Open Border Heresies

Why the immigration debate has been poisoned by cowardly pragmatists who avoid all the real issues...

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

29 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming. My only quibble is with your estimates of the Hispanic population in the US. As of 2017, the Census Bureau estimated that there were 58.9 million Hispanics in the US. I recall that the numbers being thrown around at the time of the 2000 census were around 15 to 20 million. Then I noticed that every year thereafter, the estimate was increased at a rate faster than immigration and birth numbers would indicate. I think that both Republicans and Democrats fought to have the citizenship question removed from the census, because it would shock native Americans to find out just how many illegals were really in the country, and might endanger their population replacement program. Based on nothing other than my travels round the country, distrust of the elite class, and cynical nature, I’d be willing to bet that there are well over 100 million Hispanics in the US and at any given time, at least 30 million illegals.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks for the response. You may be right. I picked numbers in the middle for the precise reason of defusing any argument from the left on what I regard as a distraction. The numbers are not the issue for several reasons, the least important have to do with the imperfect methods and bad conscience of the statisticians. The more important reason not to fret is why I wrote the piece. Groups that do numbers are all hung up on the wrong issues, and their decision to focus on numbers, economy, and crime is the most serious impediment there is to understanding. That is why I use only very round numbers, prefixed with words like maybe.

  3. James D. says:

    I mentioned the numbers as just another example of the political class lying about virtually everything. You are, of course, correct, that they are a distraction. But, it does give some sense of where we are headed and how much more rapidly we will be getting there. Of course, my fear, as a parent of young children, is the country that my children will inherit. It doesn’t look good, but I recall your talk, from many years ago, about Paul and early Christians living in the time of Nero and Christian persecution. A major difference, however, is that the Catholic Church in the US seems resigned to managing a decline instead of zealously defending the Faith.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    You may be a bit optimistic. The Catholic Church in America, apart from a few pockets of sanity, is whipping on the horses that are taking us over the cliff.

  5. James D. says:

    Very true. I was thinking of the local Diocese who seems content to constantly consolidate parishes and schools, calling the program “The Church Alive.” I kid you not. At the higher levels, they are, indeed, whipping on the horse. Many years ago, my father was involved with Catholic Charities. They had persuaded him to give jobs to refugees of the war in Bosnia. Of course, half of the people that Catholic Charities was importing were Muslims. They took over an apartment complex south of the city and built themselves a ghetto.

  6. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Here in Rockford, the director of Catholic Charities–a Lutheran–brought in an army of Muslims along with some Serbs and Croats, who learned to get on with each other, while the Muslims have whined about not getting equal treatment. Since the Muslims, backed by US with money, guns, everything, were able to grab huge hunks of territory where their people did not own land, I wondered what they were doing here. They can’t all be from Banja Luka, and, by the way, if they were from Serb or Croat controlled parts, the Serb and Croat authorities have been forced to take them back.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    And, while on that subject, shouldn’t refugee status be temporary? Belgrade and other Serbian cities have many Muslims living in them. Surely there is no legitimate fear of persecution. Why can’t we send all the Southeast Asians back if they are here only as refugees.The Khmer Rouge is gone.

  8. James D. says:

    A Croat who came over here at that time told me that he had fled with his family to Berlin. After a couple years, he tried to go back to his village, but Muslims were living in his house and had taken over his village. He then went back to Berlin. From there, Catholic Charities brought him to the US. He was a decent fellow and a good worker. As you mentioned, the Serbs and Croats, put into this situation, learned to get along. The Muslims were a constant source of conflict, and the Serbian and Croatian immigrants were wary of working with them. In my small sample size of a couple dozen immigrants, they also seemed to have no skills, whatsoever, while the Serbs and Croats were very industrious and could repair anything.

  9. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Wow! This is a masterpiece. Great decision, by the way, to include no interlocutor. This seems to be a pure outpouring of your own worldview, informed by your own life experience, reading, reflection, et cetera.

    I hope you will supply the transcript. This sounded like an invaluable history lesson but also an elegy for our civilization.

    I don’t suppose this was offered as free content, was it? I would like to point people to this lecture, but I’m quite sure most will balk at any suggestion that they pay. They should, but they’re just frugal Americans.

    Hope you will do more of this sort of thing.

  10. Robert Geraci says:

    What examples are there for cultures to finally wake up and change the course they are on? I can’t think of any, especially when considered against the size and breadth of the USA. Who is going to wake up and change everything that schools teach, the media preaches, and that which is entrenched in all levels of government rules and laws administered by an army of robot bureaucrats? I don’t see how this is conceivable. And even if it finally comes to armed conflict, I wonder if in that frenzy people will even remember what they are killing one another for. Does the aftermath of the French Revolution apply here – somehow some sanity returned? But I think not because the French Revolution was like an overnight aberration (as well as at least the French remain undiluted French) as opposed to decades and decades of American culture that has been poisoned through propaganda as well as literally diluted by an influx of non-western thought. Has any society rescued itself? I am petrified, not at all for me, but because I have five grandchildren who are God’s creatures and there is nothing I can do to protect them.

  11. Robert Reavis says:

    Mr. Geraci,
    Your questions are excellent and fill me with wonder with all that once was and is no longer. The culture of death is so entrenched within the hearts and minds of those who should be monitoring their borders, that their birth rates are below replacement levels. Their current analysis is sterile, their dialectic methods mistaken for

  12. Robert Reavis says:

    true science. Your question about who will wake up to what the schools teach, the media preach and the robots enforce with endless declarations of war is now the culture we live and breath and inherit for the foreseeable future.

  13. Dominick D says:

    Seems to me the normal means of restoring sanity are collapse of civil order and dark ages. Perhaps the only thing to do is pass on enough so that those on the other end of it all have something to work with. A good reason to loiter in these parts of the web I suppose. And to keep
    barley juice handy.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Ken, I hope to do several of these per month, on a variety of subjects, initially to fulfill our obligation to Gold and Charter subscribers. We’re a bit behind on our promise to them, and those generous people make this website possible.

    Bob G, the answer is a bit complicated. There are no successful static cultures, and developments that go by the name of revival or restoration are usually conservative in form, though not always in reality. This does not mean revivals are not a good thing, The Catholic Church, for example, has gone through numerous periods of decadence, followed by great movements of reform and revival.

    As for nations, there are such examples as Restoration England, which, alas, threw out the baby of moral decency with the bathwater of Puritanism, still, it was the age of Dryden and Milton (who hated the Restoration!) and was followed by Pope and Swift and later by Johnson, Burke, Gibbon, and many others. I use literature merely as synecdoche for the whole culture.

    The French Revolution was not at all an overnight aberration. On the contrary, it was the culmination of a movement that had begun at least two centuries earlier. That was the whole point of our summer program on the continuing revolution. The French underwent a serious restoration that began with Napoleon and only ended with incorporation into the EU. Augustan Rome was a significant revival in art, letters, government, and everyday life after the disastrous moral and social decay that set in after the Third Punic War and culminated in the great civil war between Julius and Pompey. The revival produced stability, military success, better government of the provinces, as well as Vergil and Horace, and it culminated in the age of Trajan and the Antonines, which Gibbon famously regarded as the happiest age in the history of the world.

    The Byzantine Empire took a whole millennium to die off and even then, in its final century, was more vigorous culturally than it had been for a long time.

    Do I think Americans can bring off anything like any of these revivals? No, but this would require a lengthy analysis. In the case of the Byzantines, so often represented as degenerate and sterile, they had certain advantages: a common religion–Orthodox Christianity–and to the extent their were divisions, as in the Monophysite crisis or later on the division between those who urged union with Rome and the majority who opposed it–it was a serious weakness. They had a common language and culture to which they were committed, and, while much of the Byzantine ruling class was made up of ruthless soldiers and exploitative plutocrats, there were wise statesmen who presided over a restoration of the yeoman farmer-soliders who guarded the frontier.

    The apparent hopelessness of our own situation stems in part from a revolutionary movement that has destroyed our language and literature along with our moral institutions and in part from an incurable delusion on the part of so-called conservatives who are forever seeking practical political solutions to essentially moral and cultural programs. You can only help your grandchildren if you are willing to assist them in their cultural, intellectual, and moral development.

    I am going to speak more frankly than I ought. When I post valuable pieces on history, literature, and philosophy, there are few responses, but if I post something on a superficial political issue, there are dozens. What does this tell you? The score is MS 13–10, Hesiod and Theognis 0, It should be the reverse. When Americans are more interested in Dante than in AOC or Donald Trump, that will constitute a counter-revolution.

  15. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I neglected to respond to Dominick D, who is largely correct. My father in law, a fighter pilot from WWII and Korea, used to say that the only thing that could save this country was another depression. It would not be enough, of course, not at this stage of the game, but it would be a start.

    I should add to Mr. Reavis that the children are already being taught be robots. Once upon a time there were “teaching machines,” movie projectors, and “scantron tests”, then there were computers, and now we have all those things plus a corp of human teachers who are hard to distinguish from robots. I should say that teachers were robots with artificial intelligence, but that would be an overstatement, since they give few signs of having any form of intelligencve whatsoever.

  16. James D. says:

    My education was so poor that, though I try to understand your pieces on history, literature and philosophy, I have so little grounding in the subject matter that I have nothing to add. I have been trying to work backward through Western literature, but, perhaps I should start at the beginning. A daunting task.

  17. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Someone once said and Aldous Huxley quoted it, that life must be lived forward and understood backward. Similarly, one’s education has to begin with the beginnings, which are not, for us, Sumeria and Egypt or even the Bible, but the Greeks. Classical antiquity is the glorious childhood of our people, but a childhood in which humanity for the first time showed it was capable of something nobler than slave labor and mass murder. We have been feeding off the Greeks ever since. Since the Fall of Rome, there have been a few very bright spots–the philosophy of St. Thomas, the poetry of Dante and Shakespeare, but if, as AN Whitehead once observed, the history of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, the history of literature is a series of notes, comments, and imitations of Homer, Sophocles, and Thucydides. In the great scheme of literary tradition, Dickens is a very minor figure, and American literature hardly even exists.

  18. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dr. Fleming – regarding a depression, those who “need” it most are largely immune. One would only add to the suffering of those most ground down by our political and economic elites. Witness the execrable Bill Maher wishing for a depression so President Trump is not reelected.

    Americans will be more interested in Dante than in AOC or Donald Trump only when they are given that alternative in some compelling way. I think that would require, as a minimum, a total revival of our public schools in order to provide an appetite and demand for a revival of our culture. How can that happen? Prayer and fasting – with God all things are possible.

  19. Harry Colin says:

    Dr. Fleming’s point about responses to posts on this is a sobering one, in no small measure because it is so accurate; I “resemble” that remark myself – mea culpa! I would say, however, that I view his posts more as capsule lectures on important topics – to be savored, re-read and digested happily into our body of wisdom. I know they have engendered the acquisition of several books to add to my collection for reading and study. Also, most of us still react emotionally to news of our culture degrading before our very eyes, and this triggers responses on these topics – to our own disadvantage.

  20. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I do apologize. I seem to have sent the wrong signal, as I so often do. Personal tastes in reading or their variety of interest are not my concern. I read lots of junk and just watched a not very good Charley Chan movie with great pleasure, when I was not nodding off, which is one of the great benefits an insomniac has in watching movies. Someone who as read all John Buchan, Bulldog Drummond, and the Fu Manchu books (the last being really not worth it) is in no position to look down his nose. My point was, really, to be honest. Where your treasure is, there is your heart, and where one spends time is who one is. I enjoy old fashioned junk, because it puts me back into a world that is more simple and less filthy, but my mind was formed in a different school, and I spend at least as much time reading ancient historians, Plutarch, and others as I do on Sapper MacNeil and his confederates.

    I don’t begrudge anyone his indulgence in cheap fiction or cheap politics (Drudge, Limbaugh, etc) but I do suggest that people be honest with themselves. For people not in the game, reading up on current politics is on par with reading comic books. I don’t stoop quite that low–not, at least, in fifty years, since a friend (a young naval lieutenant) gave me the entire Fantastic Four from the beginning down to 1967–but I do suggest that it is better not to kid one’s self. If Hannity or any of them knew the truth, you would be the last people they would share it with.

    My friend Ched Rayson, who has decided to remove his chapters from this site, for the time being, tells me his alter ego, Anterus Smith is bewildered by mass culture. I share this amazement.

  21. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming,

    How, where, and when do I start my children on correct path, so they can avoid my fate?

  22. David Wihowski says:

    Dr. F. I do read the pieces on superficial topics less than I read the other pieces, and I come back to some of those meaty pieces more than once. I do feel trepidation about responding in a meaningful way to many of them simply because I am out of my depth. I could give a sort of Facebook “like” but that seems almost irreverent because the pieces are so good.

    P.S. Your friend Ched Rayson has a habit of leaving me hanging that is not at all pleasant.

  23. Allen Wilson says:

    I read the important pieces (actually, everything), but simply can’t come up with anything intelligent to post in the comments. That’s why I usually boor everyone else with posts in the not so important pieces. Sometimes I go back and look at one of my posts and wonder why I didn’t just spare everyone.

    I’ll try to change this habit but don’t expect anything more than idiot responses, although sometimes they can elicit real learning experiences, to use a modernist phrase. The important pieces take more thought before one can come up with anything to say. Of course, to say that is just another way of admitting to laziness.

  24. Harry Colin says:

    The mention of Charlie Chan reminds me of growing up in the Pittsburgh area – late 60s/early 70s – when even with a measly three TV channels to pick from, there was for for awhile on Saturday nights after the late news two wonderful options – Chiller Theatre (2 movies) and Charlie Chan Theatre. Both shows had colorful hosts, too. Along with my cousins and friends, I savored those late nights despite the agonizing need to choose only one in those pre-DVR/DVD days.

    Since Dr. Fleming has freed us to read at will without the guilt of dipping below the high-brow, I’ll continue my recent fascination with Dean Koontz and perhaps even pry an old Doc Savage novel from the recesses of my library.

  25. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Mr Colin, I was born in Pittsburgh, and we often returned, after my father’s transfer to Baltimore, to visit Grandma and all my beloved aunts and uncles. I saw a good bit of their local tv in the 60s and early 70s. You were doubtless referring to one William Cardill, better known as Chilly Billy Cardilly, who kids thought was the coolest guy you could aspire ever aspire to be. It was a better world in those days, being allowed to stay up late to watch some classic like “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” or “It! The Terror From Beyond Space,” hosted by Cardill. It makes me want to cry to think someone like Chilly Billy will never be allowed on air again. I raise a glass to him, Sir Graves Ghastly, and to the incomparable Count Floyd. Ah-wooooooooo!!!

  26. James D. says:

    Bill Cardille was a nice guy and a Jack of all trades. Weatherman, talk show host, dj, announcer, etc. I had a chance to meet him when he came to our grade school. I also met Joe Denardo, another local legend. They both passed away in the last couple years. Simpler times.

  27. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    We watched Shock Theater out of Chicago hosted by Marvin something or other.

  28. Ben says:

    Anterus Smith, to where you gone?
    This Piks-burgher is awaiting the next chapter – who knocks off the big guy???

  29. Ben says:

    Ach! I’m always making dumb grammatical mistakes on this blasted smartfone!