BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Victor Davis Hanson, the name "Mexifornia" comes from what?
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, AUTHOR, ""MEXIFORNIA: A STATE OF BECOMING": Actually, it’s a term that I discovered that was used by sort of the La Raza left that was a connotation for a new hybrid-cultured California that would be not part of Mexico and not part of the United States. So the editors that I worked with embraced that as the title, but a lot of people think it came from the conservative right, but actually, it didn’t
LAMB:Who’s La Raza?
HANSON: It’s a very funny word. It means "the race." There’s a National Council of La Raza that’s an advocacy group, people, they claim, of Mexican heritage. But I’m very worried about that nomenclature because it reminds me of the connotations of "Das Volk." Any time you have a word for "the people," but it really means the race, I think it’s outside the boundaries of the American assimilationist experience.
LAMB:What’s a classics professor doing writing a book about Mexifornia?
HANSON: I don’t know! Sometimes I wish I hadn’t have written it. But I actually live on a farm in central California, and I am a fifth generation. I’ve lived with Mexican-American people. My daughter’s boyfriend’s a Mexican-American. I have a brother married to a Mexican-American, step-nephews and nieces. So it was sort of a memoir, a literary memoir of what I grew up with, and it was prompted by the idea that I thought that the world that I used to know of assimilation and second and third-generation Mexican-Americans were such wonderful citizens that this new generation was not getting the same opportunities. And I was worried about some of the problems looming ahead for the future of California.
LAMB:Paint a picture for us of where you live.
HANSON: It’s the exact geographical center of the state of California. It’s about 20 miles southwest of Fresno, three miles from a town called Selma. It’s a small family farm.
LAMB:How many acres?
HANSON: Originally, it was about 135, and then when my parents died, it was broken up among cousins and siblings, and one thing happened, and now I have 45 of my own.
LAMB:And what’s on the land there?
HANSON: Grapes that we produce raisins. And it’s rented out now because I’m not able to farm.
HANSON: Well, I’m a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University. I’m a professor at Cal State. And I write military histories and classics, and it just doesn’t give me enough time to get out in a tractor anymore.
LAMB:And your family started in this area what year?
HANSON: Somewhere -- we’re not sure because there were no records then. It was 1872, 1873. My great-great grandmother came with her son, my great-grandfather, both of whom I never met, and built the house that I live in. And then I remember my grandfather very well, Reese Davis, who was the grandson of the founder and then grew up in this place.
LAMB:And where did that family come from originally?
HANSON: They came from Missouri, and they were fleeing the detritus of the Civil War, and there was advertising $4 an acre in the central valley. Transcontinental railroad had just opened, so they came out. My father’s side were Swedes, and they had a farm 10 miles away. And they came in the 1880s. So the two families were -- they sort of merged, and we had a farm in Kingsburg and a farm in Selma. But they were both -- one was -- I’m a fifth-generation on one side and fourth on the other.
LAMB:You said you’re not sure you’re glad you wrote the book. Why?
HANSON: Well, because it’s a very strange thing that’s happening. We have the corporate conservative right who wants a perennial supply, I think, of cheap labor, who is in alliance with the therapeutic left that wants an unassimilated constituency. And the language that we use -- protectionist or racist -- precludes discussion of this issue, which is -- we have an election coming up in California, a bizarre election. But we have this 800-pound gorilla of illegal immigration, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Mexicans or Mexico or legal immigration. It’s a particular illegal immigration from Mexico that’s starting a whole series of inconsistencies, antitheses problems. And we’re not discussing it.
LAMB:What’s the -- what are the numbers?
HANSON: Well, we don’t know. Nationwide, I think the U.S. census suggests there’s nine million illegal aliens. I’ve seen figures of 15 or 19, 20, that advocates on both the left and right will use, that are currently in the United States. In California, I’ve seen as many as 3 to 4 million. A term that’s used now is immigrants, meaning people were born in Mexico, and that precludes the argument whether they’re here illegally or legally. But whatever the term we use, it’s a radical shift since, say, 1970, where we had 400,000, not 4 million. And most of them were here legally, and we had the assimilationist pattern, where we had no bilingual education, no Chicano studies, and it was based on assimilation, intermarriage and unity of the United States. And I grew up in that generation, and the people that I knew -- I was one of the few non-Mexican-Americans in my school district. They’re all smashing successes now.
LAMB:There was one point in your book where you talk about what -- people invoked the Chicano name to you, used it, and you turned on them and said -- and you used the -- characterized yourself as white. Do you remember what I’m talking about?
HANSON: Yes. I’ve had students that have come out of sort of this therapeutic classes in Chicano studies that will be in my class, and they’ll sort of give prerequisites for their questions on Greek history or humanities or Western civilization. They’ll say, “As a Chicana, I want to say” -- and this self-nomenclature. And I’ve sometimes said, Do you know where that leads to? It leads to Rwanda. It leads to the Balkans. It leads to historically really disturbing things. How would you like it if I said, as a professor of classics, as a white person, or as an Anglo, or as a Swede? So we really want to get away from that. And when you do that and try to remind students that just because their professor has suggested that’s a way of expressing ethnic pride that historically, it has a bad, bad, bad landscape around it, works.
LAMB:In your classes at Cal State -- Fresno?
LAMB:What’s the mix?
HANSON: Really don’t know. I think university-wide, it’s 50 to 60 percent Mexican-American, but in California, you almost need the racial connotations of the old Confederacy because these surveys, people -- what do you do if you’re one third, one fourth, one half? But people who fill out the survey probably would suggest 50 to 60 percent of the student body is Hispanic, 10 percent Asian. So-called whites are in a minority. My students are mostly, in classics, I would say -- we just placed a person at Princeton, Sal Diaz. He’s Mexican-American. We have one at Yale, Curtis Easton, who’s Puerto Rican. Sabina Robinson is African-American. We really don’t have anymore white students in the numbers that we used to. So they’re a small minority.
LAMB:And you seem to be -- I don’t want to use a psychological term, but you seem to be mixed on the way you feel. One page, I’m getting a story about how close you are to the Mexican-American community and they’re your friends, and the next page, you lay out some rather strong stories about...
LAMB:...the down side of it all.
HANSON: Yeah. Well, I think the issue can be explained that Mexican-American heritage is very valuable. It’s the best -- I think some of the best -- I have to say that because those are the people I know and I like and I grew up with. I didn’t really grow up with people who were not Mexican-American to any large degree -- are some of the best citizens. And that’s where the tragedy starts to entail. After 1970, we suddenly felt the market doesn’t work anymore. It used to attract workers by raising wages. Instead, the idea was that people will not work, so we need people to come from Mexico. We used to assimilate people by teaching them English. Suddenly, we had bilingual education. We have driver’s licenses the governor’s going to sign. So we had all this alternate world of jurisprudence, bilingual education.
And the result of it was, we’re starting to see apartheid communities that resemble sort of the communities in Mexico, rather than the United States. Where I live, Parlier, Orange Cove, Mendota, they’re almost 100 percent immigrants, people who were born in Mexico. And they are not visited by so-called elite representatives of those constituencies in Fresno. I don’t see Chicano professors who want to live in Parlier or teach in the Parlier school district. So I was worried about that, had mixed emotions about it.
LAMB:Where did you get this idea? Or who -- you know, who was responsible for you doing this book?
HANSON: Well, I wrote an article -- I was asked to write an article. I think it was by Myron Magnet of "City Journal." He wanted to write it actually in favor of immigration. The more we talked about, and I sent him the article, sort of changed his opinion, that it was more complex than sort of "The Wall Street Journal" position of open borders adjudicating who comes and who doesn’t.
And then after that came out, Peter Collier at Encounter called me last summer, and I think, if I could summarize our initial discussions, it was, I don’t need that headache. I’m a classicist and a military historian, and I’m writing on 9/11 the history of war. I really don’t want to -- and he made a lot of persuasive arguments that people were not talking about in California, that the issue would not go away, and it could be done in a way that would unify people and open up discussion, rather than leave the issue to be fought with the extreme left and right or settled in the ballot proposition process, which we do in California.
We eliminated aid to illegal aliens under 187. We eliminated Affirmative Action. We eliminated bilingual education. We have a ballot proposition to stop ethnic identification in surveys and things. And yet the legislators don’t discuss these issues. So the California electorate just goes wild and goes in and expresses its wishes. And I think historically, that’s very dangerous because it opens the field for demagogues of the left and right. So those were the arguments Peter made to me, and I found them convincing.
LAMB:And so what was -- what’s been the reaction as you speak to groups?
HANSON: You know, it’s mixed. As I talk to my wife, I say, I don’t want to get anymore letters from what I call the far right, who attack the book because it argues for popular culture, intermarriage, assimilation and creating a multi-racial society under one culture. So they’ve been very critical. And then I’ve also had the extreme left, who -- in media, government and especially academic life, where this is the third rail you don’t talk about. But most people outside those extremes, 80 percent of the respondents, average people on talk shows or interviews, are very favorable and appreciate that somebody’s talking about in a way that just doesn’t pander to a particular political point of view.
LAMB:You mentioned that your daughters date Mexican-Americans?
HANSON: Yes, wonderful kids. I...
LAMB:How old are your daughters?
HANSON: I have a daughter 16 and a daughter 22. Her boyfriend is in the United States Marine Corps, 3rd Marine Division, wonderful guy, like him a lot. I like my 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend, Robbie. And so most of my friends I grew up with are Mexican-American. I know that sounds a stereotype, that I know a lot of Mexican-Americans, but I -- because of the demography of where I live, you really don’t have an opportunity to meet people who are not Mexican-American in very large numbers.
LAMB:Do you talk to your daughters about this subject?
HANSON: I do, and they don’t see it as an issue because their boyfriends, like most of the people that are not elite or academic or abstract, realize that people came from Mexico and sort of voted with their feet to embrace a culture. They did not go en mass to Argentina or Brazil or Nicaragua or Chile. They made the decision to leave Oaxaca or Chiapas or central Mexico because Mexico could not provide goods and services to service her population. And they wanted a different type of social, economic, political landscape or structure, and they found it in California. And they wouldn’t be so silly or naive to romanticize a culture that gave them nothing and to reject a culture that’s given them everything.
LAMB:Are your daughters’ boyfriends legal aliens?
HANSON: Absolutely. They’re citizens.
HANSON: Citizens of the United States.
LAMB:Were they born here?
HANSON: Yes. Absolutely.
LAMB:What about -- when did their...
HANSON: I don’t know.
LAMB:... ancestors come over?
HANSON: You know, it’s something that we really don’t -- I guess what I’m saying is, why I’m optimistic is that race is just an abstract concept now in California. I have a neighbor whose daughter is half Japanese, half so-called white. She married a Mexican-American fellow. I don’t know what you’d call their grandchildren. So we’re starting to see that the system works to -- you know, if you have a culture whose heroes are the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, and people are intermarrying, as I see at Cal State, the only problem is that one particular country is exporting human capital at the rate of hundreds of thousands a year, and it’s taxing our ability to assimilate them. And then the force-multiplying effect of multi-culturalism, and we’ve lost confidence in the powers of assimilation.
LAMB:You have a chapter called "The Mind of the Host."
LAMB:What was your point?
HANSON: My point was to convey to the Mexican immigrant community that we ourselves are schizophrenic about it. What do you do -- for example, I talked to a farmer who employs illegal aliens and says, “Well, nobody will work, and these people are the hardest-working people in the world”, which they are. And then he says, “But you know, I don’t want to go to this restaurant in Selma because -- with my family -- because everybody takes their clothes off. They stand out in -- with their boxer shorts, where they put their clothes in the washing machine. They sit there. And this is not civilized.”
And I suggest to them, Well, if you pay them cash and they’re not legal citizens and they don’t have the capital, then what do you expect them to do? So we’ve also created in California this aristocratic lifestyle for upper-middle-class Californians that would be not possible elsewhere, where we have literally millions of Californians whose lawns are cut by people who are here illegally from Mexico, whose children are watched, whose houses are cleaned.
But the problem with that is that these people don’t just fly to Mars, as they would assume, given the wages that they get and given the status of which they enjoy, which they can’t participate in the civic life of California, then we have to do something to bring -- give them the advantages that we do. And that means entitlements. And we have a $38 billion deficit right now on an annual basis, and we’re starting to see the wages of that.
There’s a cycle that’s very disturbing we don’t want to talk about. Somebody comes at 18 from Mexico, say from Oaxaca, very young, robust male, happy. We give him $10 an hour to pour concrete. He says, “This is 10 times more than I make in Mexico”. Everybody’s happy. But then, suddenly, we’re surprised when he would want to marry, have three children and get on his knees for 10 years. A knee goes out. A back goes out. An elbow goes out, and then what happens? These are no longer rite-of-passage jobs. Our children don’t do them anymore. They’re not considered a stepping stone while you learn English and gain education, but they become a perpetual job.
And then when you’re 50 and you’re hurt and you have a family, then your children, who have never been to Mexico, don’t feel that America was such a great deal. They have no method of comparison, but they do see that their children -- excuse me -- their parents work for somebody far more affluent, and you get a range of bitterness. We have problems with graduation rates in high school. Four out of ten Mexican immigrants are not graduating, children of Mexican immigrants. We’re having a problem with bachelor’s degree, only 7 percent.
And the employer then looks at this phenomenon and says, Well, don’t bring somebody out who has a tattoo. Don’t bring somebody out to the crew who speaks English. I want somebody from Oaxaca who’s a hard worker. So we just cycle people as if they’re commodities. And it’s really amoral, and we don’t want to discuss it -- left or right.
LAMB:Seven percent of the Mexican-Americans or...
HANSON: Seven percent of people who were born in Mexico...
LAMB:Graduate from college.
LAMB:And the other rate is, what, in the 40s?
HANSON: Yes. And even more disturbing is that 62 percent of the people in California who were born in Mexico are classified under the poverty level. And after 20 years, it’s not very much statistical difference. And 20 years of being here in America, doing unskilled labor, doesn’t get you out of poverty. How could it, when it’s unskilled labor and you don’t have a redress of grievances? And all the old mechanisms where we increase the power of the unskilled through unionization or legality are not there to help.
LAMB:What’s life like -- take the 18-year-old. He’s illegal.
HANSON: He’s illegal.
LAMB:How does he get here? How does he get to California?
HANSON: He hires a "coyote" for $1,500, $2,000. He gets across the border...
LAMB:What’s a "coyote"?
HANSON: He’s a professional smuggler. Often it’s quite dangerous. But he’ll get across. He usually doesn’t go live near the border, where the jobs really aren’t there. He’ll go up to central California, find construction, which is booming, agriculture, hotels, restaurants. He’ll find other people in a similar circumstance. They’ll rent an apartment, five or six together. They will pay cash for everything because they’re outside of the banking system often. They don’t have legal status, so they’re -- they’re often robbed. They’re beaten up by people. They can’t report these crimes because they’re afraid of endangering their status.
LAMB:Are they paid in cash?
HANSON: A lot of the times they are. A lot of times they’re not, but a lot of times they are, and that’s something that we don’t discuss in California because it’s controversial. But a lot of times they are. And then when they come to work, they pay somebody to drive them. Or if they do get a car, it’s usually a used car, Crown Victoria. I’ve had four of them come off the road and enter my vineyard in the last 20 years. The person doesn’t have a driver’s license, doesn’t have registration, doesn’t have insurance. And this still works pretty well because they send money to Mexico. Their employer says they’re hard-working.
But then, suddenly, after 10, 15 years, they marry, they have children. They don’t know about the legal status of themselves. They’re worried about -- they can’t get a passport, can’t get a driver’s license. They don’t make any more money than they did. And then we start to have the natural human reactions of bitterness, anger, frustration. And that lends them susceptible to sort of an ethnic romance that says that racism caused all their problems and explains why Mexican immigrants from Mexico have not achieved the same level of parity as, say, Punjabis or Koreans or Chinese.
LAMB:What’s the responsibility -- legal responsibility, if they’re in this country illegally, when it comes to health care and things like that?
HANSON: Well, there is none. That issue’s already been adjudicated. When the population of California voted under 187 to deny illegal immigrants state entitlements, that was overturned by a federal court, I think on the basis that part of the funding was federal funds, and the federal government hadn’t made that decision. It was usurping federal control. But so it’s wide open. And because we are -- despite the invective, we are a liberal, humane society, when somebody comes into the Selma hospital, as I went in the other day, and he’s stabbed or shot or hurt or falls off a ladder, he’s going to get the level of care that we can provide, and he’s not going to be able to pay for it. And the only way we’re going to explain that is that he works hard and perhaps he paid taxes. But if we look at statistics, given the nature of unskilled labor, the entitlement is costing the state five times more than the person’s contributing in taxes.
LAMB:Do they report the fact that this is an illegal?
HANSON: They cannot.
LAMB:Under the law?
HANSON: Yes. Most -- well, it’s either local jurisdiction or state practice, but most police departments will not -- if they arrest somebody for speeding and he is an illegal alien, or if somebody’s -- goes into the hospital with a broken leg and she’s an illegal alien, they will not call INS. And if they did call on INS, they probably wouldn’t deport them.
HANSON: Because rather than confront the problem in the old American way of saying, Look, this is a problem. We’re going to have measured immigration. We’re going to have it legal. We’re going to have assimilation, we’ve just grown used to the advantages that accrue to everybody involved. The Mexican government gets $10 billion in remittances from its expatriate population. It loses hundreds of thousands of potential dissidents that might march on Mexico City for redress of grievances. It creates an expatriate community that romanticizes Mexico the longer and further it’s away from it. The employer wants a -- as I said, a perennial, perpetual supply of cheap labor that competes against poor, unskilled citizens and makes them not so competitive, and they can’t unionize. The La Raza industry wants an unassimilated constituency.
And so we’ve sort of grown up with it. And the way we react to that is, well, we can’t address the real problem because too many people benefit from it, so let’s do something entirely new in American history. Let’s give tuition discounts for somebody who’s here illegally from Mexico, so that they will actually pay less tuition than a citizen from Nevada or Arizona in a California university. Or let’s issue driver’s license and not allow that -- not require them to have birth certificates, which we do of citizens. It’s starting to -- it’s being almost Orwellian in the society that’s emerging.
LAMB:You seem to be the most upset in your book with some of your colleagues in the universities.
HANSON: Yes. I am because if your real purpose is to have immigrants acquire the skills that we know from past immigrant experience would make them succeed, that would be mastery of the oral and written English language, a familiarization with the brutal laws of capitalism, intermarriage, all of the things that allow people to succeed in America, then people who are the ethnic shepherds in the universities who advocate separatism at graduation, or revisionist history of the United States or bilingual education, are not giving them the skills to compete.
So I have this problem where I have students of Mexican heritage, and I start teaching them Latin and Greek, and they learn French and German and Western Civ. and humanities, and then contrary to popular myth, graduate schools are looking for people like this. They just want them. It’s not that the Mexican people are subject to racism, they’re, in fact, given advantages. So we send them to the top graduate schools.
The funny thing is that people that come through the Chicano studies or the sociological approach don’t acquire the same skills, and yet our students are put under an enormous burden because they’re considered assimilationist or they’re not true to their heritage and they’re not ethnically chauvinistic, even though those same traits tend to historically hurt immigrants.
LAMB:I’m reading another book right now for this program later, where they talk about the Italians.
LAMB:And they say back at the turn of the century, in 1900, Italians -- it sounds very much like the Mexicans, where...
LAMB:... they came to the United States, made their money, sent it back home, didn’t even like the United States and thought they were all going to go back to Italy.
HANSON: That’s a popular conception, and I think it’s true for Mexican-Americans, let’s say, before 1960 or 1965 in California, that they do mirror the 19th century Italian experience. They were from a Catholic country. They came en masse. They had a little bit more trouble than, say, the Poles or the Jews, the Germans. But they eventually showed the same levels of achievement. The difference, though, with Mexico, that’s very different than the Italian experience and explains why we’re having problems that we never had with the Italian experience, is that we have a 2,000-mile border right next to us, A.
B, the host has changed its ideology about the melting pot. We never had bilingual Italian education, separate Italian graduation ceremonies. And then, I mean, we weren’t very friends all the time with Italian governments. It wasn’t the policy of the Italian government necessarily to export people to California. We really have to look at the Mexican government because they do depend on hundreds of thousands of people, by design, leaving their country and taking with them grievances against the system and then sending money back that perpetuates the system and then, the longer and further they don’t have to be in Mexico, romanticizing the system. All that I don’t think is parallel with the Italian experience.
LAMB:You mention the separate or the dual graduation ceremonies. Explain that and what is it?
HANSON: Well, it’s very funny. People object to that term, "separate," but what we have is, I think on a typical Saturday, we have a -- everybody graduates and stands up. But the real ceremony is on the day before, where people are given their diplomas. And we have -- at Cal State Fresno, as many California universities, we have a separate graduation ceremony for people of Chicano -- just self-nomenclature Chicano ancestry, where they’ll wear the colors of the Mexican flag around their neck. They’ll go to a special place. And the prerequisites for participation in it are not academic achievement. They’re none other than your racial identification.
LAMB:Do you have that same thing for Germans and Italians?
HANSON: Absolutely not.
LAMB:Well, why would they have that?
HANSON: Because I think it’s what we’ve been talking about. They don’t want to face these real issues, the stopping immigration that was illegal, allowing legal immigration in measured tones, getting back to the assimilation that -- it’s such a vast, multi-faceted complexity that to initiate this discussion, you’d have to pay such a price.
I mean, I just walked into your studio from the Longworth building, the office building, and we had a meeting with congressional staffers, where we were talking just like you and I. And the first question was from a staffer, I think, from Nancy Pelosi from California, who’s the House minority leader. And her staffer stood up and gave a long lecture about why I was a racist for bringing the topic up and then stormed out of the session and didn’t even want to participate in a conversation.
He just sort of made a statement, wanted to preclude all discussion, said anybody, basically, is a racist who wants to question the current policy of illegal immigration. So when people know that, it’s much easier just to say, You know what? Let’s just forget about it and let the system evolve sort of ad hoc.
LAMB:Who promotes the idea inside a university that -- is it also high schools that have separate...
HANSON: I don’t know about high schools.
HANSON: I doubt it. But in universities, it’s done -- the impetus comes from so-called Chicano studies departments who teach ethnic studies. And they have for the last 20 years established this custom. Then administrators, who are often transitory -- provosts, presidents, deans -- know that if you were to come to a California university, you’re going to be judged basically on how you change the ethnic profile of the faculty or the students and be rewarded if you increased it an punished it if you got into any controversy. And I can’t think of anything more suicidal for an administrator to say that he came to Cal State Fresno and said, I think it’s unhealthy that we’re participating in ceremonies based on race.
LAMB:University of California, Berkeley, where I think the population is over 60 percent Asian -- do they have a separate ceremony there?
HANSON: I don’t know. Remember, they call these "auxiliary ceremonies" because the way they get around it, they say there’s one ceremony where everybody can go, but then we have our separate ones based on race. I don’t see that the laws go both ways. I mean, as I said earlier, if you had a group called the National Council of Das Volk and you had a European-American ceremony, it would be a catastrophe. Every once in a while, I have a sort of a naive student who will write me and say, I want to start a European-American ceremony or, I want to have a European-American group. And I say, You know, that’s a -- that’s because we know where that leads to, this ethnic separatism. We’ve seen that in the 20th century, and don’t do that.
LAMB:You say that -- in your book -- and I don’t remember all the names -- that there are -- some of their Chicano heroes in history are not really all that worthy.
HANSON: Well, I mean, one of the great myths -- I’ll give you an example. My colleague at California State University at Fresno, Bruce Thornton, wrote a book about Joaquin Murrieta, who’s sort of this Robin Hood bandit of the 19th century that every -- we have an actual ceremony in the central valley where we celebrate him. And the myth that’s taught in the universities was that a Mexican immigrant who was the subject of racism by white ranchers and white sheriffs had to steal from the rich to give to the poor. If you actually look at what we know of Joaquin Murrieta, he was probably could be classified as a mass murderer. He butchered people of all races, he was a thief, and he was hunted down and punished by the legal posse, so, between the myth and the reality.
Another one is the Aztec civilization. Impressive civilization in its ability to marshal capital and labor, but if you start to look at certain aspects, the way it treated the Tlaxcalans and allied people; 80,000 people over a five-day period were sacrificed, cannibalism, these are things that are unattractive but don’t become part of the picture in a way that we would never do for Cortez. And we were pretty tough on Cortez, and rightly so, but we don’t have that same balance when we look at the Aztecs, because we think that to do so might weaken ethnic pride or it might create self-doubt.
I find it very paternalistic because of the students that I know are Mexican American or immigrant Mexican, once they are educated and given the tools of inquiry and rationalism, they are perfectly able to come up with their own analyses and conclusions about history.
LAMB:Back to the 18-year-old illegal Mexican that comes to the United States -- how, by the way, what is the percentage of men to women who do this?
HANSON: We don’t know. Because one of the things I have noticed that conservative think tanks have one set of figures and liberal think tanks have another. And the problem is that the U.S. Census can’t actually represent any of these statistics. But I have a feeling that the first wave of people who come from Mexico is probably as high as five, six, seven to one of single males versus women and children.
LAMB:So they live a lot to one room.
HANSON: They do. They have an apartment complex, mile and a half from my farm, where I would say that probably eight, nine, 10 people live in a one-bedroom apartment in many cases.
LAMB:What else do they do? I mean, you talk about the leaches who live off of them.
HANSON: If you don’t have legal status, and you don’t have access to finance and driver’s license and often you hire somebody to take you to work, they can charge for a four-mile trip $ 4 or $5. They can charge $1 a Coke. If you don’t have banking, you usually carry your week’s pay, and if it’s paid in cash, you can have $1,000 in your front pocket. You’re walking along a rural road. Some bandit or thief can go, and know that if they prey on you -- any time he sees three Mexican illegal aliens walking together, he assumes they have money. He knocks them over the head, takes their money and these victims are not able to go to the police department because they are afraid of their status.
So it’s a very tough world. And I admire people who can do it. The irony of all this, I think, if you and I had grown up in Oaxaca and we saw America to the north, we might do the same thing that people are doing now.
LAMB:Where is Oaxaca?
HANSON: It’s in central Mexico.
LAMB:How far away from Fresno?
HANSON: I would imagine -- from where I live, it’s probably about anywhere from a 1,000 to 1,200 miles to the south.
LAMB:And another chapter, The Mind of the Host -- we actually have been talking about some of that. You refer to examples of newspaper stories.
LAMB:That are in the local Fresno paper?
LAMB:The first one, I’ll read it, it says, "a young alien ran a red light, hit my truck, and attempted to flee before I called the police on my cell phone. He had no identification, registration, or insurance and was clearly intoxicated." What is your point?
HANSON: Well, when I was -- I drive into Selma, a local town, if somebody hits me and if they are legal, then we go through the normal processes of adjudication, law enforcement, insurance. But if somebody hits you and they don’t -- they are here illegally from Mexico and they don’t speak English and their car is not registered and they don’t have a driver’s license, then they are going to be afraid that when the police arrive, they might be deported, even though they probably won’t be.
But so, what happens? They leave the car by the side of the road, which usually was bought for cash, it’s used, it doesn’t have very much value, and then you go to your insurer and have to pay for it. That’s happened to me with people leaving the road and tearing out vines or trees. You hear this enormous crash, you go out and then you see a car, and the driver is usually gone. The vines serve as a cushion. They are usually not hurt. They have torn out 20 vines or so, and then you are stuck with replanting the vines, waiting three years for them to come into production. Probably a $20,000 loss. The car is there. Highway patrol comes out and says there is no registration, there is no proof of insurance, the driver is gone, and they haul the car away. And that happens -- that’s a routine fact of life in central California.
LAMB:Second one is "not long after this, I was in a bank where I watched an older gentleman sign his name with an "X". As I waited, three customers directly ahead of me argued with the teller over bounced checks, missed car payments and insufficient funds, two in Spanish, one in an Indian dialect that not even a Hispanic employee could quite decipher. Forty minutes later I went home without reaching the teller." What is the rest of this?
HANSON: Well, I think part of the reason is we say that immigration is all -- legal immigration is always wonderful, but when you have illegal immigration and you have people for years who don’t know the English language, then how to accommodate those citizens -- those residents within your system? It means you have to have bilingual translators. But we often forget that in our emphasis on bilingual education, we assume that people who come from Mexico can read Spanish or even speak Spanish. In some cases, they don’t speak Spanish well. They speak a native dialect that not a lot of people who were second, third generation Hispanics know.
And we assume they are literate. But if you only -- the average education -- I think it’s 60 -- 60 to 70 percent of people who come from Mexico illegally have never finished high school. So they don’t really read Spanish well. And so we have a problem that they don’t read English and they don’t read Spanish well, so that starts to show up in the system when they want to partake in it. And it slows things down. It is difficult. It’s cumbersome. And we don’t talk about it.
LAMB:Do you speak Spanish?
HANSON: I read it pretty well and I speak it very poorly.
LAMB:You say there is no longer any requirement for bilingual education in California?
HANSON: Well, by ballot initiative we formally ended that, and we allowed in the ballot an exemption for school districts who claim that it was a necessity. We have some that still allow it. But from what I can tell, from the spotty data that’s already started to appear the last three or four years, that those districts that have gone for the old system of English immersion, test scores are starting to improve.
LAMB:Do the Asians demand bilingual education?
HANSON: No. We have translators in Fresno, I think, in 15 or 20 languages in the court proceedings for Mong, Thai, Punjabi. But we don’t have separate -- we would never do that for other groups.
LAMB:Why the difference?
HANSON: I think it is partly sheer numbers. It’s partly -- a mixture of factors that if you have four million people versus 50,000 or 100,000, obviously there is differences. The second problem is that if you look at people who come from India to central California, they speak English when they arrive. They come legally. They take enormous efforts to bring a relative, it can take up to five years. So they often become professional and they don’t want or they don’t expect government help. And it’s just a different matrix of factors that involve Mexico. And also, they don’t have an ideology by their elites that California used to belong to Mexico, so there is sort of an ironic nemesis involved.
LAMB:Back to your examples. Here is another one. "A visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles is an hour-long disaster. English seems not to be spoken on either side of me. The line -- the line does not move, and the customers cannot understand the myriad forms to be filled out for their trailers, vans and cars."
HANSON: Yeah. If you don’t make an appointment, if you just walk in as we used to do at the DMV, we have a big problem, because two things are happening in California. Among its elite, a native elite, it’s got some of the most complex environmental work, insurance, government legislation there is to register cars, start a business. It’s a plethora of paperwork, but it also has some of the largest population of people here illegally, that don’t have high school diplomas. So we have these two things happening at once. More forms than any other state, and increasing number of people who don’t speak English, and don’t have a high school education. When you put the two together, you have chaos.
LAMB:Four. "My daughter’s car was hit in an intersection by a young Mexican who ran a stoplight propelling her vehicle into a neighboring yard. The Mexican-American policeman took no report, issued no citation, and let the driver off after getting her phone number."
HANSON: Yeah, I had that incident where my daughter called, somebody rear-ended her, a young girl, and propelled a car into a neighbor. I went in. There was obvious damage. The policeman came to me and said, you know, it’s not that bad. Just forget about it. And then he was talking to the young woman, and I said, well, this is -- aren’t you going to write a citation because she was rear-ended? And he said no.
The example of that, along with the other examples, are that when you have an elite group who believes that the laws have to be changed or modified, driver’s licenses, tuition, and you have a large immigrant group who are here illegally, then you have a new type of ideology, of mentality about doing practical things, about writing tickets or enforcing the law. Why should somebody give -- if you have a law that says you have to have a California -- you have to be a citizen to have a California driver’s license, or you have a law that says you have to go through an immigration policy to become a resident of California, and if you violate those laws, then there’s no logical end why a whole series of other laws should be maintained or be pristine. It undermines the whole, as Socrates said in "The Credo," or Plato, it’s a non-ending process, once you question the authority of the laws.
LAMB:You say a couple of times in the book about your brother, your twin brother, who is older?
HANSON: I am. By two hours.
LAMB:Married a Mexican American?
HANSON: No. He married a woman who was married to a Mexican immigrant. And she had two children, and was divorced, and they are very successful. One daughter is a Ph.D. candidate at University of California Santa Barbara, was a dean’s medalist; and the other son is an engineer, and they’re advertisements for the system of assimilation and education, because I would say they are among the most promising of all young people in California. It’s a great success story.
But the reason I pointed that out is that when you have people come from Mexico, and they are surrounded by people of all different races, in numbers that are greater, then you have the old process of osmosis, and you insist on English, and then we have the paradigm that works so well. But when you have one person who is a native and four people who are here illegally, then you don’t have the same cross-fertilization.
LAMB:What did you mean by "the elites don’t understand that consensual government is rare in the history of civilization?" And who is an elite? Define it. Aren’t you an elite?
HANSON: Yeah, I am, in some ways, absolutely. What I mean by an elite is usually a person who’s got a bachelor’s or advanced degree, they usually are in the upper middle class, if you define that by income, and they usually don’t have to toil on their knees or their back, or they are not doing manual labor for very little money.
And in that way of thinking, that’s what would constitute an elite. What I meant in that context is that we failed to inculcate to people who come from Mexico that the United States is unique, the Constitution is unique. It’s part of a western tradition of secularism, rationalism, consensual government, open markets, the respect for the law, civic audit, independent judiciary. And when you add all of those factors together, it explains why a wealthy country like the United States is prosperous and can attract people, whereas in the case of Mexico, you go across the border to Mexico, they have wonderful farmland, they have oil, they have natural gas. They have good climate. But the paradigm is not similar, and, therefore, it cannot feed and clothe and house its hundred million people, to the same degree that we can in the United States. And people recognize that at a very gut level. And they vote with their feet to come north.
That being said, it seems to me that we who are an elite, who are educated, and understand that process not only in the concrete but in the abstract have a special duty to tell the immigrant, this is why -- to I guess reify or to articulate why they came across. You came across, and this is why, and this is what we are going to do to make sure you are a success. Whereas if we do the opposite, and say that our culture is no different than yours, or this was really your homeland, or you really don’t need legal status, or English is just is -- no better, no worse than Spanish, or any of these issues that we often communicate, then we are failing our responsibility, and it’s a moral responsibility. And the result of it is we will create a Rwanda or a Balkan society, an apartheid community, which we have done in central California in some cases.
LAMB:You say teachers have to stop teaching that Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman are more important than John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
HANSON: It’s a matter of time. I talk to young freshmen who come to California State University Fresno, they know who Sojourner Truth is, but they have no idea who William Tecumseh Sherman or Ulysses S. Grant are. And if I try to tell them, that whether you like Grant or whether you like Sherman, their contributions to the Civil War changed history in a way that Sojourner Truth did not, it’s not a question of eliminating one particular aspect of history, but giving proper weight to the sort of process that what makes things happen.
And we are creating a young generation that does not know traditional political and military facts, events, person’s names, and instead is interested on other, where the criteria is often race or neglect in the past. Sometimes it’s valuable, but as long as you realize what its simple core is.
This is my objection to this separatism between multiracialism and multiculturalism. Multiracialism is an American ideal that race is irrelevant because we all have this core adherence to democracy and capitalism and consensual government and transparent society. And we enrich it with food from the Philippines and music from Mexico and fashion from Africa. But that’s very different than multiculturalism, where groups come from different places, but then we in the elite say, we are not going to privilege your culture versus your culture, versus your government, versus your judiciary, versus your attitude toward women. If we were to do that, there would be no reason why they came.
LAMB:I assume by now if this were a live audience, that you would have people just like that Nancy Pelosi staffer...
LAMB:... on their feet, saying some strong things to you. Somebody is at the keyboard right now ready to write the e-mail.
LAMB:Typical white American, comfortable, taken care of by his mother and father on a farm in California, doesn’t like the fact that people of dark skin from the south are here doing the menial work.
LAMB:Doesn’t like the cost...
HANSON: Does not like the cost.
LAMB:... of bilingual education, and on and on.
HANSON: Yes, but I have a lot of people what I would feel or people who are mistaken because they privilege the question of race. And they say that brown people are changing the racial complexion. I’ve got a lot of criticism because I advocate, as you know, in the book, intermarriage and assimilation. I really don’t care what the particular skin color of California happens to be.
All I can tell them is that if they look at people who are Asian or third generation Mexican American, or Punjabi in California, there’s absolutely no difference from people of European ancestry. We know the system works, and that they have to realize that we can take immigrants from Mexico and make them into Americans just like we always have, if they are measured in legal, but I also have the people, I guess I’d say, on the left that don’t like that either. They mirror image the people on the right. The people on the right say that they want a European state. The people on the left say, use terms like the borders crossed us, we didn’t cross the borders, or la raza, which means the race.
So they are just as culpable. The only difference is that we tend to fear and to -- rightly so, the right, but we haven’t yet put that scrutiny on the left, because they -- they traffic in the same type of ideologies.
LAMB:Your own family, your parents, are they alive?
HANSON: No. They died, they died quite young. I think my mother was 63 or 64. She was one of the first women state appellate court justices in California. My father died four years ago, he was a farmer and a junior college administrator.
LAMB:What did they think of all this? Did you ever talk to them about this?
HANSON: Well, they were 1960s Kennedy Democrats, and so my mother was appointed judge by Jerry Brown, and they were integrationists, and we all dated -- they insisted that we stay in the public schools, even though most people by then had taken their kids out. We had -- their friends were largely Mexican American. They lived in the small -- on the farm, until they go to Fresno. They never played golf, they didn’t get into the exclusive Fresno, I guess, Anglo crowd, so they were integrationists at heart.
I think they would -- if they were alive today, they would be horrified that their liberal dream of an integrated, multiracial society was starting to become Balkanized, and that the people that they worried so much about in their lifetime, during McCarthy period, conservative Republicans, in fact, that ideology was on the left now, so I would be curious to see what they would say.
LAMB:You mentioned that you are at Hoover.
LAMB:What does it do? What do you do there?
HANSON: I was just appointed senior fellow at the Hoover Institute University, which is a think tank, which its primary interest is war and peace. And so I write and investigate questions of civilization at war throughout history. And I do that two or three days a week, and then I am still at Cal State teaching classics for two or three more years.
LAMB:I actually have a copy of the "Bound Galley," it’s not the final book. You’ve got another book coming out right at the same time.
HANSON: I do.
LAMB:It’s called "Ripples" -- I can’t actually read it.
HANSON: "Ripples of Battle."
LAMB:"Ripples of Battle". What’s this? And when was the first date that the "Mexifornia" book came out?
HANSON: "Mexifornia" book came out, to answer your second question first, in late May. This comes out somewhere in early September.
LAMB:Different publisher? DoubleDay.
HANSON: That’s my regular publisher’s, DoubleDay. And I am with Random House now, but they made an exception, and allowed me to work with Peter Collier.
This book is a call for the primacy of military and political history, and it tries to argue that there’s something awful, something tragic about war that you put a lot of young men and women in a confined space and a brief time, and that experience of killing and witnessing that carnage on the battlefield ripples out. I start off with a discussion of 9/11, how that event will start, even though it wasn’t a classic battle, will affect art and literature.
But I give examples. One is Okinawa, the second is the Civil War battle at Shiloh, and the third is an obscure battle at Delium. I intentionally didn’t pick things like Normandy or Gettysburg or Marathon that we all know, but rather obscure battles to show how art, literature, popular culture, to this day, have changed from those few hours. In the case of Shiloh, I discuss Albert Sidney Johnston and the whole mythology of the lost cause, came back from the last moment when he was killed at the high point of a Confederate advance in Shiloh, and created an exegesis. It said, we would have won, if he just had have lived. And if he just had have lived, we would have won Shiloh, we would have won the Civil War.
I looked at Lou Wallace, who wrote "Ben-Hur," which until "Gone With the Wind" was the best selling novel in the history of American literature. And he really wrote that book as an apology for his behavior, in the classical sense apology, a defense of his behavior for coming five hours late on a road to the Shiloh battlefield. He felt he was unfairly castigated by Ulysses S. Grant.
Also look at General Forrest, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and he was really obscure before Shiloh. After Shiloh, he never looked back, and the capital that he won at the battle of Shiloh were in three instances very heroic, created this persona, that eventually not only created this myth of the great cavalry commander. It’s no myth in a sense, but a popular following. He later ended to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, with, I think, negative repercussions for all of us, and I also looked at the birth of uncle Billy, or William Tecumseh Sherman, who had been disgraced and considered insane before Shiloh, and after Shiloh, what happened at Shiloh, he distinguished himself in a very amazing way, he was quite heroic. And that battle, I think that people in Georgia or North Carolina, if they could take back one moment in American history, it would be the first three hours of the battle of Shiloh.
LAMB:It’s called "Ripples of Battle..."
LAMB:Which is coming out and -- as we speak, basically. Back to the Peter Collier...
LAMB:... And Counter Books -- I noticed, by the way, that the jacket designer was Nick Collier. Is that his son? Relationship?
HANSON: I don’t know. I really don’t.
LAMB:Show what the cover looks like. Did this book accomplish what you set out to do?
HAHSON: I think it did. I think we have an election coming up, and immigration -- illegal immigration, excuse, I don’t mean immigration, but illegal immigration, at the numbers it’s occurring, and this alternate universe of jurisprudence is now an issue in the California campaign. Governor Davis has a bill on his desk to sign. He vetoed it once, whether to allow licenses, California driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. Around Schwarzenegger is going to be asked about his support for 187. He is an immigrant. Arianna Huffington is an immigrant.
We have an 800-pound gorilla in the living room that nobody wants to talk about, so I hope that the book will encourage discussion of this issue. And we have a presidential election coming up. So that was positive. I was a little surprised at some of the invective, but that’s part of the business of being an author. You have to get in the arena and be able -- you can’t write a book without expecting criticism.
LAMB:I mentioned earlier some of the newspaper articles you cited in the "Fresno Bee"
LAMB:First, a study, a recent study suggested Hispanics were forced to breathe worse air than the Anglos.
HANSON: Yeah, I picked one day in the "Fresno Bee" and one article said that Hispanic communities had worse air. Where we live, it’s almost indistinguishable. And my point was, I really didn’t know what the thrust of that article was. Was it to suggest that I live on a farm and my air is clean and somebody next door is not? So, that was one example. I listed a succession of them.
LAMB:Yeah, the next story report the diabetes was more common among Mexican people after they arrived in the United States than it had been in Mexico.
HANSON: Yes. That’s another example. I am sure that it’s true that immigrants who come from in the United States have diabetes, but the issues are not -- and the issues that I raised were, was it diet, was it really a result of corporate advertising that thrust McDonald’s down their throat, or did they have free will to -- like every other American -- to distinguish what food is healthy and what is not, and with food that was considered take-out food more healthy or less unhealthy than what people might eat in Mexico, where water would not be as clean or the food supply would not be as sanitary.
LAMB:These paper articles were all on the same day.
HANSON: Same day.
LAMB:Here’s the third one. Newspaper article advocating more medical interpreters for Mexican patients, alleged that local doctors on average spend far less time with Hispanics than with their white counterparts.
HANSON: Yes, that was -- I was trying to remind us about the fragility of human nature. If you are a doctor, and you are trying to treat somebody, and he does not speak your language, and you have somebody who does speak you language, it seems to me that you are going -- or it’s going to be easier to communicate with somebody who does speak your language. And the state cannot provide an interpreter for every patient, given its $38 billion deficit. I don’t think it’s culpable, especially when people could train their children to come in. It was, again, a question of individual responsibility versus group entitlement.
LAMB:Fourth article, newspaper report alleged that more Mexicans than whites have been jailed under California’s somewhat draconian three-strikes-and-you’re-out legislation. Again, the obvious question was never asked, could it be because they were committing more third strikes than their white or Asian counterparts?
HANSON: I don’t think it’s healthy just to look at the number of people incarcerated, unless you also ask, who were people committing the crimes and who were their crimes against? Because lost in there was maybe Mexican Americans or Mexican immigrants were victims of crimes created by other immigrants. Again, these were all on the same day, and it wasn’t just to show you that they didn’t tell the entire story, but it was the imbalance of news coverage. I can’t believe that just because somebody is Mexican American, they want to read about all of these articles, and not about that their nation is at war. It’s the imbalance in coverage.
LAMB:And then the final, pertinent story you say, you encountered which you were reading, centered on a number of aliens who have tragically died in the Arizona desert.
HANSON: Well, there was a story that a number of 12-year-olds, 11-year-olds, 10-year-olds were sent across the desert by their parents, and they had died. One of the parents was quoted as saying that they would do it again and send another child, and the onus of the story was put on the Americans, that somehow it’s our responsibility, moral responsibility, to make sure that a 10-year-old doesn’t die in the desert. It would be nice if we could prevent that, but ultimately, we have to ask the Mexican government, if your citizens are sending unescorted 12-year-olds into the United States, and you better stop it, because there might be a chance that we can’t ensure they are going to live, just as if American teenagers were walking across the border into Mexico.
LAMB:Is California really 46th in education in the whole country?
HANSON: Yes, it is.
LAMB:Any particular reason, you think?
HANSON: Well, when you have people -- we don’t know, other than I think it’s two things. The therapeutic curriculum that is -- California seems to adopt -- each fad ahead of the nation. When we sort of got away from literature, history, mathematics, biology, and science and started to put other topics into the curriculum, from everything from AIDS prevention to fire prevention to gang advising. And then you have this group in the last five years, four million people come into California under illegal auspices that don’t have a high school diploma -- we know that children of college educated and high school graduates do better, so if you have children of people who are coming in, who are not only not legal and don’t speak the language but don’t have a high school diploma, then they are at enormous disadvantage. And we have to do something about it. And that explains this dismal ranking.
LAMB:We are out of time. Here’s the book we have been talking most about, "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming," by Victor Davis Hanson, a professor of the classics at Cal State, at Fresno, and his other book, "Ripples of Battle." Thank you very much.
HANSON: Thank you for having me.
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