SAN DIEGO -- Victor Davis Hanson should be cloned so that his erudition, wisdom and humane enlightenment could illuminate every important national question. But wait, he already does address most of the pressing issues of the day.
I once emailed a column he had written after Sept. 11 to a friend. It began, "As I was walking through my orchard, I was thinking ..." My friend emailed back, "He's had more thoughts in one stroll through his orchard than I've had in my entire life."
Hanson teaches classics at California State in Fresno. He is also a fifth-generation California farmer, and he has turned his considerable intellectual powers to the most vexing question facing California -- illegal immigration.
Hanson grew up among Mexicans and Americans of Mexican ancestry. Hispanics represented the overwhelming majority of students in his Selma, Calif., public elementary school, and his friends, colleagues, employees, students and relatives have always been Hispanic. Though Hanson makes an excellent case that immigration policy is badly out of whack, not to say insane, in California, part of the strength of his new book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, is his deep compassion for Mexicans and other immigrants.
Everyone knows that illegal immigrants come to America for a better life. Hanson fills in some of the blanks that most Americans may not know -- for example, the inflexible racism and two-tiered nature of Mexican society. Their country is so poor, and so backward, that most Mexicans have more in common with Egyptians and Indians than with Americans. They flee north because they can, and the Mexican government offers a wink and a nod, and often more, to facilitate this flow. Why? Hanson argues that it serves as a safety valve for Mexico itself. If the discontented could not flee north, pressure would build within Mexico for reform. And reform is exactly what the power elite in Mexico wishes to avoid.