Is she witty or reckless?
Is Hispanic culture, to name only one culture she attacks, really a third-world hellhole?
Ms. Ann H. Coulter’s book, ¡Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, is provocative, to put it mildly.
It’s customary in a review to mention some positives in a book, so let me follow custom and acknowledge some of her key points.
Yes, there is a crime problem.
Yes, we need to deport criminals.
Yes, we need E-verify.
Yes, we need to secure our borders, even with a wall or fence, wherever feasible.
Yes, we need to enforce the immigration laws already on the books, like requiring the ones who have overstayed their visas to get it straightened out.
Yes, American-born citizens in the Hispanic community vote Democrat (see below, for a long-term, peaceful, intellectual, reasonable solution, which Ms. Coulter does not provide or at least one that I can find).
Yes, Los Angeles will one day go broke, but then so did Detroit, and so will a lot of cities and counties.
Yes, she has a measure of wit.
Everyone has been saying that list of things (the wit problem I lay aside for the moment), so the book says nothing new or helpful about them. She probably could have said it in one chapter. Thus, most of her book is anecdotal–breathless and hysterical about the “hellhole” cultures.
Now let me get to just a few of many troubling aspects to her tome and then lay out three representative counter-examples—representative only in the sense of my experience over the years.
Culture is a main theme (hence the words third-world hellhole in her title). Ms. Coulter implies that culture remains static for four hundred years, with little or no change. The descendants of the East Anglians, England, for example, who moved to Massachusetts are college educated, while the Scots-Irish in Appalachia are more likely to appear on TV shows like Cops (pages 143-44). Witty or reckless? Either way, no word on the countless Irish who immigrated to Boston.
Next, one point of contention goes to the media coverage of crime, which is a main thesis in the book. Apparently Ms. Coulter’s friends in Los Angeles say the news doesn’t report the identity of the suspect beyond the generic “Man.” But I live in So. Cal. and watch the news, and every time I can remember, the report says something like: The suspect is described as an Hispanic male, about 5’10”. If he is known and fleeing, the report puts up a photo of him. It’s not clear if the news media have instant access to his legal status.
The news anchor herself is usually Hispanic, and she contributes positively to society.
Ms. Coulter’s Angeleno friends need to keep her better informed.
Though she deals in some stats, one of the surprising features of the book is the numerous anecdotes, as noted. One radio talk show host touted it, “It is well documented and researched.” Yes, there are many endnotes (862 of them), but so many of them reference the anecdotes. Thus, much of the evidence can get one-dimensional and one-sided.
On the other side, I would like to present briefly three sample anecdotes of Hispanic culture in greater Los Angeles. They’re from the trenches, not from a comfy office up in New England or an echo-chamber radio studio. I can’t claim it’s based on field research, but it’s probably closer to real Hispanics and other immigrants than Ms. Coulter’s online research brought her.
I’ve already provided more anecdotes in another post, but they were just straight success stories. The next three are about a new conservative perspective based on evidence. Our political philosophy can be very persuasive. The names have been changed to Maria and numbered.
The first one confirms one of the main theses of Ms. Coulter’s book, but with redemption, which she never deals with or I can’t find it.
Maria 1’s mother was fifteen when she illegally traveled across the border. A coyote raped her (that sadly confirms Coulter’s thesis about “Hispanic rapists”). From that one violent act, she got pregnant with my student, who is now in her mid to late twenties. Her teen mother never imagined aborting her child. In class it was quite a testimonial about not aborting even after rape. I had heard of such stories, but never met a living person behind them. Can you imagine how she argued for life when we got around to discussing abortion?
The rape story proves that any human, including Hispanics, who really are humans, along with the Scots-Irish, coming from a disadvantaged background, can contribute to society.
Maria 1 was great writer and a very smart student. Inch by inch I introduced intellectual conservatism to the class, usually listening to a high-quality debate on youtube or a one-dollar video at amazon.com of Firing Line. Maria 1 told me she had never heard of this alternative viewpoint before; she loved what she saw.
Maria 2 was an activist leftist. I recall she was on her way to UCLA. She wanted me to say her name with a Spanish accent. I told her I like Spanish, and throughout the semester I’ll say the fifty words I know out loud, mainly to make students laugh: “No hablo espanol. Soy un gavacho”; “I don’t speak Spanish. I’m a white boy” (yes, students do laugh). It’s not my first language, so I might not say it properly. Here’s an alternative point of view: What would happen if we insisted all of our last names were spoken with an original accent? (I’m not sure how to pronounce my last name with a Swedish accent.) Wouldn’t that make things difficult? Instead, we ought to focus on things that unite us, not divide us. She saw things in a new light and dropped her demand.
Maria 2 also decried American imperialism. Just a little later in the semester, when the timing was right, I showed a nighttime satellite photo of the Korean peninsula on the classroom screen. The North is in the dark, except for a few pinpricks of light; the South glows with prosperity. The DMZ is plain to see. I said that’s where are soldiers are. To me, that’s American imperialism.
The invisible light bulb over Maria 2’s head suddenly turned on—as it did over everyone else’s. She stayed with the class, even though she sometimes had a tough time with the alternative storyline.
Maria 3 was very smart, her papers excellent. She’s planning to get her MD. I believe she could succeed and told her so. When the timing was right—it’s all about the timing, the tact, and the presentation—I gave immigration as an option for the class to vote for on the next hot topic to write about. My Hispanic students, who rarely are the original immigrants, but were born and raised here, one-hundred percent American, feel a little uncomfortable and embarrassed about the topic. They believe they’ve done nothing wrong, but know some people resent them. So I tread lightly. There are high-quality human beings behind the words in Ms. Coulter’s book.
When the classroom environment is right and I perceive they’re open to a deeper discussion, I ask why their parents (now it’s usually their grandparents) moved up here. The answer is obvious. To make a better life for their kids. But what was it about Mexico that compelled them to leave? The main reason is the economy. What made their economy weaker than ours? Communism and socialism is strong down there, since Mexico’s revolution a hundred years ago. Is there a political party here in the USA that is on the left side of the political spectrum, though I for one certainly wouldn’t call them communists or socialists? Then why vote for them by default? Now America is fast going broke.
Maria 3’s invisible light bulb turned on. So did the others.
Next, if I had known I could write a best-selling book mainly on anecdotes, I would have kept a journal over the years. While writing this piece, I was thinking about how big the book would be. I’m sure it would have stretched on to 500 pages at least.
It would be filled with success stories and the uplifting Hispanic subculture. The number of my positive anecdotes could easily surpass her negative ones, unless she can prove that more than 50% of Hispanics commit rapes or other violent crimes. My anecdotes would therefore be boring: Hispanic mother and father go to work, come home to raise their kids, and go to Mass on Sunday. Come to think of it, my book would therefore not be a best seller. Too boring. Not breathless and hysterical enough.
As for statistics, I could also include them in my book. I wager that they would prove the vast majority of them live those boring lives.
That kind of non-third world, non-hellhole culture I can live with.
We know which political party they vote for, by default. How does ¡Adios! persuade them to join our cause? It could have been titled, How to Turn Your Laptop into a Flamethrower and Burn Down Reagan’s Big Tent.
Millions of them were born here and will never leave, any more than you or I would. Therefore taking reality as it is, we need to reach them with our message, not insult them. I have learned that students are persuadable. I got to believe there are countless others outside of college who are too. We don’t need to persuade 100%, but we can surely get more than we have so far. This is the long-range solution.
Inch by inch, we can win this fight. The Left’s utopia is crumbling. Taxes are oppressive. The Entitlements need to be reformed, or they’ll go broke beyond repair. The work-force participation is low. The national debt is unmanageable. Obamacare on top of Medicare and Medicaid is yet a third unaffordable and nonfunctional bureaucracy.
Now is the time to explain, more clearly than ever to an audience that is more receptive than ever (think of the 2014 election results), how much better our views are. We have, after all, the better evidence, arguments, and conclusions.
In the bigger picture, it’s about values. And our political philosophy is a closer match with Hispanic values than the other side’s philosophy is.
I for one celebrate my Hispanic students and want to show them an intellectually defensible, conservative, alternative point of view, when appropriate.
This article first appeared at American Thinker on August 15, 2015, but has been expanded and corrected.
Update: Nov. 12, 2015.