Sunday, March 19, 2006

Screwed Up?

Almost three years ago, I read a column by Dinesh D’Souza that still often comes to mind. The column resonated so strongly with my own experiences traveling the world as a U.S. Navy sailor, and later as a businessman and vacationer. But most often I think of this column when I hear some American liberal blathering on about how screwed up America is, and how out of whack that is with the fact that most of the people on the planet would sacrifice a limb or two (or an inconvenient relative) for the privilege of living here. D’Souza had a wonderfully illustrative story on point:

From 10 things to celebrate Why I’m an anti-anti-American by Dinesh D’Souza:

Indeed, newcomers to the United States are struck by the amenities enjoyed by “poor” people. This fact was dramatized in the 1980s when CBS television broadcast a documentary, “People Like Us,” intended to show the miseries of the poor during an ongoing recession. The Soviet Union also broadcast the documentary, with a view to embarrassing the Reagan administration. But by the testimony of former Soviet leaders, it had the opposite effect. Ordinary people across the Soviet Union saw that the poorest Americans have TV sets, microwave ovens and cars. They arrived at the same perception that I witnessed in an acquaintance of mine from Bombay who has been unsuccessfully trying to move to the United States. I asked him, “Why are you so eager to come to America?” He replied, “I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

Just once I would love for one of the blame-America-first crowd — right after they get done telling me how the evil corporations, run by nasty cigar-smoking capitalists are exploiting the rest of us, and how the moronic cowboy is killing zillions of innocents, and how we’re so stingy in our aid to the poor and hurting — to explain to me why America has an illegal immigration problem. I mean, we’re such a horrible people and all, why would anyone want to come here legally, much less illegally?

Yesterday I stopped in at Cafe Bravo to pick up a sandwich for my lunch. While I was waiting for my order, I struck up a conversation with a quiet young man, perhaps 30 years old, who was also waiting for his order. He spoke with a thick Arabic accent, and was obviously laboring with his English. With a little probing, I found out that he was born in Syria, joined their army, and got stationed in Lebanon. He’s Muslim, and in Lebanon met the Muslim girl of his dreams. They got married, and had two kids. All his life Ali and his wife had been indoctrinated by their governments and their imams about the evils of western civilization, and America in particular. At the same time, they watched American TV shows depicting ordinary people living in (to them) fantastic luxury, and they occasionally met ordinary Americans — soldiers and travelers — who seemed to them to be nice people. Their government and their imams said they were hearing lies about America, but Ali and his wife weren’t so sure that was true. And when they talked about and worried about their kids' futures, they became convinced that America was where they’d have the most opportunity.

America, land of opportunity. Where have I heard that before?

Ali and his wife somehow got out of Lebanon (he didn’t want to talk about that) and onto Cyprus. From there, they made their way to Italy and then applied for entry into the U.S. After a frustrating 18 months of paperwork and bureaucratic delays, Ali’s family finally was granted the right to come to America. A distant relative — an Iraqi, as it happens — lived near San Diego, and offered to help them get settled, so Ali and his family took a train out here.

That was almost three years ago. I asked Ali how things were going for him, and the most beautiful smile erupted on his face. “I am rich!", he said, and proceeded to tell me how he was able to quickly find work (Ali is a mason, specializing in decorative rock facades), paying him a salary that he still has trouble believing. He has joined a union; his family has medical insurance; his kids go to good schools where they have made many friends and speak English “just like the TV"; he sends money home to his wife’s mother. And best of all, Ali said, they had just purchased a little house of their own, on the outskirts of Santee — something that would never have happened had they stayed in Lebanon, as masons don’t make enough money.

"I am rich!", he said. On a mason’s wages.

Have you ever heard of such an evil, corrupt, horrible place to live?


  1. In the old blog, Anonymous said:
    Just because America is a better place to live than some other countries — with a better standard of living and more opportunies for the poor, doesn’t mean it is faultless and without problems.

  2. In the old blog, SlightlyLoony said:
    I make no claim that America is faultless. My assertion is just that it is NOT the screwed-up place that so many liberals make it out to be. If you listen to what Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, or Hillary Clinton have to say about America, you don’t here “America’s a great place, but we can make it even better!” (a sentiment I would whole-heartedly agree with). Instead you hear continuously about how awful things are now (have you listened to Hillary talk about our economy?), and how they’re about to get much worse (have you heard Ted Kennedy rail about how horrifying school vouchers are?). You also hear continuously how much better things are elsewhere. Just today I read a leading liberal extolling the virtues of the French medical system — and having been there, and used that medical system, all I can say is that the guy is either lying for presumed political advantage or he’s never been to France. And worst of all, in my book, is the reflex blame-America-first reaction to world events that is the hallmark of the modern American liberal. They’re as bad as the Mulsims who rioted over the Danish cartoons — and demanded that America be punished! Notice that nowhere in this do I claim that America is perfect. Criticizing (and reviling) the liberal’s unfair criticism of America is NOT the same thing as claiming that America is perfect…