The U.S.-Mexican War and
    the Peoples of the Year 2000


Inputs from the Politics of Today

 
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Inputs from the Politics of Today  

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The Future of New/Old Nations

The sound of events out there, outside our doors, is telling "us" -- every well-organized "us," the nation-states of the world -- that our boundaries do not mean what they once did.  This will have more impact on the character and definition of the United States than many people there would like to imagine. 
A government as powerful as that of the United States finds it difficult to control the flow of "illegal" immigrants across its borders. In that it is not alone. So do other nation-states, in the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western, in the First World and the Third. 

The competition for voters has led governments to bend and stretch old definitions of "nationality," creating voters when that will suit the interests of those who make the laws, and raising the question of whether "double nationality" is an economic matter only, or also electoral. 

On the negative side, within Mexico, the rebellions in Chiapas and Guerrero, and the influx of foreign groups attending to the conflict, has provoked the government to denounce these Non-Governmental Organizations as so many "undocumented" observers violating national sovereignty. These same NGOs offer elements of "transnational" identity to individuals who are undoubted Mexican citizens. 

On the positive side, politicians in some Mexican states -- Oaxaca, to begin with -- have considered changes in the relation of indigenous communities to the modern state. 

 
Behind these New World events hangs the fact that, in our time, and recently, great political federations have collapsed.  The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were not just "Communist" states.  They were efforts to hold back the political fragmentation that threatened after the First World War.  That fragmentation finally came.  No one federation is an absolute and final solution to the problem of how to organize nationalities and personal identities.   It is an illusion to suppose that the nation-states of North America are too "stable" to be part of this history.
Politicians in Mexico say they fear a "balkanization" that will produce horrors like Bosnia and Kosovo.  But the agent of horror, in Old World or New, is often some national government that tries to fight off balkanization. Even the United States exists currently in a situation much like that of Yugoslavia before the death of Tito. The glue here is not a controlling political party, but the continuing prosperity of the economy.

Any real break in U.S. prosperity could provoke the kind of crisis that has long seethed in Mexico. It would intensify job competition between immigrants and any underemployed groups within the United States. Even among native U.S. citizens the crisis would strain the connection between economic identity and political citizenship -- just as it already has in Mexico.  It could precipitate some elements of U.S. society into a vigilante role that would arouse the concern of international observers.

All these things are events in "current history."  There is no way we can separate what we think about them from what we are continuing to discover about "past history."
 


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