In defense of nativism

Dear Hannah,

In the world of demographics, there are very few kinds of people who can fairly be excused of nativism, and one of them is a person who's about to move somewhere else.

Nearly everyone else who paints himself a non-nativist is a coward or a liar, because almost nobody else wants the place they live in to completely change.  Any other matters of differences in nativism are matters of degrees.  The "conservative" nativist wants to keep America American, which is another way of saying he wants its color to be whiter and its heritage spiritually English.  The "liberal" nativist wants to keep Seattle gay and leftist, which is why he complains about an influx of Amazon employees who work hard and steal our women.  When he isn't complaining about our women being stolen, he's worried about our local businesses being overwhelmed by national and international competitors.

If Seattle's nativists were alone we could leave the matter altogether; but Portland has nativists too; backward ones who claim they want to keep Portland weird, without realizing that being weird means bucking local norms (even if the norms are Portland's).  And the Seattle nativists are even more peculiar: the kind who cry about their cities being bought up by Amazon and Microsoft employees, and prefer instead to import hordes of African immigrants on welfare.  They want Seattle to be weird, but only insofar as it isn't too American.  They're okay with painting pan-African flags on the sidewalks, and horrified by the tide of wealthy Californians.

What this proves more than anything else is that everyone has an ideal for the place they'd like to live, and if the place they want to live comes anywhere near their ideal they're terrified of someone ruining it.  We agree with Portland that there isn't anything more natural.  In a democratic republic a change in demographics means not only a change in art and vibes and manners and ethics that make any place distinguished from another, but in the quality of our government.  And if we agree that there are such things as good governments and art and vibes and manners and ethics, we can agree that we prefer them over the bad.  And we agree that if anyone's likely to ruin our little world, it's the people responsible for making everywhere else.

The unfair labeling of right-wingers as the only nativists and of nativism as something evil is one of the great idiocies of the past century.  To love your countrymen even for the way they look isn't a shame.  To shame them for liking their country the way it is, is.  If loving America the way it is is a crime, then so is loving Portland.  If change is never to be feared, then the people who claim to be fearless ought to give up their right of making changes.

To love something -- to love anything so much that you can't bear to see it be any different -- may be completely hopeless.  In a world in which change is the only possibility it may even be stupid.  But if it is hopelessly stupid, it is hopelessly and stupidly romantic.  If we want to see anything change for the better, then we love and deserve love from the objects of our affection.  If the desire to change something is indifferent (or to put it another way, if its only ideal is diversity), then it can safely be said that we're incapable of loving it at all; for love is anything but unbiased.  

The fact that we love white people and American ideas isn't a testimony to our depravity any more than loving our homes and our wives; and it certainly isn't any more a testimony to our depravity than loving Portland for its weirdness.  To sin is to love diversity indiscriminately, and be careless about how diversity affects your neighbors.  It's to say the Syrian and Somalian have every right to change our country for themselves, and the American has no right to keep it the same.

It is true, of course, than nativism can turn evil.  Almost as true as how protecting your family can turn evil.  Our problem isn't so much that we love our countries: it is that we don't love America or foreigners enough to turn the best kinds of foreigners into Americans.   To some this kind of preferential nativism comes across as rudeness; but what they forget is that rudeness is as essential to our existence as kindness.  We might even say that our kindness is rudeness itself -- because kindness is a decision, and decisions are exclusive of every other possible option.  The important thing isn't so much that we avoid rudeness and exclusivity altogether; it is when we apply them, and to whom.    

To not let anyone in your property is the only proof of its being yours; and to let specific people in is the only proof of your caring about it.  The fact that we had preferences yesterday may be a sign of our grandparents' sin, but it is even more a sign of their ownership; and even more than this a condemnation of our current stupidity.  The question of nativism isn't so much a matter of wickedness.  It is a matter of whether we love anything about our country at all, and whether we are allowed to own it.

Your father,


  1. Would you please recommend a book or two that would give me a good historical overview of what you're describing as the greatness of Rome-your column has sparked me to learn.

    Thank you

    1. Glad to hear you're interested! I always recommend going with Plutarch's Lives -- possibly the best biographies around of the great Greeks and Romans. The Penguin Translations are almost always the best, but they don't have everyone's biographies translated.

      Here are two I recommend:

      And second I recommend reading Cicero's speeches and treatises -- which contain the philosophy of the greatest Romans.

      You can find all of these as free ebook downloads on; and if you get Plutarch's Lives for free on gutenberg, I highly recommend going with the George Long translation. Absolutely my favorite!


  2. As a conservative (slowest possible rate of inevitable change, small government, low taxes, don't fix things that aren't broken) nativist (things are and were pretty much fine as they have been and don't need intrusive 'fixing' by marxists, least of all foreign ones), I agree with this essay.

    But the attack on nativism and its constantly being equated with nazism is not some random accident of history, but rather a pervasive agenda being run against a homogeneous but very welcoming anglosphere by a rogues gallery.


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