Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Americans are supposed to be better and different

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Americans are supposed to be better and different
By Ray Hanania

America defines itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Yet when you challenge American policies, many Americans respond defensively arguing, “Well, they do that and worse in other countries.”

For example, when Muslims try to convert Christians in the United States, critics of the practice argue that their opposition is justified because “they have the same kind of ban in Saudi Arabia where Christians are prohibited from missionary work.”

But is that a good defense? We do it, but they do it worse?

There is a massive wave of new Americanism spreading throughout the United States. It has to do with several factors: fear of Muslims and a misunderstanding of Islam; the fact that many of the terrorists attacking Western targets are Muslim; the swell of illegal immigration from Mexico; growing rightwing extremism that promotes isolation from the rest of the international world.

And it’s not just in Arizona, where a good idea was bastardized into a political football by a Republican Governor who needs it to get elected.

Arizona has a huge illegal immigration problem. But the answer isn’t to single out Hispanic looking people and ask them to produce citizenship papers. That suggests that all Caucasians are citizens, which is not true, though the real problem is the drug war in Mexico that is spilling over in to our borders.

The problem also is that when police stop people for violations, they have to assume they are citizens. They ticket them and the illegal immigrants run back across the border. But if police could ask everyone the same question – produce proof of citizenship – Hispanic, brown skin or Caucasion, white skin, maybe their job would be a little easier.

We need to do something about the flow of illegal immigrants entering this country. Maybe we could follow the practices of Mexico, which jails anyone who does not have a proper visa or Mexican citizenship document.

But that Mexico is worse is not the answer to our problem.

Because America is supposed to be better. Freer. More democratic. More open. And more committed to civil rights. Isn’t that why we are a better country.

So why does an obscure back of the yards community like Homer Township – I know, you’ve probably never heard of it – feel compelled to pass a law declaring that English is the official language of their township?

They don’t have more important problems to solve?

The rural community of only 25,000 people with a growing suburban neighborhood base approved a new law that says English must be recognized as “the dominant language of Homer Township.”

And, not satisfied with the implications of that move, the board also voted to enforce residency laws that uphold federal immigration laws.

It’s all cute language to say that the leadership in Homer Township doesn’t want you to speak any foreign languages when you stop at McDonalds to buy a Big Mac. They don’t want you to count out your change in Spanish when you are filling up your car with gas. And they certainly don’t want any people taking orders at Middle Eastern bakeries for falafel in Arabic.

Sounds a little paranoid to me. And it all sounds very un-American, too.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Chicago Radio Talk Show Host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)

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