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Illegal Immigration and the American Crisis

Forerunner, "WorldWatch," May 2006

In their bestselling book The Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe note that, for the last 600 years of British and American history, a regular cycle of major crises have occurred roughly every 80-100 years. They identify as crises the Wars of the Roses, with its climax in 1485; the Armada Crisis, with its climax 103 years later in 1588; the Glorious Revolution, with its climax 101 years later in 1689; the American Revolution, with its climax 92 years later in 1781; the Civil War, with its climax 82 years later in 1863; and the Great Depression and World War II, with its climax 81 years later in 1944.

Strauss and Howe posit that these national catastrophes and consequent resolutions are a function of the roles and characteristics of the various generations that play out their respective historical scripts. Based on this demonstrable pattern, the authors predicted (in 1997) that the next crisis would begin sometime between 2005 and 2008, and climax in 2025. Present national barometers—whether political, cultural, economic, religious, or demographic—indicate intense and growing pressure that cannot be gently relieved, but that will only be fully released when the next national crisis begins.

Immigration trends in American history are also cyclical, and in fact, can be a good indicator of how close the next crisis is:

Immigration to America has also followed a saecular rhythm [referring to the span of a long human lifetime, 80-100 years, that defines the various cycles of British-American history]: It tends to climb in an Awakening [1964-1984], peak in an Unraveling [1984-200?], and fall during a Crisis. The climb coincides with quickening social mobility, rising public tolerance, pluralist-minded leaders, and loosening social controls. The Unraveling-era reversal is triggered by a sudden nativist backlash (in the 1850s, 1920, and 1990s). The subsequent fall coincides with aggressive new efforts to protect the nation—and by the time a Crisis hits, immigration is often seen as unsafe by the community and unattractive by those who might in better times wish to relocate. (The Fourth Turning, p. 113; emphasis ours.)

By all accounting, the U.S. finds itself in the late stages of such an Unraveling, a period usually 15-25 years in length characterized by

[ebbing] public trust amid a fragmenting culture, harsh debates over values, and weakening civic habits. Pleasure-seeking lifestyles coexist with a declining public tolerance for aberrant personal behavior. . . . As moral debates brew, the big public arguments are over ends, not means. Decisive public action becomes very difficult, as community problems are deferred. Wars are fought with moral fervor but without consensus or follow-through. Eventually, cynical alienation hardens into a brooding pessimism. . . . The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have been unthinkable half a saeculum [40-50 years] earlier. People can now feel, but collectively can no longer do. (ibid., p. 103; emphasis theirs.)

April's and May's massive marches, demonstrations, and walk-outs—including the "Day Without an Immigrant" boycott—as well as the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S., point to the "peak in an Unraveling" that Strauss and Howe document during previous cycles of history. The crisis is not yet upon us, for illegal immigration appears to be still increasing because of the hope of an amnesty program.

Additionally, the upcoming congressional elections in November intimidate all but the most stalwart politicians from making "inflammatory" remarks against illegal immigration, and an already-weakened President Bush does not have the political clout to press the issue of illegal immigration, even if he had the inclination. A complicit liberal media continues to cast illegal immigration in a positive light. Business owners are still willing to overlook the illegalities in favor of cheap labor. For now, things are going the illegal immigrant's way.

But if The Fourth Turning is correct, this will radically change during the Crisis—or perhaps a radical change will herald the beginning of the Crisis. Already, independent newspapers and bloggers are publishing the not-so-friendly pictures the mainstream media avoids. The Minutemen Project—voluntary border patrols in the Southwest—is gaining in popularity and recognition, and the founder is considering running for President in 2008 on the Constitution Party platform. Not least of all, the sight of tens of thousands of immigrants marching under the Mexican flag looks to the average American more like an invasion and less like a civil rights movement.

Throughout the cycles of history for over half a millennium, immigration is always a hot topic preceding a national crisis, one that can be used as an indicator of the national mood. While the immigration issue may not be the actual catalyst that ushers in the next crisis, the building pressure in this area is clearly contributing to the overall fragmentation that leads to the crisis.

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment
The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Daily Verse and Comment

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