by Rodolfo F. Acuña
When I was in high school I never thought I would appreciate the conjugation of verbs and the declension of nouns. It was boring; however, I must admit that it introduced me to a deductive system of formal argument consisting of premises and conclusions that allowed me to test whether the deductions were true or false.
Today, we take short cuts, upgrade our syllogisms to paradigms, and we try to sell our ideas as exemplars. The premise is put forward and sold as the truth, arguing that a majority of the experts agree with our proposition. Like religion the pseudo paradigm is based on a higher authority.
In our minds our proclamation becomes a universally recognized statement of fact, and it sets our model for future arguments. The proposition thus supports our conclusions, and has the effect of helping us convince others of our premise.
The problem is that we do not test the argument. We make assumptions, presenting theories, values, and practices that distort reality. In this instance, deductive reasoning bypasses the facts that normally join existing statements or that are determined through repeated observations.
Without this habit of reasoning, we drift into George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the fictional language of Newspeak that allows Big Brother to influence our conclusion through doublespeak. In the case of today’s society, we have many competing big brothers assisted by little brothers who want to justify their big brothers.
Take the question of immigration. Even liberal pundits on MSNBC are spinning it as a victory. Christopher Hayes reasoned recently that a year ago we had nothing and that now we have something. Thus there has been progress. He moves the bar to 2012 and ignores that in 2007 we had more, and concludes that something is better than nothing based on 2012.
To be fair, I have heard the same argument from Latinos who view any agreement as a victory. I cannot understand their reasoning. We are taking a bath on immigration, i.e., it looks as if a guest worker program will be part of the grand bargain, and it is likely that there will be a long, slippery and tenuous pathway to citizenship.
We are buying into the argument that the undocumented are cutting in the line, cheating their way into the country. At the present time, the dealmakers are tying the pathway to citizenship to border security, and who is to say that the border is not already secure or when it will be secure enough to satisfy the naysayers.
It is not fair; indeed it is racist. I do not remember a national uproar when Pat Buchannan proposed a law giving preferences to the Irish, or objections to the countless exceptions we made for Nazi rocket scientists and refugees from Central Europe, Cuba or Nicaragua. Under U.S. law, if you have enough money, you can buy yourself a first class ticket to the front of the line.
Experts question the premise that the border is not secure. The U.S.-Mexican border is certainly more secure than the U.S. – Canadian border. Certainly security cannot be measured by the fences, drones and troops on the border. Lest we forget many of the so-called the 9/11 terrorists came by way of the Canadian border. In any event, the border is not at risk because of undocumented workers but because of U.S. policies have ruined the ability of small Mexican farmers to stay on their land. The border is insecure because of the U.S. War on Drugs, which is bankrupting both countries. It is insecure because people are poor, and hunger has no borders.
But let’s further test the premise that Latin Americans are getting special treatment. This is an argument made even by the Left who justified the 1965 Immigration Act because in part it was part of the Civil Rights legislation and a slice of its reforms. It is true that it ended the U.S.’s racist National Origins policy that based entrance on race; it allowed previously excluded Asians and Middle Easterners to enter the country. On the positive side the 1965 Act implemented a policy of family reunification through Family Preferences.
However, it is also a fact that Latin Americans were not a quota before the 1965 Immigration Act. The United States reneged on promises of Pan Americanism and shell games that followed such as the Good Neighbor Policy.
Liberals bargained this special relationship away. The reform amounted to kicking Latinos out of the line in order to be fair to Asians and other Third World people. The question is why was this deal was ever made? Why was it necessary to rob Peter to pay Paul?
On the other hand, conservatives in 1965 accepted the bargain because they believed that the Germans, the British and northern Europeans would continue to immigrate in large numbers. That they did not continue to flood our borders speaks loads to the positive results of the Marshall Plan – people do not come to the United States unless there is an economic incentive and conditions in their own countries are bad.
So, the reasoning of nativists that Latinos are cutting in the line holds no water. The argument that anything is better than nothing is also fallacious. I could offer countless examples of historical facts that disprove the syllogism, but reason makes no difference to the double speakers.
This is also true of the argument that we are somehow winning on gun control legislation because we are getting a gun law through the senate. No matter that assault weapons will be permissible and meaningful background checks have joined the fishes in the ocean. According to the cheerleaders, we got something.
I am not going to dwell on this but let’s not forget that the Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked for gun controls. The only thing that was different was that they did not want the guns in the hands of blacks and minorities.
In 1967, according to these double speakers, the Black Panthers led by Bobby Seale “invaded” Sacramento, California with an army of thirty black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols . In June, Reagan signed the Mulford Act prohibiting the carrying of firearms in any public place.
(Note that in Arizona white Tea Partyers and Minutemen parade around with guns at their side.) However, in the instance of the Black Panthers there was little talk about the Second Amendment. Conservatives demanded gun control laws and got them. The people with the guns were the wrong color.
The reactions of progressives underscore the consequences of doublespeak. Instead of being mad as hell at President Barack Obama and Senator Harry Reid, progressives are borrowing a page from President George W. Bush when he turned to his FEMA director, Michael Brown and said “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”, while New Orleans sank in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The truth be told, when it comes to Immigration Reform and gun control we have lost the battles. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have won – we haven’t.
I have always been of the philosophy that you hit while things are hot. When we set up the Mexican American Studies Department in the spring of 1969, the administration told me that we only had to get twelve courses approved to be a department. We could do the rest latter. I did not and still do not trust them so I wrote up forty-seven proposals and got them approved while it was hot.
Today, I have mellowed, and I propose (tongue in cheek) that we charter the National Chicana/o Rifle Association (NCCRA) – wondering what the reaction will be from conservatives and liberals alike.
Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.