I am writing a piece refuting some of the pseudo-Christian arguments against restricting immigration. Much of the evidence I had previously collected for the chapter of my never-ending book project, but I had been looking more closely at some of Pope Francis’ naive statements and comparing them with the misleading entry in the Cathechism, which perversely puts the right of workers to immigrate in search of a better job as a corollary to the Fourth Commandment. Go figure.
It occurred to me, as it has many times in the past, that humanitarians are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own people in order to help aliens who may be indolent, vicious, criminal, or hostile to the way of life of the country where he arrives seeking “asylum.” I thought of the fable of the hedgehog and the rabbits, used by Carol Gilligan and her disciples in their “research” on the morality of adolescent girls. I use quotations because the feminist project of Gilligan and co. was really to talk the girls out of whatever wholesome values they had imbibed from their families and replace them with leftist universalism.
In her version of the fable, a hedgehog comes to the rabbits’ burrow seeking help and when he recovers he accidentally pricks some of the bunnies. What should they do? The normal response is to say, the rabbits should throw out the intruder. After all, it is their home, isn’t it? O no, cry the feminists. They should learn the virtue of sharing.
As I sketched in a reference to the fable, it occurred to me that I had not come across it in Aesop, La Fontaine, or the Brothers Grimm. The least I should do is to look it up. What I found was a collection of clever fables by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian. You can read a rather inadequate and leaden translation here or if your French is adequate the rather witty original here.
If you are too lazy to read either, then let me summarize the main point for you. The hedgehog of Florian’s fable is not an injured or helpless creature but an asylum-seeker who has been kicked out by his own people because of his mischief. He comes to the rabbits breathing fire against his former friends, and the gullible bunnies take him in, feed him dinner, and offer to adopt him into their community of peace and friendship. However, after supper the rabbits reassemble to talk about their business—which consists mainly of gathering and eating wild thyme—when out of the blue the hedgehog shoots a quill at one of the children. The father protests, but the hedgehog lets off a barrage of quills at the rabbits, who surround him and complain. His answer is that he is sorry, but he cannot change his nature. The chief rabbit tells him if he cannot behave, then he can go off and have his quills clipped.
“‘Ma foi’, dit le doyen, “‘en ce cas, mon ami,
Tu peux aller te faire tondre.’”
So there it is: On the eve of the French Revolution, one of the victims of the humanitarian terror—Thermidore sprang him from jail but he died from abuse in a short time—explode’s the myth of the asylum-seeker (France was full of such people) and defended the right and duty of peaceful people to defend their homes.
All this recalls the parody song sung by the Yale Party of the Right, back when there were right-wingers in America instead of American Conservatives:
This land is my land
It isn't your land
If you don't get off
I'll blow your head off!
I've got a shotgun
And you ain't got one!
This land was made for only me!
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.