Another Casualty of the War on Terrorism
Posted by Mary
When I think about all the casualties of the war on terrorism and 9/11, I think about our freedoms (the ones we are losing to John Ashcroft's paranoia and the ones Bush said were the reason the terrorists hated us) - like the freedom to peacefully assemble, our right to due process, and our right to privacy (where the government doesn't know every library book I check out and doesn't care). Then I think of our alliances that we cultivated for over 50 years and how we have now trampled our treaties and the trust that allowed us to work with our allies to make a better world.
Yet another casualty that hurts is the loss of my own personal version of the American dream. For me, the American dream was reflected in the fact that this country was always seen as one of the greatest experiments on earth - a country where bright, hard-working and opportunity-seeking people came to work and strive and especially those that decided to become citizens because they believed in the values documented in the Constitution. Being a citizen of our country doesn't mean having the right race or ethnic background or having property - it means subscribing to our ideals which are ensconced in the Constitution. Our country has been an experiment in broadening who was included in the "we". And the "we" includes women, immigrants who became citizens, American Indian, African Americans, Hispanics, Irish, Italian, Japanese, etc. as well as those original British settlers. And as we broadened the definition of the "we", we became a much richer country in all ways that count. The world's best and brightest came to the US to work and to study and many of them decided to stay. And personally, I've been blessed to work with so many people from all over the world and to become friends with some and even to witness and celebrate as some of my friends become citizens of our country.
Two stories today show me that this dream is one of the casulties of our war on terrorism. Natasha, my blogging partner for Pacific Views, has a story today about how even artists and entertainers are being harrassed and/or denied visas for coming into the USA. Unfortunately this doesn't surprise me because the rigid right wingers do not appreciate or want art from other traditions or countries to pollute their environment and I bet they don't want our own art or artists either.
The second story was the number of H1-B visas for this year was being cut back from 195,000 to 65,000. This might appear to be good politics, yet, I think there are some real problems in this move. In my experience, the H1-B visas have always been one of the best ways to bring in the best and brightest. To cut back their use here means that applicants for these visa will stay home and might increase the movement of good IT jobs from here to their home country. Instead of attracting the best and brightest here to help us build our economy (and our society), we are helping them build the organizations and systems that ultimately drain these jobs from here. I'd love to see other countries build strong, vibrant economies that really use the talents of their citizens, but we need to do this too. And I believe that our country is going to lose as much if we shut out the enormous talent and optimism that comes through immigration as we would if we ignored the need to develop our own talent by providing the education and opportunity for those who are already here.