August 19th, 2012
“On my challenge by the ancient laws of combat we are met on this chosen ground to settle who holds sway over the Five Points: us natives born rightwise to this fine land, or the foreign horde defiling it.” — Bill the Butcher “Go back to your own country. America for Americans!” — another olden-day Tea Partier in the movie
The “Natives” weren’t happy with how immigration law was being enforced
And hence more proactive measures endorsed.
Unfortunately, all that did was create
You’d think we’d have learned something since then,
But here we are doing it all over again.
Here’s the opening (and in my view best) scene from Gangs of New York. The movie’s based loosely on the historic events described in these two books. Careful observers of the movie will notice that many of the key “Dead Rabbit” Irish fighters stayed on in Five Points after their bloody defeat–perhaps Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis’s character), in spite of his fiery exclusionist rhetoric and lethal tactics, implemented a policy of self-deportation, or at least selective deportation enforcement. Or, maybe the “sway” was all he was after in the first place. It’s also notable that many of those reviled Irish immigrants would go on to despise and discriminate against other immigrant groups in turn.