s educational system is to form the character and historical imagination of the nation’s citizens. In our case, this would mean that European and American history must be taught from a Western and American point of view; that, beginning in the lower grades, the classics of English and American literature are required reading, and that the Greek and Latin classics, which, along with the teaching of Latin, were the foundation of our civilization for over two thousand years, be given once again their honored place in the curriculum.
The celebration of American history and the revival of our civilization should not be made at the expense of the rich cultural heritage that Mexicans and other Latinos bring with them. Although many, if not most recent immigrants have been poorly educated, there is no reason why they and their children cannot be encouraged to learn real Spanish and to imbibe the literary and cultural traditions of Spain and Latin America. Study of their authentic history and culture would replace the narcissistic and inflammatory Chicano Studies programs that indoctrinate Latinos into a culture of victimology that can only retard their social and economic progress.
The theory of assimilation encouraged educationists to think they could impose a uniform culture on this vast continental empire of diverse regions and states. The result was the sterile ideology taught in civics classes and expounded every four years at the two parties’ national conventions. Instinctively, students turned away from the lies and embraced either the culture of revolution or the mass commercial culture of self-gratification. True diversity would mean a revival of regional and ethnic identities within the context of a broad Anglo-American paradigm. Just as individual states and counties are beginning to control illegal immigration, they might be allowed to develop their own variations on the European American civilization that is our heritage so long as the traditional core is strengthened. Yankees and Southerners alike respect Thomas Jefferson; Polish and Italian Americans love Shakespeare. We all, as American citizens, revere the rule of law and the British liberties preserved in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
If American citizens prove themselves incapable of taking control of their future, by controlling immigration and restoring the institutions of their civilization, they will not so much be losing their country as acknowledging that it is already lost. In 476, when a German immigrant soldier sent the last Western Emperor into early retirement, he only made the fall of Rome official. Roman Italy had collapsed even before the Gothic sack of Rome that tipped of St. Augustine in 410. In failing to solve its immigration problem, Italy became the battleground for alien invaders for nearly 1500 years. The Eastern Empire was more fortunate: The emperors wrested control from the barbarian immigrants and embarked upon a cultural revival that made Constantinople the most glorious city in the world. Their empire, which endured the shock of Islamic terrorism and barbarian invasions, was far from perfect, but it lasted for a millennium. Which course America will follow is in the hands of the American people.