They weren't welcomed either.
Last week David Brooks, that David Brooks, the one that is synonymous with prominent opinion-having, the one who more forcefully than anyone else raises the questions, with every hyper-conventional essay: Why is this even being said? What is even being advocated for here? Why is it important for me to know this opinion, in spite of no obvious connection to the real world or any particular plan of action that is not dead the moment the ink hit the paper?—that David Brooks, wrote a missive called A Nation of Mutts
. It was intended as honoring our new American commitment to becoming a great ethnic smoothie, that melting-pot mix of races and cultures that we already had been claiming America already was
, but now certain folks have begun to recognize that it's going to include brown people too, and that's such a remarkable presence that a wide collection of empowered American White Folks have been reduced to emotional puddles by the mere thought.
Really, Brooks meant this as a compliment:
Soon, we will no longer be an outpost of Europe, but a nation of mutts, a nation with hundreds of fluid ethnicities from around the world, intermarrying and intermingling. Americans of European descent are already a minority among 5-year-olds. European-Americans will be a minority over all in 30 years at the latest, and probably sooner.
But the dog-of-indiscriminate-origin metaphor didn't go over well, go figure, leading the Times
' public editor to address it and Brooks to explain
As for the use of the word “mutts,” history is filled with examples of groups who have taken derogatory terms and embraced them as sources of pride. To take the word “mutt” as a derogatory term, you have to believe that purebred things are superior to mixed-breed things, whether it is dogs or people. But if you don’t believe that, there is nothing to be ashamed of in the word mutt.
I seized on the headline after I was in a group of people talking about the future demography of the country and one participant said proudly, “We’re mutts.”
This is pretty much the Brooksian thing ever—taking an offhand musing by jus' folks and turning it into a New York Times
Opinion Page Premise. That feeling you're feeling right now—that internal conflict between incredulity at the clumsiness of what Brooks said but not really knowing how much you want to commit to even giving a damn, because it is
after all just David "Applebee's" Brooks—is something I call Brooks Reaction Syndrome.
I have patented it.
More about the mutt metaphor below the fold.
As for the Honky Compliment (a mix of Northern Europeans: not mutts; a mix of Northern and Southern Europeans: still not mutts: a mix of Northern and Southern and Eastern Europeans and oh-by-the way a few other groups that were here first and still others that were sent her via Involuntary Carnival Cruise Trips and we won't even acknowledge Asian immigrants here because everybody knows the Transcontinental Railroad sprang fully forth from the American can-do spirit: still not mutts, but now that we're including South-Of-Arizona America in there we suddenly feel that tolerating that would be as inclusive as f--k, maybe a bit too inclusive unless we really buckle down and grab hold of the inclusiveness safety rails), I have no un-parenthetical opinion. Except to note that bit I said right there, which is that every one of the groups mentioned by Brooks and left unmentioned were indeed considered mutts, stuff of lower genetic stock, during the time of their immigration. The nation, each time, had loud and pompous contemplations on what level of inclusion of the new groups would make mutts of us all, in the derogatory sense, only to later embrace the group and celebrate the mutt-based nature of American inclusion as if it had both noble and perfectly obvious the whole time. The Italians, the Germans, the Polish, even the pasty-white Irish, all were ethnic or cultural degenerates. The Chinese were considered nothing more than a slave class. The forming of the nation itself was predicated on a foundational certainty that black Americans—not African peoples, but anyone with a drop of the blood, whether they had ever set foot on the continent or not—was quantifiably inferior, a premise that some of the duller nooks of the country still ascribe to more than two centuries afterwards.
So it seems to me the offensive part is not calling Americans mutts, but having it suddenly dawn on you only now that the inclusion of this new group of immigrants and our assimilation of them into our cultural katamari is what would "soon" qualify us for the term. Soon might be the most outrageous word, there. You could have written the same thing in any other quarter-century, about any other group of immigrants that was thought to be arriving in disproportionate numbers to the others—and those columns were written, and in copious amounts. At every point, and always considerably later on than it should have been, the more enlightened among the less enlightened suddenly got it into their heads that tolerating this new group, the filthy Italians or the drunkards of the Emerald Isle, et. al., was not in fact a national disaster after all; the groups slowly got lumped in with all the others as good upstanding White Folks, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean during that particular decade, and their languages were begrudgingly tolerated and their foodstuffs Americanized and before too long they were just part of the great conglomeration of groups having pointed public fits about the next round of newcomers or supposed ethnic misfits, the next group that was obviously so foreign to the American concept that even letting them get off the boats was going to collapse the nation into something less than a fully sovereign state. Every. Damn. Time.
This, then, is the rather ridiculous sin of the premise. The Reasonable Republican response to immigration—and this is the most we can even possibly hope for, so cherish it—is to enlightenedly observe that despite grumbling base orthodoxy the new batch of immigrants are probably not just a genetically inferior scoundrel class that will doom us all, and that by Jove they might even fit in if you give them a generation or three. That's meant to be the complimentary part, and is completely devoid of any seeming recognition that we have considered to be mutts every last group to set foot on our soil, from the ones that set foot on that soil by crossing a land bridge a very, very very long time before our favored groups of founding theocrats ever took to their boats and extending immediately after those landings to every other religious sect, sub-sect, sub-sub-sect, sub-ethnicity, home nation, favored language, perceived sub-culture and sub-tradition, every last one of them, until they had become so ingrained into the wider culture that only fools and obvious bigots were left sniffling about it. The sin is in repeating the past without irony, and thinking yourself a little bit observant for doing it.