What makes a nation?

Edward Moran's "Unveiling the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" (1886), oil, collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Edward Moran's "Unveiling the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" (1886), oil, collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

In his superb column titled “White Extinction Anxiety,” The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow quotes archconservative Pat Buchanan as saying that the great issue of the day “is whether Europe has the will and the capacity, and America has the capacity to halt the invasion of the countries until they change the character – political, social, racial, ethnic – character of the country entirely.”

Let me fix it for you, Pat: Do Europe and America have the will and capacity to turn back the hordes of people of color beating on their doors? That’s really what he’s asking, though I would turn it around: Do we have the intelligence, talent, industry and character to be greater than ourselves and truly become a global society?

We are, at the moment, at the crossroads and not just here in America where the heart-sickening battle over immigration, legal and illegal, is being played out daily. Libyan migrants are being turned away from Italy; Syrian refugees from Jordan. Algeria has forced 13,000 migrants to walk out into the Sahara Desert, where many have perished.

The history of the world is one of migration. It’s how trade occurs and how we get a rich mélange of cultures. Nationalism is a kind of stagnation. If we’re only interested in circling the wagons and trading with ourselves, how long will it be before the economies of the world collapse? I think we already have our answer – not long at all. Look at the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq, which sank today on news that the U.S.-China tariff wars are going to spread to high tech. Harley Davidson is shipping jobs overseas to avoid European tariffs. Remind me again how this is supposed to be helping American workers and the American economy. I thought that the Republican Party was the party of business. But Trumpet’s Trumpettes think he can do no wrong. (Normally, I would say it does no good to heckle Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in, of all ironic places, a Mexican restaurant or ask Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave a restaurant. But you know what? There’s no reasoning with Trump supporters and they see no correlation between your “unfair” treatment of Poor Widdle Donald, who can dish it out but can’t take it, and their continuous demonizing of President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So, what does it matter? You might as well take a principled stand.)

But we were talking about nationalism, which raises an interesting question:  What makes a nation a nation? Is it the people who are born there or those who come there as well, for whatever reasons? Is it the laws to which everyone is bound or the race or ethnicity of the majority? Would it be possible for England to be England if more than half the country were made up of people from the countries of the Commonwealth? Would it be merely a different England?

For many, “different” is a scary word, but we are about to find out. White people in America are on their way to becoming a minority. They’re having fewer kids. They’re aging and dying off. No wonder Poor Widdle Donald and his henchmen Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller are so busy at the southern border. But it’s like trying to plug the holes in a dam that’s flooding. They’re trying to hold back not a flood of immigrants but the tide of time. And it simply cannot be done. It cannot be reversed.

There are white people who are unhappy about this. They should look to their white ancestors, who introduced slavery to America, and to their fellow whites who have looked the other way when Hispanics are working in the fields for a pittance. Indeed, all of Europe should ask itself why are migrants at the door? It was fine when the European countries were colonial powers at the doors of the migrants’ homes, lording it over them. But now that those migratory birds have come home to roost, it’s a different story. Europe – and America – took what they wanted from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, introducing their culture as they went. It never occurred to them that immigrants from these put-upon nations wouldn’t seek a better life in the imperial countries whose cultures they had tasted. How dumb is that?

I for one am one white person who is not worried about being a majority-minority. Why? Because I have actually studied history and I know the history of the world, the history of America, is of immigrants enriching these shores. But as comedian Fran Lebowitz once noted each group comes in, gets ahead and looks down its nose as the next group, which comes in…. If this were the 19th century, the Irish, the Italians and the Jews – some of whose descendants are among those now worried about Hispanics – would be in the same position that Hispanics are in now. Indeed, if we really wanted to be honest and fair, most of us would have to leave and give our land back to the native peoples who were thrown off it by the American government.

But we won’t and we can’t. We’re all here to stay, so I suggest that we come up with humane, common sense solutions to immigration reform, perhaps taking a serious look at Texas Congressman Will Hurd’s proposal to build a cost-efficient smart wall, using cutting-edge technology; grandfathering in the Dreamers at last; offering all workers competitive wages. I would also suggest that white people look at the ways in which they have gotten complacent, sitting around waiting for jobs that won’t come back instead of reinventing themselves. Immigrants succeed, because immigrants are hungry – yes, sometimes literally but especially hungry to make it in a new place. Where’s the hunger among white people?

The future – including the future of America – is going to belong to those who are willing to work for it, regardless of where they came from.

What’s going to matter is where they are going.