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This land is my land: no Latinos need apply to this internal clash of civilizations.

WE HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY, AND IT TURNS OUT IT'S us again. That's the latest word from the Anglo-Saxon watchtowers at Harvard where the venerable political theorist Samuel Huntington recently materialized outside his academic hermitage to declare six more decades or so of political winter.

In an article in a recent edition of Foreign Policy, the grumpy but influential Huntington perceives a new enemy, one that already walks among us in fifth, sixth, even seventh columns--our Latino hemispheric cohabitants. To hopeless nails like you or me, these perfidious Latinos may appear as harmless neighbors and coworkers, but the H-man has seen them for what they really are: a cancer on the American body politic.

"There is no Americano dream," he writes. "There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English."

iQue lastima!

Huntington is well known in U.S. policy circles, having previously laid down the intellectual foundation for 30 years of America's nose-holding support of some of history's worst klepto-despots. His 1993 opus Clash of Civilizations (Touchstone Books) reconnoitered new enemies for the West--China and Islam--following the collapse of the evil empire. Huntington and his intellectual fellow travelers suffer from an extreme variant of America's political bipolar disorder: If we're "us," there has to be a "them" somewheres. In this black-and-white, good-versus-evil worldview, there's not a lot of room for subtlety and nuance--or, most dangerously, self-doubt.

Huntington doesn't let a lot of complicated historical reality get in the way of his propositions, but dualistic approaches to our complex real world--where history, culture, and politics converge--can lead to strategic and humanitarian disasters. Just ask any of the victims of Huntington-approved authoritarianism in Asia and South America--that is, if you can find any who haven't already been liquidated.

Now Sam rings an alarm around the reconquista, the historic cultural and geographical shift of peoples from Mexico into the territory now known as the U.S. of A. Huntington views this movement of peoples and co-mingling of culture with dread and not a little Aryan revulsion.

He worries that these Latinos will never assimilate as well as preceding European ethnic hordes did into the WASPy New Jerusalem of the U.S. There's too much "manana" in their work ethic, they won't learn "America's language" (I don't think he means Navajo), they're too insular, and their Catholic faith ... well, it's just not as user-friendly to the muscular individuality promulgated by solid Protestant ethics.

Huntington's rhetoric would have been right at home during a previous period of large-scale Catholic migration into the U.S. when Nativist Party "know nothings" roused rabbles in the 19th century. Just substitute "Irish" or "Italian" for "Latino." While his dour vision may provide a call to action for similarly hoary policymakers in Congress, what it most clearly indicates is that Huntington and his ilk are mostly know-nothings about reality on the streets of the United States. The "threat" he describes is already being embraced and distilled as the everyday lived reality of millions of Americans.

Here in Chicago, for instance, a huge Hispanic population is transforming the cityscape politically, physically, linguistically, and thank God, where it matters most, culinarily, en nuestras cocinas. Somehow, despite Huntington's pessimism, we Chicagoans are surviving this terrific cultural crisis with good grace, a good sense of humor, and a hopefulness, optimism, and vitality that is completely lacking in his American dream interpretation, obscured as it is by prejudice and fear.

THE UNITED STATES IS NOT THE DIVINELY DESIGNATED HOMEland of sturdy Anglo Protestantism. It is a historical, cultural moving target, a ceaseless political and social process. It is fundamentally un-American, and futile, to try to fix it on one historical moment or one people's cultural expression. There is no ideal America, but many ideas of the nation it could be. In that vision of America there is enough room for all kinds of people and their contributions and cultures.

We'll even keep la puerta open for grumpy old white men like Sam.

By KEVIN CLARKE, senior editor at U.S. CATHOLIC and managing editor of online products at Claretian Publications.
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Title Annotation:margin notes; United States
Author:Clarke, Kevin
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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