There Is No Cat

Hollering into the void since 2002

Friday, February 28, 2003

Our reply was "no"

I had an incredibly depressing conversation with one of my co-workers today.

My friend is from a small country in southern Asia. He's been in the U.S. for about ten years. He got his bachelor's and master's degrees from American universities, and is now here working on an H-1B visa. He had been trying to get his green card. I'd been struck since I met him at how much he had bought into American culture, successfully assimilating. As he was saying today, he's always felt accepted here as an individual. He was telling me that when he was back home, his friends all asked him why he wanted to come to America. There were so many other countries he could go to, after all. But my friend wanted to come here and no place else, because only in America could he actually become an American and feel like he was accepted as an American.

No longer.

My friend was supposed to be going home to get married in a week or two. He would have left earlier this week. But thanks to new policies by the American government, he's had to postpone his wedding. If he leaves the country, he has no assurance that he'll be able to re-enter. From within the country, he can't get a visa that would enable him to return, despite the fact that he's been here ten years and been a model resident the entire time. If he goes home, chances are he would have to wait six months to get a visa to return, if he gets one at all. That's simply not feasible for a man with car payments and a lease on an apartment. Remember, too, that this is a man with authorization to be here to work. He works here now! Coming back here to get his Ph.D is out of the question; not a single male from his country has been awarded a student visa in over a year. One friend of his had been accepted to an American university recently, but couldn't get a visa; he wound up going instead to Australia to get his degree.

My friend's country has been identified as one from which all males resident in the U.S. must register with the government and be fingerprinted. That identification is somewhat dubious; even the American ambassador in the country said that Washington had made a mistake and should reconsider. My friend is a man America should be proud to call one of its own. He's brilliant, hard-working, and he believes in what made this country great. But because of the indiscriminate manner in which the government has reacted to the attacks of 9/11, dehumanizing people who have lived here for years and bought into the American myth, my friend is now bitter about the way in which America does not live up to its promises. He's been placed in a box from which he can't escape through no fault of his own. He may now be leaving America anyway.

America is unique in the sense that we were founded on ideals rather than on shared geography or ethnicity. Our promise is that if you come here, you too can have an opportunity to fulfill your destiny. There are no promises, just potential; no guarantees, just a chance.

But even this chance is being denied to people just because of where they're from, with no explanation, no consideration of an extended history of valuable contribution to our society and our economy, and no recourse to challenge dubious decisions.

America is a country of immigrants. The steady flow of newcomers has enriched our culture. I look at the area I live in and the changes that have occurred here in the past 25 years, and I can't imagine life without them now. We have restaurants, grocery stores, radio programs and the like that just wouldn't have been possible before. Our history is not unblemished; at various times, we've discriminated against Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Italians, eastern Europeans, and Irish, among others. But all of these communities are accepted as Americans now.

So many countries do not offer the opportunity to become an accepted part of that country. In Germany, there are Turks who are of the second and third generations in their families to live in Germany, but they have not been able to become citizens and be accepted. Another of my co-workers lived in France for over ten years. He came to America because he felt that if he lived in France for the rest of his life, he would still never be considered French, but in America, he could become an American, and has. Chinese communities throughout Asia maintain their identities at least partly because it is not possible to assimilate into the mainstream cultures in which they live. The descendents of German settlers brought to Ukraine and Russia are still considered Germans after hundreds of years, even after they have lost the language. America is supposed to stand in stark contrast to all that.

"Please take me as one of your own, America." That's what my friend said.

Our reply was "no."

That's my friend's loss. It's also our loss. We should be ashamed of what's happening to America and its ideals.

Posted at 7:02 PM

Comments

Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

Bravo, very well said.

Posted by markj at 8:30 PM, February 28, 2003 [Link]

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This site is copyright © 2002-2017, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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