Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chuck Norris Doesn't Scare Me One Little Bit

One of the many viral threads in our society is the "Chuck Norris" thing. You know, that particular thread of humor that makes a statement in which Chuck Norris is revealed as the world's most fearsome individual. Stuff like:
There is no theory of evolution, only animals Chuck Norris allowed to live.
When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he's not pushing himself up. He's pushing the earth down.
Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares at them until he gets the information he wants.
I was reminded of the truth of this last one when I read Chuck's regular column in yesterday. In addition to being a karate champ thirty years ago, the star of some of the crappiest movies of all time and some epically camp broadcast television, and being considered the world's most kick-butt humanoid, Chuck also happens to be an ultra-right-wing commentator. In that way, he's a bit like David Hasselhoff, if David Hasselhoff was a fascist.

Norris is, perhaps unsurprisingly, eager to see the laws of the land enforced with extreme prejudice. This is particularly true when it comes to the Arizona immigration laws that have caused so much commotion among everyone who isn't as lily-white as my bad self.
In his column supporting the efforts behind that law, what was most striking was his argument that we should settle this matter by going back to what the founding fathers did about immigration and naturalization. There is no reference here to huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Instead, Chuck goes back to 1795, and to the Naturalization Act of 1795 in particular. Here in the Wisdom of Our Founding Fathers (tm), says The Chuck, is the model for how America should deal with immigrants. Two things make this Act of Congress a rather interesting choice.
First, the Naturalization Act of 1795, which you can read right here, permits citizenship for people dwelling in the United States who have been here at least five years and are willing to renounce the sovereignty of their place of birth. Nothing about "being here legally," because, well, there weren't any laws governing entry into the United States before the United States existed. If you stuck around and honestly wanted to be American, you were basically good to go. Period. I'm down with that, although I'm not quite sure Chuck's audience is quite so amenable to that option.

Second, there's a wee little nuance to the Naturalization Act of 1795, one that Chuck might have overlooked when he was staring at it with that fearsome stare of his. The Act begins:
"BE it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or any of them, on the following conditions..."
I'm not quite sure that the requirement that you be a "free white person" to be a citizen of this nation represents the kind of Wisdom of Our Founding Fathers(tm) that The Chuck really wants to be referencing.

Ah, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck. When you're citing something, it always helps to have read the text itself, rather than the talking points that have been culled out by some inside-the-beltway think tank. A man's got to know his limitations.