A look at immigration from the 5th century to Trump

The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

— Hawaii state motto.

Let us look at some pre-dark-ages immigration analogies from the fifth century to the current Trump-caused mess. Thomas Cahill, in his fascinating book, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, writes: “To the Romans, the German tribes were riffraff; to the Germans, the Roman side of the river was the place to be. The nearest we can come to understanding this divide may be the spit-and-polish troops are immigration police; the Germanic hordes are the Mexicans, Haitians, and other dispossessed peoples seeking illegal entry.”

Our current immigration woes are one thing; let us examine another cultural divide. “Looking back from the great civilizations of the twelve-century France or seventh-century Rome, it is hard to believe that for quite a long time — almost a hundred years — Christianity survived by clinging to lonely, isolated places along the Irish coast.”

One of my clumsy poesy (cum history notes) efforts follows:

Voice of the Irish

Once in a land outside of time

Irish warriors attacked their foes

Nude but for sandals, sword and shield,

Howling as demons, urged by skirls.

A third-rate country on the edge of Europe,

Murderously dispatching prisoners of war

Until St. Patrick opined, “Not necessary,

Lord Jesus Christ has taken care of all that.”

Visited by neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment,

This tribe of Celtic/Catholic monks

Transmuted pagan loyalty, courage, generosity

Into Christian faith, hope, charity.

The fleetingness of life was known:

How pointless to hold on to things or thoughts

When one can choose the wondrous deed,

The heroic gesture, the greatest act.

All truths are only our truths because

We bring to them our dreams and wishes:

We merge our myths with facts

According to our feelings.

This poem is dedicated to Owen Morgan Slain, born June 22, 2013, a true Irish lad.

Note to poem.

In the Western world the antiquity of Irish lineages is exceeded only by that of the Jews.

Quotes re poem.

“The Irish are the only people who cannot be helped by psychoanalysis.” -– Freud.

“To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.” –- Anonymous.

“The Irish hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain race shows no sympathy with the English character.” — Disraeli

Back to Kauai: Whatever happened to sugar cane? People once believed Hawaii has the ideal climate for sugar cane because it is sunny and warm without being uncomfortably hot. Plus the islands are in a trade wind zone where winds blow much of the time from northeast to southwest. These trade winds, which pick up moisture as they travel over the ocean, hit their first land in thousands of miles when they reach Hawaii. So cool to think about that! Hawaii supplied about one-tenth of the sugar used in the United States back in 1980. Nowadays, ah dona know.

Here are two of my favorite quotes, having nothing to do with Kauai’s variously challenged carrying capacities. I just want to share. You have probably seen the first one before.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; there we must be saved by love.”

— Reinhold Niebuhr.

“Friendship is the shadow of the evening, which strengthens with the setting sun of life.”

— La Fontaine.

Finally, as a child guru in Kathmandu once chanted on the roof of the Monkey Temple near the city’s river to a group German and French backpackers (plus me) all holding hands in a circle, after acknowledging the huge suffering of so much of mankind, here is what he urged us to keep in mind:

“Acknowledge all the suffering of so many others, but remember to enjoy your precious, precious lives and to beeeeeeee happy.”


Douglas Slain is a retired law publisher. He holds a master’s degree from the Social Thought Committee at the University of Chicago and a juris doctorate from Stanford Law School, where he taught as n adjunct clinical law professor. He is a Kapaa resident. His audio books are available at audible.com.

  1. Just Saying March 3, 2018 3:48 am Reply

    What a tasty morsel.

    However, Douglas Slain should be a book title. It has the same ring as Atlas Shrugged!

  2. Stan Lake March 3, 2018 7:43 am Reply

    One word. Disjointed. A look at immigration from the 5th century to Trump springs off the Hawaiian state motto to ancient Ireland, to the survival of Christianity to a poem to “Whatever happened to sugar cane?” to lamenting that nothing positive we do is realized in our lifetime and we end up on the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. Say what? Find a thought, any thought and focus. Then maybe you can move onto a theme. Bring them into alignment and draw a well reasoned conclusion. I’m sure the author has much wisdom to share, it’s just hard to find once it’s gone through the blender.

  3. Steve Martin March 3, 2018 9:54 am Reply

    Thank you mr. Slain… You have done me a big favor. Once I hit the middle of your first paragraph and you had to disrespect our president it saved me wasting anymore of my time reading the rest of your gibberish crap. From now on when I see anything written from you I can just trash it and move on to something that makes far more sense.

    1. Just Saying March 7, 2018 2:16 pm Reply

      Get over it Steve! In case you haven’t noticed, most of the known world is disrespecting your president!

  4. Stan Lake March 3, 2018 2:36 pm Reply

    Regarding immigration, I don’t think Trump has made a mess of it. Sure, it could work a lot better but I like the idea of a merit based system. Let those in who can make a positive contribution not just because we are generous with free goodies. Generations ago when people streamed through Ellis island they never expected to get free money, food, housing or medical care, they just wanted a chance at a better life. We can’t afford to properly care for our own veterans and elderly much less every destitute foreigner that wants us to care for them. Also, generations ago we never had to worry about people who wanted to enter this country solely for the purpose of destroying it or causing the maximum amount of damage, mischief and terrorism possible. Would you let anyone from a crowd of strangers into your home knowing there were a few unknown individuals that meant you harm? I think vetting is a good thing.

  5. Just Saying March 7, 2018 2:42 pm Reply

    Stan Lake wants vetting and potential contribution! How does this sound Stan? In 2010 the UN vetted a list of 20,000 refugees living in one of their five Middle East and Egypt refugee camps. These consisted of families, mostly middle class, and having a family member in a profession. The USA cut that list to 10,000 after two years of interviews by teams from the FBI, CIA, Defense Dept, State Dept., and Homeland Security. Two to three years ago the first of a a few thousand on the list began to trickle in. They had to be still living in the camps, have sponsors arranging employment and housing in the USA, and for an airline ticket or sign a promissory note.
    None of the young males Stan saw getting off inflatable boats in Greece or tramping across Hungary are eligible to apply for refugee status in the USA.
    No terrorist activity has ever been committed by a person who gained entry to the USA with refugee status.
    This system has been in place for nearly 20 years. The reason Stan Lake wants to see “vetting” is because he had no knowledge of any of this!

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