‘Though much is taken, much abides’
Our country is currently divided on many issues including local control vs. central planning, nationalism vs. globalism, free market capitalism vs. socialism, morality vs. moral relativism, shared values vs. diversity, limited immigration vs. open borders, originalism vs. living Constitution, individual vs. collective, and law vs. opinion, most made more intense by the underlying struggle for control of government. Since immigration is and will continue to be an unresolved issue, we can use it as an example of how to approach a solution to it and other divisive issues.
A limited number of immigrants benefited America when the population was 140 million by bringing vitality and cuisine to our still open land. But what does the 50 millionth bring? It the U.S. just a place to which anybody in the world can move? Should it be a haven for all who are fleeing war or poverty? And is the duty of American to provide a better standard of living to anybody who wants it? These questions are conflated by those who see no difference between a risk from bombs or from hunger or for merely seeking a place in our country.
According to Aristotle, the reason questions such as these may seem complex is that they are weighing two competing virtues, “mercy” and “justice,” not good and evil. When competing virtues are in contravention, it is because one of them is misunderstood.
“Mercy has been the virtue easiest to support for it has obvious short-term benefits and is readily embraced by those who receive the benefits. When “justice” is considered it is justice for those arriving. Those for whom justice is not considered are the people who were already living here and have to pay for the new immigrants, in effect becoming victims of coerced charity, and who are adversely affected by competition in the low-skilled job market. Local social services, hospitals, and schools which are paid for with local taxes are most often what is disrupted in communities affected by mass immigration. Furthermore, perhaps without being able to express it, since a culture is covenant between the dead, the living, and generations yet to be born, a culture should not be subjected to the onslaught of foreign cultures.
In the poet’s words, “though much is taken, much abides.” Our commonly held beliefs in freedom, justice, equality, and self-reliance which bound us together at our founding as a nation are still strong today, especially in middle America. Although under constant attack, the pillars of all cultures – a common language and religion – are still embraced by the majority of American citizens.
If we consider other issues that divide us by using Aristotle’s idea of competing virtues, perhaps we will be able to revisit our perceptions of them. We nay then arrive at what we term “anagnorisis,” the realization that you have just caught up with a truth that has always been waiting for you. Surely, some may benefit by doing so in the consideration of an issue whose sole supporting argument is “my body, my choice.”