Tag: Afghanistan

#MoreThanALabel

Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

carnival-1

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

However, my mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get?

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. Again, I’m not saying that. It would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.

 


Exploitation, Melodrama, and More

My cousin (Cousin #6)  is one of the more than 83,000 immigrants who have become citizens since the September 11 attacks by embracing “a wartime edict to entice immigrants to join the military in exchange for rapid naturalization.”

The program has its critics. Some claim allowing non-citizens to enlist in the military “injects the armed forces with an increased security risk” and is “just like the Roman Empire, not to get too melodramatic about it.”

melodrama_7456

Yes, the last thing we want in any discussion about immigration is melodrama. After all, the debate has been nothing but calm, logical, and respectful to this point.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Cousin #6

He has regaled us with tales of his paratrooper jumps and told us about digging shrapnel out of people and mentioned the tense brushes he’s had with hostile citizens of foreign countries. Of all of the members of my family, he has seen the most of the world – although much of it was through the prism of humanity at its worst.

Cousin #6 came to America as a child. He didn’t become a citizen until his second tour of duty in Iraq. His paperwork was lost twice, and when he reapplied a third time, he was told to report to the county courthouse for the exam.

“But I’m in Iraq,” he said to the civil servant at the other end of the very long-distance phone call. “I can’t make it to the courthouse.”

Strangely enough, Cousin #6 believed that getting shot at in the service of one’s country was adequate proof of his patriotism. But he was initially told that this was insufficient, and it took my mother’s intervention, and the connections she had in local government, for him to receive his citizenship.

A few years ago, Cousin #6 married a fellow soldier. I mean no disrespect to her military background when I say that she is truly adorable. His wife calls him on his newfound cockiness and the swagger that he has developed in adulthood, insisting that one reason she feel for him was his awkward charm.

“When we met, he was such a dork,” she says, and they both laugh.

I remember him as less of a dork and more of a hesitant presence. As a child, he didn’t project the quiet intensity of his brother, Cousin #3, or the charisma of his fellow troublemaker, Cousin #7. Instead, he came across as a boy who wasn’t quite sure of his potential. He had a mischievous steak, to be sure, but he seemed unwilling to call too much attention to himself, and thus avoided serious trouble.

He has caused us sufficient concern, however, in the subsequent years with his overseas postings. While no fan of the men who sent him to Iraq, he remains dedicated to the Army itself. A band of tags around his wrist serves as a memento of his friend who was killed in Iraq. Cousin #6 has no plans to put the item into storage.

After multiple tours of Iraq, he enjoyed a “vacation” in Afghanistan. Although he and his wife recently had a daughter, he is heading back to that godforsaken country as part of the latest surge. We all hope that he returns safely and never has to be shipped to another war zone.

If he does get deployed somewhere else, however, we all know that he will continue to be a great representative of our nation overseas. And of course, he carries our country’s best qualities with him always.


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