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The national media, both the liberal and squishy NeverTrump varieties, are all aghast that President Trump tweeted recently that if certain unnamed Progressive Democrat Congresswomen dislike America so much then why don’t they leave. And then he said they should come back and tell us how to fix America, if they’re such experts. But most people are ignoring that part of the tweet because it doesn’t match their prejudices. No, instead, all we hear about is how racist Donald Trump. Racist, racist, racist. Blah, blah, blah.
I’m an immigrant to my small, rural town in New Hampshire. That is, I was born about 90 miles away, in Maine. (This is just how things are in New England. I’ll always be “from away.”) A couple of years ago I attended a hearing held by the town zoning board on whether to allow a self-storage facility to be built on a property previously zoned residential. The particulars aren’t important, but I spoke out against the special exception to the zoning ordinance that the property owner was seeking. During a break, the property owner’s brother-in-law approached me and loudly informed me that I “should wait until [I’d] lived here longer before opening [my] [expletive] mouth.”
I replied that I was a taxpayer and I had an equal right to voice my opinion, and perhaps he’d like to get bent. The chairman of the board asked if we wouldn’t mind stopping yelling at each other so he could restart the meeting.
My profane interlocutor and I fumed but sat down. Now we smile and wave at each other whenever we meet around town. This is, I think, how normal people react to such matters. He was mad that I was new to town and had an opinion about zoning that he didn’t share, and I didn’t appreciate getting yelled at. And also, maybe I was wrong about the particulars of the zoning ordinance and whether an exception was allowed. In any case, the self-storage facility got built, and it’s super ugly.
The point is, we got over it and I don’t mind that he swore at me. I don’t call him a xenophobe or racist for having a different opinion about the application of local ordinances. He probably doesn’t even know that I’m a member of an ethnic minority here in New England. (As my name suggests, I am Franco-American.)
In National Review, David French (not a Franco-American, as far as I’m aware!) wrote Tuesday that native-born Americans should be more grateful than Naturalized Americans, because those of us — David and myself — who were born here “did exactly nothing to become citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the earth” whereas Naturalized Americans have “done more to become citizens than I have.”
David mentions that his National Review colleague, Charlie Cooke, is an immigrant from England who “left his home and family, built an impressive professional life here in the United States, passed his citizenship test with flying colors, and swore an oath most Americans haven’t sworn.”
Citizenship is a privilege, asserts David (I agree), “but somewhat-earned privilege is different from unearned privilege, and I think it’s worth acknowledging that reality.”
Nothing I’ve said excuses anything that Ilhan Omar has said or believes. Many of her views are repugnant. But they’re not especially repugnant because she’s an immigrant. And we should not hold immigrants to a higher standard of gratitude than we apply to the people who did nothing to earn their place in this land.
Why? Why are Omar’s views not more repugnant given the fact that she was born in Somalia, a completely failed state, spent a few years as a child in a refugee camp, and then was rescued by the magnanimity of Americans? Why are her views not more disgusting? She should be grateful. She might well be dead right now if her family hadn’t escaped Somalia. She certainly wouldn’t be one of the 535 most powerful people in the world.
David says that “we should not hold immigrants to a higher standard of gratitude than we apply to the people who did nothing to earn their place in this land.” (Emphasis added.) How is this attitude different from Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren saying “you didn’t build that” to hard-working Americans (both Natural Born and Naturalized)? But fine, let’s say for the sake of argument that immigrants shouldn’t be held to a higher standard of gratitude, and that native-born Americans are a bunch of “ingrates,” as David’s post title labels us. How about an equal measure of gratitude? How about a little bit of gratitude?
We all know the expression, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Omar’s not just looking at America’s teeth, but lecturing the rest of us about how awful and racist we are for not buying toothpaste for illegal aliens. She compared ICE agents to Nazi concentration camp guards, refused to condemn an Antifa terrorist attack on an ICE facility over the weekend, infamously said that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack by al-Qaeda was merely “some people did something.” Her dismissal of 9/11 was by way of accusing Americans of being horrible, racist Islamophobes, by the way. She also wondered why people are afraid of al-Qaeda but not the US Army.
“If you don’t like it, then get out,” is more popular with ordinary Americans than the national media are willing to admit. It’s a concept that people understand, viscerally. People are proud, want to be proud, of where they’re from and where they choose to live, whether that pride is for their country, their state, or their town. And they don’t appreciate other people, particularly outsiders or newcomers, denigrating their country, state, or town.
Ilhan Omar seems to daily remind us how low her opinion of America is. So if America is so awful, why doesn’t she leave? Seriously. Goodbye, Ilhan.
N.B. My wife is an associate editor at National Review. Also, Ricochet has a close relationship with National Review, particularly in the podcast department. I hope your reading of my disagreement with David was as mild and professional as I intended it to be. Charlie also had some disagreement with David’s overall “gratitude” argument, although Charlie was responding to a different post of David’s than I am.