It is hard to imagine that the incident in Boston will not have an effect on the immigration reform debate in America. All speculations about who the bombers could be, Caucasian, Muslim jihadist, American citizen, foreign born, all seem to be true; all of these possibilities assimilate in the actual perpetrators of the crime. Mark Steyn calls them “The ‘COEXIST’ Bombers“ The only person who might be disappointed is David Sirota who made fame for himself with “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American: There is a double standard: White terrorists are dealt with as lone wolves, Islamists are existential threats.”
We may be seeing Islamist lone wolves or, as is rumored, the older brothers may have gone home and learned how to make bombs. This is not a first, since what we know of American terror attacks, those who perpetrate them are both alone and also consider themselves part of a greater movement. Given the definitions of jihad, this seems perfectly reasonable. As in the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, we Americans do not know quite how to prosecute what we all agree is a crime. One of our fundamental concepts is that all have a right to conscience and the expression of conscience. When conscience seems to demand violence against others, we sometimes see sympathy on the basis of conscience. This time around, at least so far, for the most part the sympathy seems to be on account of the “lone wolf” life of the poor Chechen brothers. It is stretch for most of us to feel sympathy for anyone who could create such carnage. One of the high points of the commentary was from Ramzan Kadyrov,the president of Chechnya, while criticizing American authorities for allowing the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As if Chechnya had produced no violence, he blamed the ten years the young men spent in America for their turn to violence.
If he only understood how eager Americans are to COEXIST! The photo below, of the SUV carjacked by the young Boston bombers, has been widely distributed. I had been wanting to discuss the phenomenon of the COEXIST bumper stickers and this piece of the of the awfulness of the last few days is merely giving me an excuse to give vent on the subject. Those bumper stickers seem to accuse the rest of us of not wanting to coexist. Who doesn’t? It is not as if we have a choice in the matter. Nor is it as if anyone who does not have that bumper sticker is looking for the opposite of that sentiment. What is the opposite of that sentiment, anyway? Perhaps the Boston Marathon bombers exemplify that sentiment. “COEXIST — The Hell With That!” Don;t you wonder how the guy who was carjacked feels about COEXISTence these days? How do you coexist with people who carjack, set bombs in crowds, or otherwise live as to make their existence impinge on yours and ours through violence?
Similarly, I see bumper stickers, signs and Internet memes that say, “I Oppose Gun Violence” as if accusing the rest of America of being in favor of gun violence. Gun deaths in America are actually a very small percentage of the deaths within the population. In addition, gun violence in America is primarily a problem of gangs, which are an urban phenomenon, and therefore is reflected in the politics of gun control. As the Boston bombing shows, you get a lot more bang for your buck with a homemade bomb than with a gun, even an assault weapon. For most of the country, gun violence is not a problem, does not exist. Government control of guns to prevent gun violence ought to concentrate on the true problem and where the problem is. But that requires discrimination, which is a dirty word these days.
So does immigration reform require using some discrimination and this is where the events in Boston may be be crucial. As Carl Scott recently noted, there are immigrants or even people here temporarily, who we can easily welcome. Others are regrettable. Wouldn’t it be nice to have government able to exercise some discretion and discrimination in who becomes our neighbor? Current immigration reform legislation already looked likely to founder over provisions that conservatives insisted on to make our borders secure. The question is how to cope with immigrants. If we accept all comers and insist on a multicultural, diversely non-assimilated population, then we may as well be asking that America reflect the world as it is. John Sullivan looks at that problem in “The Assimilation Vacuum and the Boston Bombers”. Assimilation assumes there is something American to assimilate to. We have no process for that, but through contact with the population. Therein, the divide between urban America and suburban or rural plays a part, as does our media, especially TV. Sullivan points to the Hudson Institute paper, “America’s Patriotic Assimilation System is Broken,” by John Fonte and Althea Nagai.
This study shows beyond any doubt that, as John Fonte puts it, the patriotic attachment of naturalized citizens is much weaker than that of the native-born. For example, by 30 percentage points (67.3 percent to 37 percent) native-born citizens are more likely to believe that the U.S. Constitution should be a higher legal authority than international law if there is a conflict between the two. But that is only one example — the strength of Fonte-Nagai paper is the cumulative evidence that a relatively weak love of country persists across a large range of issues. But read the study for yourself.
Hasn’t America historically tightened its immigration policies after immigrants committed violence? It only seems sensible, so we can all COEXIST. The thing about coexistence is that it requires some shared value placed on getting along, which requires understanding and tolerance and something more. It requires that we agree about some basic principles, certain mores, if not morals, and a molding of conscience to an American ideal of individualism — properly understood. As we really live, we need community more than coexistence.