Tag: Guatemala

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.

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Rearview Mirror

It is an axiom that no culture can look upon its sins objectively without flinching. Actually, I just made that up, but it certainly sounds axiomatic to me.

For example, here in the United States, we went decades before admitting that putting Japanese Americans in camps during World War II was a bad idea. And that was positively light speed compared to how long it took us to apologize for slavery or to acknowledge that we weren’t exactly nice to the Native Americans.

Before we beat up too much on the USA, keep in mind that nations such as Germany, Turkey, and China all have trouble acknowledging that at some point in the past, they kind of, sort of, did some unpleasant things.

That’s why it’s fascinating that Guatemala is the first nation “in the Americas to prosecute a former head of state, in its own domestic courts, for the ultimate crime.”

The crime is genocide, and the defendant is former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose forces wiped out whole villages when he was in power during the 1980s.

The outcome of the trail, of course, is of great interest to Guatemalans in the United States, many of whom fled here during Efraín Ríos Montt’s reign of terror.

On a larger scale, however, the trail shows how it’s never too late for a nation to face its past, no matter how unpleasant the process.

 


Imm & Imm

My mother came to America from El Salvador. My paternal grandparents came from Europe. All emigrated legally, which is the essence of the American experience – huddled masses yearning to be free, and all that.

However, in the eyes of many Americans, my mother and grandparents were selfish and immoral. After all, whenever a debate starts up about immigration, it’s just a matter of time before someone says, “They need to stay and fix their own countries instead of coming here.”

The implication is that people have an ethical obligation to remain in their homelands rather than try to improve their own lives. Of course, none of the Americans saying this have ancestors who took that advice. As soon as Ireland ran a little low on potatoes, for example, lots of people said, “See ya,” rather than stick around for the sake of rescuing Belfast.

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