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Mayor Martin J. Chavez
Albuquerque, NM/ Pop. 448,607 / Elected 2001

“The history of America is the history of people moving from the farm and the ranch to the city to find their economic and personal destiny.”

— Mayor Martin J. Chavez

Alon Levy on 06.25.2008:

I agree with most of what he says, at least based on your writeup, but I'd nuance it a lot more. For example:

Historically, this country is the only nation on Earth that seems to somehow celebrate monolingualism.

The US is one of the few countries that celebrate multilingualism. In Continental Europe, they have official languages that they insist immigrants use, language academies that regulate the language and often discriminate against minority dialects, and little in the way of bilingual education. The English-speaking world tends to be horrible in getting its natives to speak foreign languages, but it's relatively tolerant of immigrants who speak their native languages amongst themselves and teach them to their children.

Similarly, the statement,

I’ve always contended the history of America is not the history of the frontier. The history of America is the history of people moving from the farm and the ranch to the city to find their economic and personal destiny

has a lot of truth to it, but it cuts both ways. The populist movements of the Gilded Age were a response to urban-rural disparities; the progressive movement was a way for the urban middle and upper classes to counter the populists; the New Deal was something of a reconciliation.

Harry Moroz on 06.25.2008:


Thanks for the comment.

Responding in reverse order. It certainly would be difficult to argue that, looked at in the ways you point out, the history of the United States is not one of migrations both rural-to-urban and urban-to-rural. (In his book The Conscience of the Eye, Richard Sennett describes some of the (arguably negative) consequences for urban development that the urban-to-rural movement by frontier-pursuing Protestant Americans had.) I do think that Mayor Chavez was, more simply, telling a different - and perhaps equally plausible - version of the American myth.

I agree with your first point with a certain caveat. The anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe is certainly more evident or perhaps more institutionalized, having found its way into party platforms in several countries in Continental Europe. At the same time, let's not congratulate ourselves too quickly. The local ordinances that are popping up in places like Nashville to require that government services use English are no joke and are arguably symptomatic of a more insidious trend. The danger is that we maintain the myth that we are "tolerant" while simultaneously practicing gross intolerance. So the myth of the glory of the American frontier also permitted certain brutalities.

Alon Levy on 06.26.2008:

Oh, I'm not saying the US is tolerant or egalitarian. I'm just saying that "This is the only country where..." rhetoric suggests Chavez doesn't know how things are in Europe or Japan or South Africa or the Middle East. It also undercuts one of the most glaring contradictions of cultural conservatives, which is that they like to sneer at any liberal who suggests adopting successful European ideas about health or education, but have no problem copying failed European ideas about immigration and what the nation is. (P.S. the conservative standard response seems to be that it's because of European welfare. If you're interested, I can send you a factsheet showing that it's not.)

Brandon V on 07.07.2008:

His bragging about Albuquerque receiving a bunch of worthless environmental "awards" makes me sick. Under his administration, liberty has taken a back seat to ensuring that city hall gets a bunch of "accolades" from some national commission or international committee. And by God will he make sure he gets it, by coercion or force if necessary! The only good these awards serve is that he can reuse them as toilet paper after he bans Charmin. He likely won't anytime soon though, since he may still have a few pieces of the US and State Constitutions lying around that he hasn't used yet...

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