The new Arizona immigration law continues to resonate around the country and now figures to become a tipping point for advocates on all sides of this issue and a level of activism that has now risen to a fever pitch. In a recent edition of The Houston Chronicle, my friend Bill King wrote an insightful piece on the term “sanctuary” in lamenting the degree to which it has become laden with such negative connotations and the designation as a “sanctuary city” so subject to derision, and he wonders how such a noble idea became so scornful.
In an exchange of e-mails, I responded to his article as follows:
I share your concern that the traditional “sanctuary” represented by the beacon of America has become a pejorative for many otherwise charitable, generous, and welcoming Americans, but we need to consider what made it so: the complete abdication of our political leadership in fulfilling the most basic responsibility of stewardship–the protection of our sovereignty.
We have been able to accommodate the “tired and huddled masses” because we have been and remain the exceptional nation, the only one in world history based on a proposition. But there was always a catch–that, as Teddy Roosevelt so aptly put it, “there is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.” In his forthright manner, he was referring to complete assimilation, one of the great miracles of the 20th century, and I don’t believe he had in mind a disavowal of cultural heritage.
The American cultural mosaic produced by late 19th and early 20th century assimilation was a model to be applauded, but over the past several decades the ideology of multiculturalism has gone far beyond healthy cultural pride to divided loyalties. What we have today in far too many cases is a new proposition, one that contemplates dual citizenship, dual loyalties, multiculturalism, bilingualism, and yes, often sanctuary from enforcement of the law, while our leadership class does nothing. It’s not about cultural holidays, it’s the ethnic nationalism, primarily initiated by the radical advocacy groups and aided and nurtured by the “open borders” crowd and their fellow travelers. All of this causes many otherwise well-intentioned people to become cynical and to reach for the lesser angels of their nature. This, and the total disregard for the law and American sovereignty, is what has sullied the honorable concept of sanctuary.
We can fix this problem and restore the word sanctuary to its traditional meaning, but it will require political courage that I don’t see in place in either major party, and the American people have already been fooled once by a “comprehensive” solution that made the problem worse.