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Books in Brief: Who Is My Neighbor? An Anthology in Natural Relations

Who Is My Neighbor? An Anthology in Natural Relations, by Thomas Achord and Darrell Dow (584 pp., $24.99). The headmaster of a classical Christian school has teamed up with a statistician to collect and sort thousands of quotations pertaining to human relationships from myriad religious, political, and historic figures. The result is an invaluable reference for patriots with an intellectual bent, which shows how nationality, neighborhood, and kinship reflect natural law. The book’s historical quotes and references demonstrate that many of the sentiments now stigmatized as unthinkably “nativist” or “racist” have been taken for granted in every civilization, from classical China to ancient Israel to medieval France.

We discover, for example, Cicero cautioning the resident alien “under no condition to meddle in the politics of a country not his own.” Aristotle warns that “the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution.”

Achord and Dow have also compiled Christian sources from St. Augustine to John Calvin on the subject of man’s ties through kinship, as well as the thoughts of America’s Founding Fathers. His invocation of equality notwithstanding, Thomas Jefferson feared that “the importation of foreigners” would “warp and bias” America, rendering it “a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass,” and so make it “more turbulent, less happy, less strong.” On this question of multiculturalism, at least, the sage of Monticello and his nemesis, Alexander  Hamilton, could agree. “The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound,” Hamilton said, “to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities.” George Washington counseled his countrymen “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world” and to have “as little political connection as possible” with other nations.

Perhaps the most bitterly amusing and ironic quotes come from 20th century Democrats, who assured critics the Immigration Act of 1965 would “not upset the ethnic mix of our society,” as Senator Edward Kennedy soothingly put it. Nowadays it is forbidden to observe how wrong (or dishonest) Kennedy was, much less to frankly discuss the implications of our society’s ongoing ethnic transformation. It is to be hoped that through works like Who Is My Neighbor? at least a few people attain some idea of what the much-abused word community actually means.

Jerry D. Salyer

Jerry D. Salyer writes from Louisville, Kentucky.

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