By John Vinson, June 23, 2020
Virginia has taken in lots of immigrants, since I moved here thirty years ago. Many of them end up in the counties adjacent to Washington, D.C. – Fairfax and Arlington. Both are quite multicultural, with people from just about everywhere in the world.
There I’ve seen signs in Spanish, Chinese, and other tongues I couldn’t identify. One night in Fairfax I turned off the road to a lodging where everyone appeared to be Middle Eastern. Had I somehow entered a time-space warp and ended up in Baghdad? Friends in Arlington County tell me that a Mongolian community has taken root there.
Somehow I just couldn’t appreciate the diversity. I know that’s blasphemy against the gods of trendy opinion, but I just couldn’t shake the sense of alienation. Just how much diversity can we handle before everyone becomes a stranger in a strange land? On my trips coming home I didn’t feel like I was back in Virginia until I reached Warrenton which is located about 30 miles from the D.C. beltway.
Along with the clash of cultures, the sheer number of people in Fairfax and Arlington is truly vexing. Both counties are densely populated and covered with asphalt, concrete, and seemingly endless development. The air is dirty, and the traffic is crazy. The tempo of life is rush, rush, rush.
Now I know there are people who thrive in this kind of environment, and that’s fine with me. But I know that there are plenty of us who don’t. I’ve always rejoiced, after my trips to northern Virginia, when I’ve returned to my home in Highland County in northwestern Virginia. Here I enjoy a relaxed pace of life without crowds (except for festivals) and beautiful scenery — meadows, fields, and forested mountains.
One of my friends who grew up in Fairfax County during the fifties said that it was largely rural back then. No doubt it was, but for anyone who’s seen the current Fairfax it’s hard to imagine. Now the development of Fairfax is pushing out into neighboring Loudon County which was largely rural not that long ago.
Is this process going to continue until we end up like India and China with most of us living in high-density urban anthills? The media often tell us that immigration is the most important thing about our national heritage. I beg to disagree. Just one of other key aspects of our heritage is wide-open spaces and the sense of freedom they provide us. The level of mass immigration we have today poses a direct danger to our open spaces.
If present trends continue, our population will add more than 70 million people in the next 30 years. Eighty-two percent of that growth will be due to immigration.
“Oh, don’t worry,” some say, ”we still have huge amounts of undeveloped land, particularly in the West. It will take us a long, long time to fill that up.” Such a claim reveals a profound ignorance of geography. It is the same as saying that China doesn’t really have a problem with overcrowding, because it still has plenty of open space in the Gobi Desert and Tibet. Some land simply isn’t capable of sustaining many people when there’s vast arid plains and high mountains.
The land in American where lots of people want to live is becoming more tightly-packed all the time. India and China are overcrowded, and there’s little they can do about it. We, on the other hand, still have the option and time to choose a different outcome. I understand that some want to continue our tradition of immigration. I propose that we just have less of it, so we can keep our breathing space.
John Vinson is president of the American Immigration Control Foundation.