Fear of Immigrants
by btchakir, Tue Feb 05, 2008 at 11:10:52 AM EST
I am reading Erik Larson's wonderful book "Thunderstruck", which is about Marconi and the invention of wireless telegraphy crossed with the Crippen murder case from the same period in the late Victorian, early Edwardian era. It's interesting to be reading this while the primaries are going on (what is it about a book you take out of the library on Super Tuesday?) since it reminds me of how often certain human activities happen in history.
Marconi went from Italy to England as a very young man with his invention, at a point in time when Queen Victoria was frail and near death. The more conservative upper classes were worried about how their country would change (76 years with one Queen meant a majority of the population had never known another ruler) and were incredibly nervous about immigrants coming into the country and taking jobs and position. The economy was apparently in recession and the first people these creators of empire blamed were those who spoke with foreign accents. Get this, they were particularly worried about Italians, and Marconi, whose mother happened to be an Irish Protestant, had his equipment confiscated and destroyed as a potential bomb when he went through customs.
Isn't it odd that in our economic mess, the more conservative politicians among us, the ones who want to preserve our position as the world's military authority, are in a turvey over immigrants... especially those who speak with Mexican accents from below the border (no one seems alarmed that our popular entertainers are often foreign border crossers from Canada!). And why? Because they are taking jobs? Because tyhey are using free services in emergency rooms? Because they are not blond and white and of Western European descent?
This kind of fear has happened historically in the US before... in Olde New York with the Irish, for instance. The established economic leaders always get edgy about the poor (that they invariably hire to clean out their garbage and pick their crops).
That the Democrats who are still running, Hillary and Barack, don't give this crap the intensity that virtually every Republican does is to their credit.