Friday, March 31, 2006

Council Winners

This week's Council winners have been chosen.

A well-deserved first-place went to Rick of Rightwing Nuthouse for his piece on the immigration reform debate. It sounds a warning that many have written. And at the same time it wraps the modern story into an earlier one -- coincidentally this debate is happening on the 50th anniversary of the abortive anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary. When the boot came down, some Hungarians escaped.

[T]heir ultimate destination was America – a place as far removed from their experience as the surface of the moon. They had been told that America was an evil place full of grasping capitalists and slavemasters who used workers to enrich themselves while keeping them in abject poverty. But they had also heard whispers that America was a wonderful place where it didn’t matter where you came from or who your father was. And that there was opportunity for those willing to grasp it.

From Austria, the family took a train to Berlin where the father got very nervous when he glimpsed Soviet troops patrolling in the Russian sector. But now under the protection of the Americans, the little family could finally begin to relax. In Berlin, they took another train to Bonn where they were issued a visa and residency documents. After a wait of several weeks, they were able to board a plane for the New World. They arrived in Newark on the 17th of December, 1956, officially welcomed into the United States as legal residents.

Today as I write this 10,000 people, mostly from Mexico, are walking across the border as if it didn’t exist which, of course, it doesn’t. The fact that they are Mexican is irrelevant. The fact that American businesses in their desire to keep wages low will welcome them is irrelevant. What matters is the double standard.

But not only is this a historical tale, it's personal.

The above story is about the family of Zsusanna, the love of my life, who has been in this country now for almost 50 years. For one reason or another – raising her family, being busy with work or one of her many hobbies and causes – she never went through the process to become a citizen. She has now started that process because of what happened yesterday.

Well-crafted piece of writing! For another good look at the issue, from another interesting perspective, check out the second-place finisher in this weeks balloting, by The Education Wonks. As teachers, they were particularly interested in the student protesters, and the prominence of their Mexican flags. And as former residents of Mexico (the wife was born there), they know life on both sides of the border.

We are saddened that the student protestors in California would embrace the Mexican flag. This banner represents a government that cares so little for its own citizens' well-being that it does little or nothing to alleviate the awful living conditions that a large segment of it's own people are condemned to endure.

This despite the fact that Mexico has bountiful fertile land and natural resources (including some of the worlds largest petroleum and natural gas reserves) within its borders.

The scale of corruption found at all levels of the government would simply be mind-boggling to most Americans but is just another fact of life for all of those who live just south of our southern border.

As for Mexico's public school system, class sizes of 50-1 in the elementary grades are relatively common, transportation (such is school busses) is not provided, and children with special needs receive few (if any) services.

Outside the council, the laurels went to the moderate Muslim blogger who goes by eteraz, and who, I gather, has some Philadelphia connection. Yo! If you don't believe there are moderate Muslims, here's one. Would that there were millions more. The post that caught our eye was Open Letter to Reformist Muslims. The blog is called "Unwilling Self-Negation."

It's a beautifully turned bit of prose. It is not directed at me, and probably not at you. It is written to the blogger's co-religionists.

There are men and women in the West who wish to be of assistance to us. So what if they sometimes say things that you find offensive or incorrect. To correct them by way of friendship is much better than to sneer at them. We must judge them, not by their ancestors’ history, but by their love of the oppressed. We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many Mukhtaran Mai? We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many tyranny? We are clear, are we not, that there has been one too many Bin Laden? One too many 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, and Aksari Shrine and Shia massacre and Baha’i jailing and Jew-baiting. One too many Bamiyan Buddhas. One too many novelists accused. One too many suicides. The task ahead will be difficult enough. If, then, there are those who will link their arms with us, we must not hesitate. When the moment of reckoning comes — and there is no reason to believe that time is not now — we will be in need of every able mind, profligate pen, and nervous smile. Do it out of pragmatism, or do it out of love, but do it you must.

All those then, theists, secularists, atheists, deists, refuseniks, peaceniks, Jews, Gentiles, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Philosophers, who wish to walk for humanity: speak up and do not stop speaking. Walk with the believers. There are believers who will walk with you.

The next-highest vote-getter in that category was an excellent piece of work by Joe Katzman, the head honcho at Winds of Change, who shows, in detail and yet lucidly, why the U.S. military's up-armored Hummers are still death traps. He also shows how it could be done better than it has been.

As the bumper sticker says (meaning something quite different), if you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Now you don't have an excuse.