National conservatives need to help create an America that knows who she is, one that can give immigrants more than just a place to get a job—an America that can draw them in, giving them a sense of belonging. This essay is based on remarks delivered at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, DC, on July 15, 2019.
I am an Iraqi immigrant raised within the schizophrenic world of an American public school education and the Iraqi Christian subculture in America. I have moved thirty-four times in my life. Therefore, much of my work—including this essay and my forthcoming book on immigration—is informed by that kind of uprootedness.
“When man is felt to be belittled, when his grandeur seems to be diminished, he himself clings more fervently than ever to his roots and to his habitation.” So wrote the poet Elizabeth Jennings.
At the heart of the current national and international disquiet is an existential homelessness, to borrow a phrase from Josh Mitchell. That is, people don’t know who they are, to whom and where they belong. This is an identity crisis: individually, in that people themselves are having an identity crisis; and collectively, in that the peoples are in an identity crisis.
The link, the tether between the elements that constitute identity and identity as such, is rootedness. And yet modern man boasts that he has transcended the need for roots, that he has transcended the need for nation. But we have not, as we see from the anxiety of people throughout the West, where such modernism has taken root itself.
In this essay, I focus on rootedness. There are those who want to erase it, or discount it, and those who long to re-espouse it. Read the rest of the essay at Public Discourse