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Harvard’s Know-Nothing Sounds the WASP Alarm

By Nicholas von Hoffman Featurewell
Tuesday June 01, 2004

Sam Huntington rides again! 

Sam is the Harvard professor who, from time to time, puts on his Paul Revere costume and gallops across the country warning his fellow white Protestant citizens that the others are coming. This man is nobody to shrug off. What he says gets listened to in the think tanks, and that gets the op-ed types running to their keyboards, tapping out the kink in the reactionary party line. Pay attention to Sam. He is a heavyweight. 

In 1993, he hoisted his lantern to let the country know of the growing danger from Islam. In an article entitled “The Clash of Civilizations,” he put America on notice that the ragheads are coming, the ragheads are coming. In short order, he predicted, we would be inundated by the backward, bigoted sons of the camel. It might be something of an understatement to say that Sam hit the bull’s-eye with his intellectual form of high-brow hatred. Popularized simplifications of Sam’s Crusader cry issued forth from every pore of the media beast day and night. 

In his new book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, Sam—his tricornered hat squarely planted on his block head—has lifted another one of his warning lanterns: This time, the Hispanics are coming. In a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, the professor previewed some of the arguments in his book. “The single most immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity,” he writes, “comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico.” And what, may we ask, is America’s traditional identity which is being so dangerously challenged? It is “the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers. Key elements of that culture include the English language, Christianity, religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law … dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic … the duty to try to create a heaven on earth….” 

According to Professor Huntington, Hispanics are having none of that; instead, they harbor an “Americano Dream,” a term coined by Lionel Sosa, a Texas businessman. But our Cantabrigian nightrider says that the Americano Dream is all bullocks. “There is no Americano dream,” he writes. “There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.” 

Hispano-phones are learning English, and Professor Huntington knows perfectly well that they are. Indeed, he is at pains to tuck in the facts about Hispanics learning English in this hysterical call to his fellow Anglo-Saxons. He cites a study which found that “more than 90 percent of the U.S.-born people of Mexican origin spoke English fluently.” He concedes that the available evidence shows that Spanish-speaking immigrants are learning English in patterns similar to that of previous arrivals from other places, but he is spooked anyway. Why? The increasing frequency of bilingual persons. It used to be considered rather a plus if a person spoke two languages, even at Harvard, and I guess it is still as long as one of the languages isn’t Spanish. Otherwise, the day may come when “those aspiring to political office might have to be fluent in both languages. Bilingual candidates for president and elected federal positions would have the advantage over English-only speakers …. English speakers lacking fluency in Spanish are likely to be and feel at a disadvantage in the competition for jobs, promotions or contracts.” As a consolation prize, such persons might consider applying for membership in WASP-only country clubs, or one might trip over to Berlitz and aprender how to hablar un poquito Splanglish. 

To repeat, all of this would be nonsense if Professor Huntington didn’t carry the clout he does. The man moves the people who move the masses, and you know how dumb they are. He has to be refuted, and repeatedly so. Such drivel. In a time when people in India, China, Russia, Romania, Poland, Chile, Indonesia and everywhere else are learning English like crazy, at the very moment when English has become the lingua franca of the planet, a relatively small number of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are going to plop down and refuse to learn it? I don’t think so. 

Professor Huntington fears a Hispanic “takeover.” He says it’s already happening, and not just in Miami. “Demographically, socially and culturally, the reconquista—reconquest—of the Southwest United States by Mexican immigrants is well underway.” This is one Harvard professor who has eaten too much locoweed. “Many Mexican-American immigrants and their offspring [snotty word, eh wot?] do not appear to identify primarily with the United States,” he writes. This is an observation which has been and still is made of members of more than one non-Spanish-speaking ethnic and/or religious group. It was something said of Roman Catholics for decades, and it is said of some Jewish people and their affiliation with Israel today. In both instances, the nation has not fallen to pieces. 

Our Ivy League Know-Nothing’s article contains an arresting section on “regional concentration”—by which he means, I think, that they are clannish and stick together, a characteristic noted in Jews, Italians, Poles and Algonquins (both the Native American kind and those who take tea at the hotel of the same name). “Hispanics … have tended to concentrate regionally: Mexicans in Southern California, Cubans in Miami, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in New York. The more concentrated immigrants become, the slower and less complete their assimilation,” the man says, at the same time he complains that “Mexicans and other Hispanics were also establishing beachheads elsewhere.” Please note the use of the word beachhead, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a “fortified position of troops landed on a beach”—i.e., the little bean-eaters are invading us. The crack about the Puerto Ricans, whom he accuses of establishing one of those “beachheads” in Hartford, Conn., is particularly ungracious given that it was Samuel P. Huntington’s white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon forefathers who invaded Puerto Rico, occupied it and wallowed in cheap peon labor. Finally forced to grant these colonials American citizenship, Americans like Professor Huntington are now bitching their heads off because Puerto Ricans do what other Americans do—move from one place to another. 

Professor Huntington is haunted by the prospect that Spanish-speaking arrivals may not care to ape his Anglo-Saxon ways. He wants to be their role model and is afraid they may reject him. The “takeover” of Miami drives him nuts. He says that a Spanish-language television station in Miami is No. 1 in the market and quotes with dread a bumper sticker asking: “Will the last American to leave Miami please bring the flag.” He cites with grave concern that in 1998, “’Jose’ replaced ‘Michael’ as the most popular name for newborn boys in both California and Texas.” Perhaps we should encourage parents of Hispanic extraction to name their sons Samuel. 

The professor takes note of a bundle of Hispanic cultural and character defects, such as “the mañana syndrome,” “little use for education,” “acceptance of poverty as a virtue” and “lack of initiative, self-reliance and ambition.” There is also a lack of blue-eyed blondes, but the Sage of Cambridge doesn’t discuss that. 

He doesn’t exactly cotton to any Hispano-phones, but Mexicans really worry him: “No other immigrant group in U.S. history has asserted or could assert a historical claim to U.S. territory. Mexicans and Mexican Americans can and do.” This is a Banquo’s-ghost séance: The man is spooked by the knowledge that the United States took the entire Southwest from Mexico, and he fears that many Mexicans want it back or—since they know the same history he does—that they may regard what the U.S. calls the border as a legal fiction, merely a line drawn on a map. If that’s the case, then perhaps while American Anglo-Saxonia alternates between anger and panic at the vast number of illegals setting up shop in the U.S.A., Mexicans see it differently. They may see it as simply moving around their own country. However they see it, Professor Huntington is convinced they are conspiring to form some kind of “Republica del Norte” in the American Southwest. Paul Revere, get on your nag and spread the alarm. One if by land, two if by sea—and in the case of Spanish speakers, it’s both, since they enter by water and by land. 

Similar things were said and feared about German-speakers in the last part of the 19th century: Laws were passed forbidding the teaching of German, for it was an established fact that the Teuto-phones were taking over cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and even San Antonio and Austin. The Germans were more highly organized than present-day Hispanics but, like them, even though united by language, they were divided by much else, and in due course the German threat evaporated. 

Professor Sam seems to be full of such forebodings. I doubt anyone can give him much comfort, but he may take some solace in an aphorism (probably erroneously attributed to Philip II of Spain) which says that “English is the language of shopkeepers, French is the language of reason, Italian is the language of love, and Spanish the language of God.” 


Nicholas von Hoffman is a former columnist at the Washington Post. He now writes for the New York Observer, where this column first appeared.