Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tories, Chapter 2

I have noticed that liberals commentors on my last piece did not bother to read it. For the next few weeks these pieces will be similar autobiographical essays. If your attention span isn't up to the job, you have my permission to go away.
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Thursday, September 1 was the night of the year’s second Tory debate. The Resolution: Give us your huddled masses. (We were to debate the efficacy of continuing to allow immigration).

I had examined my schedule earlier in the day and determined that I would likely have to miss approximately the first half-hour of the debate – all Calhoun freshmen would be attending a mandatory meeting on alcohol, drugs, and such similarly perverse subjects.

I intended to be properly dressed for debate this time, so I put on a tie and jacket before going heading over to Linsly-Chittenden Hall for the freshman meeting. I would thus be able to rush over to the Tories as soon as the safety spiel was over.

As the best-dressed Calhoun freshman, I sat next to one of my roommates in a classroom with about 50 other students. I listened with marked disgust to the various points made by the speakers (which I prefer not to enumerate). It was about half-way through the meeting that I decided I had had enough – I simply grabbed my jacket, got up, and walked out. As I went down the three flights of stairs I bore in mind that I was required to be in the meeting (although the repercussions for not attending were not clear). I therefore half-anticipated someone stopping me and sending me back up, or at the very least threatening me with some harm to my academic record. As luck would have it, I looked much more like an instructor than a student in my suit, and thus had no trouble getting out of the building.

I headed straight for the debate, which was to be held nearby in the Saybrook College Athenaeum Room, and showed up with fifteen minutes to spare. I was welcomed by various Tories, whom I recognized (and who recognized me!) I was, of course, complimented on my snappy and appropriate attire.

I noticed the absence of a few Tories I had seen at the previous debate, and the presence of some with whom I was unfamiliar. I also noticed (as I kept track during the evening) that I was the only freshman there for any substantial amount of time – probably because many were still in their various meetings. In total we were a little short of twenty people at the start.

I admired my surroundings – the Athenaeum Room was slightly smaller than Dwight Library where the last debate had been held. The room was oak-paneled from top to bottom, with beautifully carved panels surrounding and above the fireplace and all the little touches of a noble English common room. In front of the fireplace were the two chairs for the chairman and secretary placed on either side of a low table on which the Tory flag, sword (such as it was), and plaque were set up. Two upright pianos guarded opposing ends of the room. A pair of couches and a few chairs were placed at the edges of the much-paced-upon rug. A bench (also in oak) ran the length of the back wall.

I spent most of the pre-debate evening in conversation with the sometime chairman who had been at Oxford last year, with another longstanding Tory from last week’s debate, and with a graduate student who was an oriental Englisher (with a lovely accent) and who was, above all, a Tory as well. We discussed the upcoming debate slightly, explaining not much more than what our intended positions were. We talked mostly about various random subjects – the construction work being done on Trumbull College across the street for instance. I managed to learn from the Englisher that he was a devotee of the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister television series (as am I) and he suggested that we might be able to arrange another of our Tory Movie Nights (a tradition that had fallen into desuetude) for the screening of some select episodes.

After I had had a few drinks (of coke) the chairman took his place and asked us to do the same. It was 7:35. The debate began as it had last time with the reading of the minutes. The secretary (a pretty, redheaded upperclassman with a green blouse) read our last resolution and her notes on each speech, noting which were freshmen’s maiden attempts. Following the minutes, there were a number of emendations to the record, including one that softened last week’s faithfully recorded decision (taken in the heat of comedy) that the provost was in fact not a gentleman.

The secretary read the resolution, “Give us your huddled masses,” and the chairman recognized the first speaker in the affirmative, the former chairman. I myself planned to support the affirmative, and agreed with the former chairman’s points. This was in particular interesting because he and I had been on opposite sides of the debate last week. As it would turn out, several Tories from last week’s opposition were now in agreement with me (and the reverse was true as well). It is also the case the Tories will often address pointed questions to members who speak in agreement with them, simply through a desire to reach to the bottom of the question.

I had come to the debate without definite plans for a speech – I figured that if I had anything to say, the opportunity would once again present itself and I would say it. As the former chairman spoke, I began to think of what my speech might sound like should I choose to make it. I had prepared for the debate by reading a half-dozen articles on immigration, but they dealt mostly with the Mexico situation. The question before us tonight was whether we should continue to allow immigration, and to continue to request other nations’ huddled masses to find their way to us. Once again, the resolution succeeded in splitting Tory opinion.

Fortunately the former chairman finished his speech without making any points that I disagreed with. He was asked a number of questions, but there was nothing to seriously challenge our point of view (though I felt it still needed further explanation).

The first speaker in the negative was the provost, who, with restored gentleman status, made a rather unusual argument. He suggested that we should not allow immigration because our own resources were limited and immigrants would make us run into those limits sooner. He paced the floor in a very slightly pigeon-toed manner, making various comments on the water supply and the quick erosion of topsoil in America’s breadbasket. It was a somewhat strange point of view, and I decided that I would make a quick counterargument in a speech later in the evening.

The next speaker in the affirmative was a Tory of longstanding who argued on the basis of our labor needs. She explained that she had recently tried to get a small wall built outside her New York house, and had been informed by a contractor that the price for such a job would amount to approximately one-half the value of her property. She was fortunately able to find an industrious (legal) immigrant who was able to complete the job for her quickly, expertly, and cheaply, which was something no native-born American seemed had seemed willing to do for her. She yielded the floor for questions and was asked if it wouldn’t have been better to give the job to an American, even at a higher price. This was, of course, identified as a socialistic an unacceptable approach. The series of questions expanded on this arbitrary theme – it was asked if it would not have been better to pay the higher price to an American, who could then have afforded to pay another American a higher price to paint his house. Having gotten (as the chairman reminded us) somewhat far away from the philosophical point, the last question was asked and we were able to move onto the next speaker in the negative.

The chief whip, who had been on my side the last time, was recognized by the chair as a speaker in opposition and proceeded to give one of the most interesting speeches of the evening. He worried that we were becoming too weak a nation, through political correctness. We avoided such things as racial profiling to satisfy an abstract (and incorrect) sense of righteousness, and that this made us open to cultural disintegration and perhaps even a takeover by a stronger, infiltrating outside culture. I agreed with all of this, but our solutions were different. He felt that the problem was too great and that there were too many legal holes in our policy; the only thing to do would be to close our borders and start from scratch.

I had asked a number of questions throughout the evening, and was simultaneously preparing a speech, which I now planned to give after the chief whip had concluded his question session. I had decided to make three basic points, which I ran over again and again in my head to make sure that I would not forget the flow of my speech once I was in the process of giving it. I even thought up a good joke to stick in the last point, and arranged the exact words in advance.

The chief whip finished. I volunteered myself for the next speech in the affirmative and was recognized. My speech was very quick, and ran like this:

“First, I would like to remind every American in this room that he is himself an immigrant, or is related to someone who saw America’s promise, and grabbed at it, and was allowed to enter America. I cannot in good conscience deny the privilege that I was allowed to enjoy to another man simply on grounds of his having been born too late in history.

“The provost has said that allowing continued immigration will only make us exhaust our resources more quickly. This may be true. But as an American I am proud to say, ‘what I have is yours to share. Come and share my freedom, my liberties, and even my food.’

“An interesting point in Judaism is the statement that a convert is dearer to God than a natural-born Jew, by virtue of the fact that he had to make a conscious decision to become Jewish that the natural-born Jew did not. I know that there are many Americans who hate America, and do not value our liberties (mostly members of the Progressive Party, I believe). I would rather have an immigrant who actually wants to be here in America than, say, a Progressive; he understands America better, and will work for America.”

I yielded the floor for questions, and was asked by the former chairman if I could tell him where the line between liberties and security was drawn. I simply told him that I could not (it wasn’t the height of rhetorical brilliance, but certainly the most direct answer of the evening).

My answers to the remaining questions were more thoughtful, and I continued to underline the basic point of America’s tradition (something very dear to a Tory) of receiving the world’s huddled masses and allowing them to share our freedoms. After I was through the chief whip came over to tell me that my speech actually made sense, and that he found we were indeed in basic agreement (nevertheless, he still planned vote in the negative).

There were several more speeches to made that evening – among them one in the negative by a longstanding Tory that really turned out to be in the affirmative, and one by an interesting visiting member of the POR, who said that he had arrived intending to speak in the affirmative, but that the wording “give us your huddled masses” made it seem as if we were inviting all the world’s huddled masses to be indiscriminately thrust upon us.

“Would the gentleman feel better if he considered the fact that the poem also contains the words ‘yearning to breath free’?” I asked him.

“Yes I would,” he replied.

At length, our chairman decided to take a speech in the affirmative. He handed the gavel over to our Oxforidan sometime chairman, and the secretary in turn handed her notebook to a temporary replacement. The chairman made an eloquent and brilliant speech in which he pointed out (better than I had) the advantage of America’s freedoms that could not be found anywhere else. We are the only country capable of extending such an offer to the world’s tired, poor, tempest-tost huddled masses. We thus have a duty to keep that offer intact.

The final speech of the evening was given in the negative by the Englisher, who argued that it was better to close our borders for the purpose of exporting our jobs and our culture overseas. I did not believe that our culture was best spread in that manner (and, if it was no longer America’s open-armed society, would it still be worth spreading?) I asked the speaker if he did not concede that there were certain jobs that Americans would continue to refuse to fill, and was it not better that these jobs be filled in America, so that the workers can pay taxes here and directly soak up our culture? He replied that while that was certainly an important point, it was better to move our culture outwards to other nations.

That having been the final speech of the evening, the chairman (who had spent the speech as part of the audience) returned to his official seat and the gavel was returned to him. He asked our sergeant of arms to divide the room for a vote.

The sergeant of arms picked up our “sword” and faced the room. “What can I do with this small sword? I will divide the room into the Mayflowerians and the later immigrants. Those in the affirmative on the right, those in the negative on the left, and those abstaining in the middle.”

Everyone took his appropriate stand and the votes were tallied: eight in the affirmative, five in the negative with two abstentions. The vote was recorded and the resolution signified as being passed with a rap of the gavel. Finally, the chair made a motion to close the debate, which was seconded and passed, and the chairman announced that we would now adjourn to Yorkside Pizzeria and all the Tories added in unison “as is traditional.” It was now after 10:30.

After some post-debate conversation in the Athenaeum Room, there were about eight Tories remaining for our traditional late-night snack. The chairman commanded “To Yorkside!” (a number of times before we were finally on our way). I had offered to carry our logbooks and the box containing the Tory paraphernalia for the secretary and was accepted (it’s part of a gentleman’s job, after all).

The chairman told me on the way over that he had enjoyed my speech, and it seemed as if I grasped the parliamentary debate format quite naturally. I attributed this to the Yes Minister series and a set of LP recordings of Churchill’s speeches that I was fond of listening to.

We arrived at Yorkside in a couple of minutes and some tables were pushed together for us in the back. I spend the rest of the evening in a comfortable firearms-related discussion with the chairman who sat opposite me. He had shot skeet in high school but had also failed to find shooting sports at Yale, and I suggested that if there was indeed no way to shoot around here it might be a good idea to arrange a Tory daytrip to my own shooting club, not far from campus. I tried valiantly to finish my tasty but oversized milkshake, but it proved a hopeless case (besides, having a milkshake after eleven o’clock when one has classes in the morning can only be regarded as sheer folly). The conversation occasionally adopted a more academic flavor, when we switched to discussion of the well-known Directed Studies program (an intense study of the Western cannon) but soon we moved to engineering, then to Legos and finally back to guns again.

The evening drew to a close when the check showed up (and I was allowed to participate in paying the bill this time). I shook hands once more with the remaining Tories and said goodnight – I would meet them again the next day for their weekly lunch at Mory’s.

2 Comments:

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Janelle said...

That's interesting. I listened in on a discussion about Immigration in my AP Comp class today. A close aqquaintance of mine came here from Argentina about 8 years ago. Though she isn't quite sure about her citizenship (she can't remember when she got it), she is very certain about being American. And as a little aside, my best friends mother also came from Argentina. She recieved her citizenship, went to med school and is now a physciatrist and on the head committee of a local Republican chapter. Yes, the American dream does exist, even here in California. ;)

BTW-- so are you going to support those C.R.A.Z.Y canadians?

 
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