Strong Societies

Why the Alt-Right must embrace amnesty for illegal immigrants if they really want to defend Western Civilization.

Perhaps the most controversial component of President Trump’s electoral coalition is the Alt-Right, exemplified by the National Policy Institute. The NPI advertises itself as an advocate for, “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.” Ignoring their more egregious arguments, NPI argues that it is crucial to defend European descent, in order to protect the values of Western Civilization. The underlying assumption of this argument – that the values and ideas conceived by Western Civilization are the key to America’s success – is held by right-wingers from Steve Bannon to Rush Limbaugh.

For many of these right-wingers, including the NPI, illegal immigration represents an intrusion of “non-western” elements that threatens to erode those values in American culture. Therefore, these groups have advocated for Trump’s famous border wall and the deportation of all illegal aliens. However, if these groups truly want to preserve Western Civilization, then they must embrace amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Ancient Foundations

A constant refrain of the arguments deployed by the Alt-Right is that cultural diffusion will weaken Western Civilization. According to Richard Spencer, the President of the NPI, only one people, Europeans, are responsible for all of humanity’s progress and Cultural Diffusion due to the intake of refugees or assimilation of illegal immigrants will only weaken Western Civilization.

A member of the Alt-Right would likely consider Ancient Rome as the archetype of a “pure, white society”. After all, the roots of Western Civilization were laid by Ancient Rome, whose influence on the culture and languages of Western Europe is unmatched. Roman law is the basis of civil law throughout the world, Latin words compose the clear majority of the vocabularies of European languages. The Founders, in drafting the constitution, intended to replicate the Roman Republic. However, the success of Ancient Rome, and thus of all Western Civilization, depended on precisely the same “cultural dilution” the Alt-Right is trying to prevent.

To the Romans, the issue of maintaining cultural purity did not matter; if something from a foreign culture performed better, it was quickly adopted. According to Levy, who wrote the only extant history of early Rome, Romulus grew his town by accepting bandits and criminals from Greek colonies in Southern Italy who brought with them the originally Greek idea of Democracy and Representative Government. However, the early Romans did not then solidify their culture according to only Greek models. When Roman armies encountered the Samnite tribes, they quickly discarded the Greek phalanx in favor of the Samnite maniple, which became the basis of the famous Roman legions. Non-Roman peoples were even given a path to citizenship: each non-Roman who served in the Auxiliary Corps of the Roman military was awarded citizenship for him and his family upon retirement. By the height of the Roman empire, the diverse peoples of Europe considered themselves Romans, regardless of whether they worshipped Jupiter or Jesus, spoke Latin or Gaelic, or ate bread with olive oil or butter.

Heirs of Rome

Cultural synthesis did not end with Rome. Cultural diffusion from Muslims, whom the Alt-Right degenerates as especially destructive to Western Civilization, contributed to the continued progress of the West after Rome’s collapse. The beginnings of Humanist philosophy, which inspired the Renaissance and the Enlightenment only began when Spanish soldiers discovered Arabic translations of Plato and the other Greek philosophers in Moorish Spain. Spices that are ubiquitous in “traditional” western cooking, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper, were brought by Arabic merchants on the silk road. Even our numeral system is not based on that of Rome’s, but on the Arabic system brought back by the Crusaders, whom the Alt-Right associate with ideas of defending cultural purity. Western Civilization developed and thrived not because it obstinately held onto the vestiges of ancient Rome, but because it continued the Roman practice of adopting the best of new cultures.

Neither did cultural synthesis end in American history. Each new wave of immigrants adds to the uniqueness of American culture. From originally German frankfurters and hamburgers, to Hispanic tacos, to Japanese sushi, our food is the most apparent testament to America’s dependence on the contributions of each new culture. More significantly, non-European Americans have been the military’s most decorated fighters. The 442nd regiment, composed of Japanese Americans during World War II, is the most decorated unit in American history. In World War I, the 396th regiment of African Americans were nicknamed the “Hell Fighters” by the Germans because they never once lost ground to the Germans. America’s success in the Pacific theater was also dependent on the use of Navajo code-talkers. The NPI is only able to fight its crusade to preserve “Western Civilization,” because non-European Americans first fought to defend America from its enemies.

Weak Societies

What the Alt-Right advocates for, is not a strong society that must be dynamic and continually re-adapting, but a weak society. Weak societies, in times of crisis, naturally attempt to crystallize their national traditions to stave off foreign intrusion. In the late 19th Century, Qing Dynasty China actively demoted officials who attempted to incorporate western modes of governance and technology and replaced them with officials who insisted on preserving the Confucian traditions that had guided China for millennia. By 1895, China had lost wars with the Western Powers and was forced to concede incredible amounts of territory to them under the Open Door Policy. Other great empires that attempted to crystallize traditions in the face of crisis included the Ottoman, Russian, Egyptian, and Mongol. A process of crystallizing national traditions does not strengthen those traditions. Instead, the crystallization advocated by the Alt-Right makes those traditions so brittle that they eventually shatter.

Even Ancient Rome succumbed to the allure of crystallizing its traditions. When Christianity became engrained in Roman culture, the Romans stopped assimilating new peoples. Rather than incorporate the Goths, Franks and Saxons into Roman society, the late Roman Empire set aside land for these tribes in order to separate them from the core of Roman society. As the Empire faced the crises of economic decline, constant war with the Middle Eastern Sassanid Empire, and the threat of Attila the Hun, ordinary Romans did not look to the Roman government for aid, but to those Germanic warlords who established their proto-states in Roman territory.

New Americans

Today, the United States has its own proto-state problem. There exist as many as 11 to 30 million illegal immigrants, (around 10% of the American population). Without legal status or a path to citizenship, these people are discouraged from integrating and participating in American society. In many cases, gangs take advantage of the situation by recruiting children excluded by public education and exploiting workers who are unable to report to the police for fear of deportation. Continuing to advocate against amnesty will only perpetuate a crisis that threatens to uproot the authority of the American government in cities across the nation.

If the Alt-Right truly wants to preserve Western and American values, then they must support amnesty for illegal immigrants. Many of these illegal immigrants came to the United States for the same reasons the ancestors of Richard Spencer, the Alt-Right, and every other American first came: religious persecution, tyranny, and lack of economic opportunity in their home countries. The vast majority of them are Christian, self-reliant, and hard-working – the very values many right wing politicians proudly identify as the foundations of the nation. Granting them amnesty and a path to citizenship would only add a demographic that shares the values of many conservative Americans.

The Success of the West

Unfortunately for the Alt-Right, the story of Western civilization is not one of holding onto one set of universal values, but one of the continual practice of adopting the best of new cultures. Western Civilization has proceeded through several sets of cultural values – from Romanitas, to Judeo-Christianity, to Humanism, to Political Correctness – but the one thing which has remained constant is the ability to absorb new peoples and adopt the best of their cultures. If the Alt-Right truly wants to defend Western Civilization and perpetuate its success, it must embrace a tradition that has animated the West ever since Trojan refugees were welcomed as allies in Latium after being “harassed by all the disasters known on land and sea”.




Featured photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr shared under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license.