Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heads, You Win...

Imagine you live in a land where corruption is rampant. I'm not talking about someone 'forgetting' to report a small present they may have received from a supporter, inappropriate campaign donations or another NCAA booster gone wild.

I'm talking about politicians who plunder their nations' coffers, putting millions of dollars in their own off-shore accounts. Rulers who treat entire nations as their own petty cash fund, and the citizens as slave labor at best. Places where people starve to death because all the food aid is being taken by the military or whichever faction/warlord currently controls their area.

I'm talking about police forces who will torture or kill you at the whim of the rich and powerful (because you belong to a different religion/political party/tribe); where the only surety is that if the cops come a-knockin', you'd better have a hidey-hole or escape route. Places where the military, an organization intended and organized to wage war, is used as a police force (something they are singularly unsuccessful at).

In such places as these, the US is seen as the land of opportunity, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the land of freedom. And despite whatever faults it may have, for many immigrants it is just that.

Many people have come from other countries and built good lives for themselves; in many cases, lives a quantum leap better than anything possible in their homelands. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's family fled Czechoslovakia after the communist takeover. Einstein left Germany after fellow scientists expressed fears for his safety from the burgeoning Nazi movement. US Congressman Tom Lantos escaped a forced-labor camp in Hungary.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!...
...Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

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