Picture this scene, if you can.
It's a Bright Morning™, somewhere in America. Peggy Noonan's scrubbed, wholesome face is glowing in the honeyed light that pours through her gently billowing curtains. She's as serene and effulgent as if she'd just stepped out of a commercial for Massengill douches.
She sits down at her computer (that eternal testament to American ingenuity and optimism, made possible by the visionary efforts of those broad-shouldered, wide-grinned patriots who tamed electricity and spread America's gift of Light to the dark corners of the earth) and prepares herself for the voluptuous pleasure of having her harebrained convictions affirmed yet again:
I looked up his citation on my beloved Internet, where you can Google heroism.Having Googled heroism, Noonan impresses herself by finding a hero: Nicholas Oresko of Tenafly, New Jersey, who fought the Nazis in World War Two. "If courage were a bright light," Noonan tells us, "Tenafly would glow."
And if incoherence were a vacuum cleaner, Noonan would suck.
What's the point of Noonan's quasi-Stalinist mawkishness this time around? Well, believe it or not, it has something or other to do with immigration:
[W]e are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all. We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways--in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.The last great wave, eh? Noonan's golden age of American immigration was more or less inaugurated by the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was extended in 1892, 1902, and 1904.
In 1906, San Francisco passed a law forbidding Japanese, Korean, and Chinese children to attend public school. Around the same time, several states passed Alien Land Acts, which prevented immigrants from owning property. The Immigration Act of 1917 established an "Asiatic Barred Zone," which further restricted immigration from Pacific Rim countries, as well as from the Near East.
Daai Tou Laam Diary quotes Iris Chang on an especially unpleasant example of this era's "full-throated" love of country:
In 1895 the Supreme Court ruled in Lem Moom Sing v. United States that district courts could no longer review Chinese habeas corpus petitions, a decision that opened the door to all kinds of corruption and abuse by immigration authorities who assumed the unchecked power to bar or deport Chinese immigrants without fear of opposition from the courts.This was also a boom time for restrictive covenants, which prevented blacks, "Mongolians," Semites, Irish, and eastern and southern Europeans from buying houses in "exclusive" neighborhoods.
These dear dead days - during which immigrants absolutely wallowed in freedom - ended with the Johnson-Lodge Immigration Act of 1924. This Act largely targeted Jews, not least because of their alleged "Bolshevism." Wilbur S. Carr, of the U.S. Consular Service, explained the problems with Polish Jews in terms that are eerily reminiscent of Noonan's:
Eighty-five to ninety percent lack any conception of patriotic or national spirit. And the majority of this percentage are unable to acquire it.Similarly dubious statistical arguments for barring Jewish immigration came from Harry Laughlin of the Eugenics Record Office (who also testified before Congress that a high percentage of southern Europeans were insane). Laughlin went on to found the Pioneer Fund, which, as I pointed out yesterday, recently provided a great deal of support to John Tanton's powerful anti-immigration group FAIR.
I don't have to guess what Noonan's response to these inconvenient facts would be. She tells me, in her own inimitable style:
It's also the people who mean to be honestly and legitimately critical, to provide a new look at the old text. They're not noticing that the old text--the legend, the myth--isn't being taught anymore....Those who teach, and who think for a living about American history, need to be told: Keep the text, teach the text, and only then, if you must, deconstruct the text.In other words, we're not supposed to explore the pedigree of the arguments and remedies being proposed in the current debate over immigration. Instead, we should simply repeat these mistakes, and let some future Peggy Noonan counsel our descendants to ignore them, once again, in favor of "the legend, the myth."