Angelo Codevilla, American Greatness
The issue of immigration has become the occasion for deciding the most practical and perennial of issues: who rules? Americans know that Europe’s un-sustainable socio-economic model—bureaucratized economies, social welfare, and demographic decline—is a warning to us.
More and more, people have reacted by voting against the elites responsible for socio-economic management and for migration. But elites on both sides of the Atlantic have not changed course. They justify their resistance to popular sentiment by applying invidious labels to the voters who reject them. Each side’s denial of the other’s legitimacy is collapsing the socio-political legitimacy of modern democracy. This ensures that whatever changes in Euro-American civilization may take hold will include revolutionary political events.
As the ratio of working-age people to retirees was falling and the government was running out of room to finance its deficits by borrowing, it resorted to raising taxes in myriad ways, and to making sure that every last Euro was paid. This crimped businesses. Many closed.
By the late ’90s, the hiring of young people had slowed to a crawl. Individuals, their lives further complicated, used up family resources to finance their lifestyles. The middle class suffered about a 50 percent loss of accumulated wealth. Fewer new families formed, fewer children were born. Fewer people are in the streets and cafes. For those well established, life is comfortable, but ever more somber.
People had never expected political leaders to raise life’s moral tone. But since the 1960s, political leaders have depressed it—first by their corruption and then by the repudiation of Christianity as European civilization’s core, as well as through the promotion of a vision of the good life that consists largely of obedience to squalid bureaucracy.
Muslims and other Africans had neither asked nor (with the exception of prostitutes recruited by the Mafia) been asked to come. They came through the European Union’s porous borders with neither the means nor the intention of taking part in a crumbling civilization. The people among whom the migrants live hear from their leaders—in whose midst the migrants do not live—that their concerns are evidence of racism.
This little city is gripped not by any abstract fear of terrorism but by the changes that the Muslims and the Africans are imposing on daily life. On September 24, the local news carried yet another story from the security cameras about life on the commuter rail line. A number of young Africans had boarded the train and, when the conductor demanded that they pay the fare and refused to be intimidated, they beat him senseless. The passengers waited, intimidated, until it was over.
A friend who has ridden that train to work for the past 20 years had seen it before. Though incidents such as these happen only sporadically, it remains that every day, she and many others must now walk across the tracks, going around the station’s underpass, because the underpass is now a sleeping area and toilet for such people. Back in town, the city paved over the little fountains that had served neighborhoods as sources of water for three centuries, because the migrants had appropriated them as campsites, garbage dumps, and toilets. Only a few migrants are violent, most acting as insistent peddlers. But all are intimidating, and take evident pleasure in intimidation.
What will become of us? We can’t go on like this. Who will put a stop to this? Such questions are well-nigh universal—as are the answers from above: Pope Francis speaks of the migrants as “the warriors of hope.”
The locals ask: Against whom are the migrants are fighting if not us? What have we done to deserve having this war waged against us? Meanwhile, Italy’s ruling Left coalition signals its superior virtue by sponsoring a law to grant citizenship—and voting rights—to the migrants. That is one reason why the polls show it losing the 2018 elections—badly.
The issue of immigration is the quintessentially democratic issue because it is all about “who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to live.” Though the choice of who shall and shall not be among us, in what number, never mind of who shall and shall not be part of our body politic, is far from the only one that affects a civilization’s viability, it has become the proxy for all the other choices that do.