Victor Davis HansonIn 2003, Victor Davis Hanson, a notable historian and classicist known for his sometimes polarizing views on immigration and culture, engaged in a thought-provoking dialogue with CSPAN’s Brian Lamb.

Their conversation revolved around Hanson’s book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, a blend of memoir and political analysis, which casts a critical eye on the impact of immigration on California, suggesting that it was transforming the state in ways that were unsustainable and detrimental to its future. The book and the interview delve into topics such as assimilation, economic disparity, and the political dynamics shaped by immigration patterns.

The relevance of Hanson’s insights from the interview in today’s context cannot be overstated. Nearly two decades later, the issues discussed remain at the forefront of political and social debates in the United States and beyond. Though Mexicans are no longer the largest undocumented immigrant group in the United States, immigration continues to be a growing issue with an all-time high of over 10 million unauthorized immigrants in the US as of 2021. With around 3% of the population and growing undocumented, it has become a more divisive topic than ever, influencing elections, policies, and the national discourse.

Hanson’s perspective offers a lens through which to examine the ongoing challenges and transformations faced by societies grappling with large-scale immigration. It prompts questions about identity, cohesion, and the economic and cultural impacts of immigration on host countries.

Moreover, the interview serves as a historical snapshot, allowing contemporary audiences to reflect on how predictions and analyses have unfolded over time. It provides a basis for comparing past and present, evaluating which concerns were prescient and which may have been overstated or have evolved in unexpected ways. In a time when immigration policy and its societal impacts are hotly debated, revisiting Hanson’s conversation with Brian Lamb offers valuable insights into the complexities of cultural integration and the shaping of national identities.

This discussion is particularly pertinent today as nations worldwide contend with similar issues — balancing the benefits of a diverse, dynamic population against the challenges of integration and social cohesion. Hanson’s work, and the conversation it sparked, thus serves not only as a commentary on California, or the United States, but as part of a larger global discourse on how societies adapt to and are shaped by the forces of migration.

Key Takeaways

  • Mexifornia Is a blending of Mexican and Californian cultures, highlighting both the challenges and opportunities of immigration.
  • Mexifornia requires a comprehensive and empathetic policy approach.
  • In order for Mexifornia to work, immigrants need to preserve their cultural identity while adopting American values.
  • Mexifornia is vilified by the polarized political landscape of the United States, a more middle-ground approach is needed.
  • Bilingualism is a crucial part of mutual understanding between the two communities alongside better education.
  • The concept of Mexifornia is too complex for a surface-level decision and requires in-depth analysis and discussions for years to come.

Introduction to Mexifornia and Concept Origin

Brian Lamb: Victor Davis Hanson, the name “Mexifornia” comes from what?

Victor Davis Hanson: Actually, it’s a term that I discovered that was used by 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.

Brian Lamb: Who’s La Raza?

Victor Davis Hanson: It’s a very funny word. It means “the race.” There’s a National Council of La Raza that’s an advocacy group from 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.

Personal Background and Involvement with the Issue

Brian Lamb: What’s a classics professor doing writing a book about Mexifornia?

Victor Davis 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. I was worried about some of the problems looming ahead for the future of California.

Brian Lamb: Paint a picture for us of where you live.

Victor Davis 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.

Brian Lamb: How many acres?

Victor Davis 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.

Brian Lamb: What’s on the land there?

Victor Davis Hanson: Grapes that we produce raisins and, it’s rented out now because I’m not able to farm.

Brian Lamb: Why not?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I’m a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University. I’m a professor at Cal State. I write military histories and classics, and it just doesn’t give me enough time to get out in a tractor anymore.

Brian Lamb: Your family started in this area, what year?

Victor Davis 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.

Brian Lamb: Where did that family come from originally?

Victor Davis Hanson: They came from Missouri, and they were fleeing the detritus of the Civil War, and there was advertising, four dollars 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. The two families, they merged, and we had a farm in Kingsburg and a farm in Selma. I’m a fifth-generation on one side and fourth on the other.

Economic and Social Implications of Immigration

Brian Lamb: You said you’re not sure you’re glad you wrote the book. Why?

Victor Davis 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. 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.

Brian Lamb: What are the numbers?

Victor Davis 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 from both the left and right will use, that are currently in the United States. In California, I’ve seen as many as three to four 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 four million.

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. 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.

Brian Lamb: There was one point in your book where you talk about where people invoked the Chicano name to you, used it, and you turned on them and said and you characterized yourself as white. Do you remember what I’m talking about?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. I’ve had students that have come out of these therapeutic classes in Chicano studies that will be in my class, and they’ll 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. 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. 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 landscape around it, it works.

Brian Lamb: In your classes at Cal State Fresno?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Brian Lamb: What’s the mix?

Victor Davis Hanson: Really don’t know. I think university-wide, it’s 50% to 60% Mexican-American, but in California, you almost need the racial connotations of the old Confederacy because, these surveys, 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% of the student body is Hispanic, 10% 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 any more white students in the numbers that we used to. So, they’re a small minority.

Brian Lamb: 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 the downside of it all.

Challenges of Assimilation and Cultural Integration

Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah. Well, I think the issue can be explained that Mexican-American heritage is very valuable. 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. 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. The result of it was, we’re starting to see apartheid communities that resemble the communities in Mexico were in the United States. Where I live, Parlier, Orange Cove, Mendota, they’re almost 100% 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.

Brian Lamb: Where did you get this idea? Who was responsible for you doing this book?

Victor Davis 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, changed his opinion that it was more complex than The Wall Street Journal position of open borders adjudicating who comes and who doesn’t. 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 and the history of war, I really don’t want to…”

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. Yet, the legislators don’t discuss these issues. So, the California electorate just goes wild and goes in and expresses its wishes. I think historically, that’s very dangerous because it opens the field for demagogues of the left and right. Those were the arguments Peter made to me and I found them convincing.

Brian Lamb: What’s been the reaction as you speak to groups?

Victor Davis Hanson: It’s mixed. As I talk to my wife, I say, I don’t want to get any more letters from what I call the far right who attacked the book because it argues for popular culture, intermarriage assimilation, and creating a multiracial society under one culture. So, they’ve been very critical. 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.

Most people outside those extremes, 80% of the respondents’ average people on talk shows or interviews are very favorable. I appreciate that somebody is talking about it in a way that just doesn’t pander to particular political point of view.

Brian Lamb: You mentioned that your daughters date Mexican Americans.

Victor Davis Hanson: Wonderful kids.

Brian Lamb: How old are your daughters?

Victor Davis Hanson: I have a daughter 16 and a daughter 22. Her boyfriend is in the United States Marine Corps. Third Marine Division, wonderful guy. I like him a lot. I like my 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend, Robbie. Most of my friends I grew up with are Mexican American. I know that sounds the stereotype that I know a lot of Mexican Americans, because of the demography of where I live, you really don’t have an opportunity to meet people who are not Mexican American and very large numbers.

Brian Lamb: Do you talk to your daughters about this subject?

Victor Davis 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 voted with their feet to embrace a culture, they did not go in mass to Argentina, Brazil, or Nicaragua or Chile, they made the decision to leave Oaxaca, Chiapas, or Central Mexico because Mexico could not provide goods and services to service their population.

They wanted a different type of social economic, political landscape or structure, and they found it in California, 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.

Brian Lamb: Are your daughter’s boyfriend’s legal aliens?

Victor Davis Hansen: Absolutely. They’re citizens. Citizens of United States

Brian Lamb: They were born here.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, absolutely.

Brian Lamb: What about when did their ancestors [crosstalk]…

Victor Davis Hanson: I don’t know. 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. We’re starting to see that if the system works. If you have a culture whose heroes are the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, and people are in a myriad 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 of years. It’s taxing our ability to assimilate them. Then, the force multiplying effect of multiculturalism, we’ve lost confidence in the powers of assimilation.

Brian Lamb: You have a chapter called the mind of the host, what was your point?

Victor Davis Hanson: My point was to convey to the Mexican immigrant community that we ourselves are schizophrenic about, what do you do, for example, I talked to a farmer who employs illegal aliens and says, “Well, nobody will work. These people are the hardest working people in the world.” Which they are, and then he says, “I don’t want to go to this restaurant in Selma with my family, because everybody takes their clothes off, they stand out with their boxer shorts, where they put their clothes in the washing machine, they sit there. This is not civilized.”

I suggest to them, well, if you pay them cash and they’re not legal citizens, they don’t have the capital, then what do you expect them to do? We’ve also created in California, this aristocratic lifestyle for upper middle class, Californians that would be not possible elsewhere. 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 claimed.

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 give them the advantages that we do. That means, entitlements. We have a $38 billion deficit right now on annual basis and we’re starting to see the wages of that.

There’s a cycle and it’s very disturbing we don’t want to talk about. Somebody comes from 18 from Mexico, say from Oaxaca, a very young, robust, male, happy, we give him $10 an hour to pour concrete, he says this is 10 times more than I’m making in Mexico, everybody’s happy. Then suddenly, we’re surprised when he would want to marry, have three children and get on his knees for 10 years and he goes out, a back goes out, and elbow goes out. Then what happens?

These are no longer rite of passage jobs, or 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. 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 10 Mexican immigrants are not graduating, children of Mexican immigrants were having problem with bachelor’s degree, only 7%. An 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.

Brian Lamb: 7% of the Mexican-Americans are?

Political and Legal Landscape of Immigration

Victor Davis Hanson: 7% of people who were born in Mexico…

Brian Lamb: Graduate from colleges.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes.

Brian Lamb: The other rate is in the 40s.

Brian Lamb: Yes. Even more disturbing was that 62% of the people in California who were born in Mexico are classified under the poverty level. After 20 years, it’s not very much statistical difference, 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?

Brian Lamb: What’s life like, take the 18-year-old. He’s illegal. How does he get here? How does he get to California?

Victor Davis Hanson: He hires a coyote for $1,500 $2,000. He gets across the border.

Brian Lamb: What’s a coyote?

Victor Davis 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 the 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 off. They don’t have legal status. They often rob, they’re beaten up by people, they can’t report these crimes as they’re afraid of endangering their status.

Brian Lamb: Are they paid in cash?

Victor Davis 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. 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. This still works pretty well because, they send out 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 it, they can’t get a passport, can’t get a driver’s license, they don’t make any more money than they did.

Then we start to have the natural human reactions of bitterness, anger, frustration, and that lands them susceptible to an ethnic romance that says that racism caused all the problems and explains why Mexican immigrants or Mexico have not achieved the same level parodies as Punjabi or Koreans or Chinese.

Brian Lamb: What’s the legal responsibility if they’re in this country illegally when it comes to healthcare and things like that?

Victor Davis Hanson: There is none. That issues 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 that federal government hadn’t made that decision. Sapping federal control. 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.

The only way we’re going to explain that is that he works hard and perhaps, he pay taxes but if we look at statistics, we have in the nature of unskilled, the entitlement is costing the state five times more than the persons contributing in taxes.

Brian Lamb: Do they report the fact that this is an illegal?

Victor Davis Hanson: They cannot. [crosstalk] It’s either local jurisdiction or state practice but most police departments will not. If they arrest somebody for speeding and he’s an illegal alien or if somebody goes into the hospital with a broken leg and she is an illegal alien, they will not call INS, if they did call on INS they probably wouldn’t deport them.

Brian Lamb: Why not?

Victor Davis 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 it’s expatriate population, it loses hundreds of thousands of potential dissidents that might march on Mexico’s cities for redress of grievances, it creates an expatriate community that romanticizes Mexico the longer and further it’s away from it.

The employer wants, 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 a non-assimilated constituency. We’ve 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 is 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 license and not allow them — not require them to have birth certificates — which we do of citizens. It’s starting to — it’s been almost Orwellian in the society that’s emerging.

Brian Lamb: You seem to be the most upset in your book with some of your colleagues in the universities.

Victor Davis Hanson: 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 as familiarization with the brittle 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.

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 civil humanities and then, contrary to popular myth, graduate schools are looking for people like these. They just want them, it’s not that Mexican people are subject to racism, they’re in fact given advantages. 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 enormous burden because they’re considered assimilationist or they’re not true to their heritage or they’re not ethnically chauvinistic, even though those same traits tend to historically hurt immigrants.

Brian Lamb: I’m reading another book right now for this program later where you talk about the Italians and they say back in the turn of the century, 1900, Italian sounds very much like the Mexicans where 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.

Personal Anecdotes and Experiences With Immigration

Victor Davis 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 in mass, they had a little bit more trouble than say the Poles, the Jews, and 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 his ideology about the melting pot. We never had bilingual Italian education, separate Italian graduation ceremonies. We weren’t really 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 an Italian experience.

Brian Lamb: You mentioned the separate or the dual graduation ceremonies. Explain that, what is that?

Victor Davis Hanson: It’s very funny, people object to that term separate, but what we have is, on a typical Saturday, we have a convoca — 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 and many California universities, we have a separate graduation ceremony for people of Chicano and 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 are not academic achievement, they’re not — none other than your racial identification.

Brian Lamb: Do you have that same thing for Germans and Italian?

Victor Davis Hanson: Absolutely not.

Brian Lamb: Why would they have that?

Victor Davis Hanson: Because, I think it’s what we’ve been talking about, they don’t want to face these real issues of stopping immigration that was illegal, allowing legal immigration in measured tones, getting back to the assimilation. It’s such a vast multi-faceted complexity that to initiate this discussion, you’d have to pay such a price. 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 is a house minority leader.

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 the conversation. He just made a statement, wanted to preclude all discussion, said anybody basically is a racist who wants to question the current policy of illegal immigration. When people know that, it’s much easier to say, “You know what, let’s just forget about it and let the system evolve ad hoc.”

Brian Lamb: Who promotes the idea inside the university? Is it also high schools that have separate?

Victor Davis Hanson: I don’t know about high schools, 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, provost, 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 and punished if you got into any controversy.

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.”

Brian Lamb: The University of California, Berkeley where I think the population is over 50% Asian, do they have a separate ceremony there?

Victor Davis 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. 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 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.” I’ll say, “That’s stupid because we know where that leads to. This ethnic separatism, we’ve seen that in the 20th century and don’t do that.”

Brian Lamb: You say in your book and I don’t remember all the names that there are, some of the Chicano heroes in history are not really all that worthy.

Victor Davis Hanson: One of the great myths, I’ll give you an example, my colleague at California State University, Fresno, Bruce Thorton wrote a book about Joaquin Murrieta, who’s 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 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 could probably be classified as a mass murderer, he butchered people of all races.

He was a thief and he was hunted down and punished by a legal [unintelligible 00:30:12]. Between the myth and the reality, another one is the Aztec civilization. Impressive civilization and its ability to marshal capital and labor but, if you start to look at certain aspects, the way it treated their 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 picture in a way that we would never do for Cortés and we’re pretty tough on Cortés, and rightly so, but we don’t have that same balance when we look at the Aztec because we think that to do so might weaken ethnic pride or it might create self-doubt.

I find it very paternalistic because the students that I know who are Mexican-American or immigrant Mexican. Once they’re educated and given the tools of inquiry and rationales, they’re perfectly able to come up with their own analysis and conclusions about history.

Brian Lamb: Back to the 18-year-old illegal Mexican that comes to United States. By the way, what’s the percentage of men to women that do this?

Victor Davis 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. The problem is that, the US 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.

Brian Lamb: So, they live a lot to one room.

Victor Davis Hanson: They do. I have an apartment complex, a 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.

Brian Lamb: What else do they do? You talk about the leeches, you live off of them. Explain that.

Victor Davis Hanson: If you don’t have legal status and you don’t have access to finance and driver’s license, then often, you hire somebody to take you to work. They can charge for a four mile trip four or five dollars. They can charge a dollar 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 a $1,000 in your front pocket, be walking along a rural road, some bandit or thief can go and know that if they prey on you, every time he sees three Mexican, illegal aliens walking together, he assumes they have money.

He knocks them over their head, takes their money and these victims are not able to go to the police department because they’re afraid of their status. 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.

Brian Lamb: Where is Oaxaca?

Education, Language, and Cultural Identity

Victor Davis Hanson: It’s in Central Mexico.

Brian Lamb: How far away from Fresno?

Victor Davis Hanson: I’d imagine from where I live, it’s probably about anywhere from a thousand to 1,200 mile to the south.

Brian Lamb: In another chapter, “The Mind of the Host,” we were actually talking about some of that, you referred to examples of newspaper stories that are in the local Fresno paper, Fresno Bee. 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’s your point?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I drive into Selma, local town, if somebody hits me and they’re legal, then we go to the normal processes of adjudication, law enforcement, insurance but if somebody hits you and they’re 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’re going to be afraid that when the police arrive, they might be deported, even though they probably won’t be. So, what happens? They leave the car by the side of the road, which usually was bought for cash, it’s used, 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’re usually not hurt, they’ve torn out, 20 vines or so and, then you’re 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, says there’s no registration, there’s no proof of insurance, the driver’s gone and they haul the car away. That’s a routine fact of life in Central California.

Brian 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’s the rest of this?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I think part of the reason is, we say that 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 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 the people who come from Mexico can read Spanish or even speak Spanish. In some cases, they don’t speak Spanish where they speak a native dialect that not a lot of people who are second, third generation Hispanics know and we assume they’re literate.

But, the average education, I think its 60% to 70% of people who come from Mexico illegally have never finished high school. 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’s difficult, it’s cumbersome. We don’t talk about it.

Brian Lamb: Do you speak Spanish?

Victor Davis Hanson: I read it pretty well. I speak it very poorly.

Brian Lamb: You say there’s no longer any requirement for bilingual education in California?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, by ballot initiative, we formally ended that. 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.

Brian Lamb: Do the Asians demand bilingual education?

Victor Davis Hanson: No. We have translators in Fresno, I think in 15 or 20 languages in the court proceedings from Mong, Thai, Punjabi but we don’t have separate. We would never do that for other groups.

Brian Lamb: Why is that it by the difference?

Victor Davis Hanson: I think it’s 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’s 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 that can take up to five years. They often become professional. They don’t want or they don’t expect government help. It’s just a different matrix of factors that involve Mexico. Also, they don’t have an ideology by their elites that California used to belong to Mexico, so they’re an ironic nemesis involved.

Brian Lamb: Back to your examples. [clears throat] Here’s 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 does not move and the customers cannot understand the myriad forms to be filled out for their trailers, vans and cars.”

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. If you don’t make an appointment, you just walk in as we used to at the DMV, we have a big problem because, two things are happening in California, among its 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. It also has some of the large population of people here illegally, they don’t have high school diplomas, so we have these two things happening at once, more forms than any other state and an 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.

Brian 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.”

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, I had that incident where my daughter called, somebody rear-ended her, a young girl and propelled her 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.” Then, he was talking to the young woman and I said, “Aren’t you going to write a citation because she was rear-ended?” 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 license situation and you have a large immigrant group who are here illegally, then you have a new type of ideology, 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 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 you violate those laws and there’s no logical and why a whole series of other laws should be maintained or be pristine. It undermines the whole, as Socrates said in the Crito of Plato, it’s a non-ending process once you’ve questioned the authority of the laws.

Brian Lamb: You say a couple times in the book, your brother, your twin brother — who’s older?

Public Reaction and Personal Reflections

Victor Davis Hanson: I am by two hours.

Brian Lamb: Married a Mexican-American?

Victor Davis Hanson: No. He married a woman who was married to a Mexican immigrant. She had two children and was divorced and they’re very successful. One daughter is a PhD. candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Was a dean’s medalist. The other son is an engineer. They are an advertisement for this 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.

The reason I pointed that out is that, when you have people come from Mexico and they’re 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. When you have one person who’s a native and four people are here illegally, then you don’t have the same cross-fertilization.

Brian Lamb: What did you mean by, the elites don’t understand that consensual government is rare in the history of civilization? Who’s an elite? Define. Aren’t you an elite?

Victor David Hanson: Yes, I am in some ways. Absolutely. What I mean by an elite is usually a person who’s got a bachelors or advanced degree. They usually are in the upper-middle class. If you define that by income. They usually don’t have toil on their knees or their back. They’re not doing manual labor for very little money. In that way of thinking, what’s constitutes an elite. What I meant in that context is that, we fail 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 and independent judiciary.

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, if you go across the border to Mexico, they have wonderful farmland, they have oil, they have natural gas, they have good climate. The paradigm is not similar and therefore, it cannot feed and clothe and house it’s hundred million people to the same degree we can in the United States. People recognize that at a very gut level. 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 immigrants this is why, to articulate why they came across.

You come across and this is why and this what we’re going to do to make sure you’re 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 as no better and no worse than Spanish or any of these issues that we often communicate, then we’re failing our responsibility and some more responsibility. The result of it is we will create a wander or bulk in society of an apartheid community, which we’ve done in Central California in some cases.

Brian Lamb: You said teachers have to stop teaching, that Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman are more important than John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.

Victor David Hanson: It’s a matter of time. If I talk to young freshman that 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. 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 process that what makes things happen. We’re creating a young generation that does not know traditional, political and military fact, events, passages.

Instead is interested in other where the criteria is often race or neglect in the past. Sometimes, it’s valuable, but as long as you realize what the central core is. This is my objection to this separatism between multiracialism and multiculturalism. Multiracialism is the American ideal. Race is irrelevant because we all have this core adherence to democracy and capitalism and consensual government and transparent society. We enrich it with food from the Philippines and music from Mexico and fashion from Africa. That’s very different than multiculturalism where groups come from different places.

Then, we in the elite say, “We’re 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’ll be no reason why they came.

Brian Lamb: I assume by now, if this were a live audience, you’d have people just like the Nancy Pelosi’s staffer on their feet saying some strong things to you. Somebody is at their keyboard right now ready to write the email. Typical white, American, comfortable taking care of biased mother and father on a farm in California, doesn’t like the fact that people of the dark skin from the south are here doing the menial work, doesn’t like their cost of —

Victor David Hanson: Doesn’t like the cost.

Brian Lamb: The bilingual education and all that.

Victor David Hanson: I have a lot of what I would feel or people who are mistaken because they privilege the question race. They say that brown people are changing the racial complexion. I