May 21, 2004

Welcome To America

I want to offer my congratulations to my long-distance Northern Alliance colleague, Deacon from Power Line, and his wife Yvonne on her naturalization as an American citizen today, in Baltimore. Yvonne originially came from France. As Deacon states, Yvonne was joined by what would appear to be a UN coalition for today's ceremony:

America became even more diverse today as a new batch of citizens was sworn-in in Baltimore (and presumably elsewhere). One of these new citizens is my wife. Her group of about 50 was, as one would expect, quite a melange. It contained a few Anglos, at least one Frenchwoman (my wife), a handful of Eastern Europeans (mostly Russian), many Latino[a]s, many Africans, and some Asians, a few from the near east and a few from the far. There may even have been a couple of Bush voters in the group.

Deacon noted a jarring, discordant note prior to the ceremony:

[It] occurred before the ceremony, as we sat in the waiting area while CNN offered wall-to-wall coverage of the Abu-Ghraib story. Had the citizens-to-be been watching, they might (depending on their ideology) have wondered why they want to enroll in a country that (a) systemically engages in horrific abuses of human rights or (b) does not systemically engage in such abuses but acts as if it does. Fortunately, during the ceremony the reasons for enrolling were stated with reasonable clarity.

I understand what Deacon means, but I think that Abu Ghraib, while humiliating at the moment, demonstrates what America is all about. We have a free press that can print anything as long as it's not an intentional mistruth which forces us to acknowledge our errors. We have a freely-elected legislature with real power, holding our military and executive accountable for the actions it takes during a war. You see our military taking steps to protect a large group of prisoners, a high percentage of which probably took up arms against Americans, not because we love what they did but because we love who we think we're supposed to be -- and we have no tolerance for those who dishonor us.

Whether you think that the media, Congress, or military brass have overreacted or underreacted, if you look at the process through the eyes of those who haven't known a free and open society, the very notion of accountability to the people and a free press must be astounding. I agree with Deacon that the naturalization ceremony should remind everyone about our high-minded principles -- but the reality on CNN reminds everyone that our processes are designed to ensure the vitality of those principles. I wish Abu Ghraib had never happened, but our response is part of our strength, too.

Bienvenue, Yvonne, and congratulations. America is proud to welcome you to the world's greatest democracy. We hope to continue to prove worthy of your citizenship.


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