The Third Compartment

"Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land?
All fear, none aid you, and few understand.

        —Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Man"

Although the raw figures from Census 2000 have been in the public domain for months already, the American public's response to the latest decennial survey is still not clear. For politicians, the census has been a wakeup call, alerting them to the 13 million new or potential voters pumped, sucked, or snuck into the American polity since 1990. For plain American citizens, it is a fire-bell in the night, warning them that, for the past 20 or 30 years, their country has been the object of a foreign invasion, and they are now in danger of losing it entirely. The response of the political class to the demographic crisis, since President Bush floated his Mexican amnesty proposal last summer, has been plain for all to see. The response of the public at large, on the other hand, is anything but plain—one reason among many why the direction and ultimate fate of what Jesse Jackson thinks of as the Old America is hard to foretell.

One of the most dramatic moments in one of the most prophetic events in history occurred within minutes after the Titanic collided with an iceberg off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Summoned to the bridge by...

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