FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thoughts on Becoming an American Citizen

Growing up in Argentina, my friends and I looked up to the United States as the Promised Land, a country where we could fulfill our personal and professional dreams; a land where, because of its high regard for justice and human rights, the humblest could achieve their aspirations through hard work and full commitment.

Our connection and admiration for all things American varied according to our age. We were cowboys when children, famous sportsmen in adolescence, dedicated doctors or engineers or space scientists when we became older. We also felt as our own the pains of this country.

What follows are random examples of how political events in the U.S. affected us. John F. Kennedy had been the hero of our youth. We considered him the President who wanted to make America a better country, respectful of human rights and committed to keeping peace in the world. We thought that the Bay of Pigs’s operation was a misguided adventure, just a detour to what we anticipated would be one of best times for this country. Kennedy’s death shattered our hopes.

When Lyndon B. Johnson became President he contributed with legislation for the “Great Society” and the “War on Poverty.” He promoted civil rights and expanded Medicare and Medicaid, among other contributions. The Vietnam War was his undoing.

I came to the U.S. with my wife and daughter in 1971, shortly before my native country would go through one of its darkest periods in recent history. The military ruled the country and were responsible for thousands of “disappeared people”, an ignominious name for a tragic phenomenon.

President Richard Nixon pursued policies that culminated with the normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China and the end of the Vietnam War. We felt enriched by the wondrous exercise in democracy of the Watergate hearings, which brought back to us the sense that justice was still possible in the country. Nixon’s forced resignation in the face of impeachment culminated this dark historic period.

President Ford’s pardoning of President Nixon, although very controversial, probably contributed to healing the social ills in the country. President Jimmy Carter, who followed him, was one of the leaders most committed to human rights on a global scale. I believe he was the most underappreciated President in U.S. history. His continued devotion to social causes is an example to all.

I had the opportunity to meet him personally when Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Argentine Nobel peace laureate, invited me to translate for him at the meeting with Carter. I still remember my surprise when President Carter, with a great sense of humility, asked Pérez Esquivel, “What do you think, Adolfo, the U.S. should be doing in Central America?” At the time the region was being ravaged by war.

President Carter was followed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush was responsible for initiating the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose disastrous human and economic costs will be felt for many years to come. Like many people around the world, we watched the sad spectacle of President Clinton’s impeachment. His serious private offense stopped the country’s normal proceedings for more than a year.

President Barak Obama made history in more ways than one. Not only was he the first African American elected to the U.S. highest office, but despite systematic opposition from Republican legislators he managed to lead a remarkable economic recovery in an overall climate of peace. None of these governments and events prepared us to the present threat of the undoing of social, economic and health care achievements that took so many years to attain.

While claiming to defend the common citizen, President Donald Trump is doing the opposite, with government policies that belie the truth of his assertion. From attempting to dismantle Obama Care -whose most progressive aspects the Republican legislators consistently opposed- to trying to enact economic legislation that favors mostly the rich in detriment of the poor and the middle class.

President Donald Trump’s statements about immigrants –particularly from Mexico and the rest of Latin America– ignore the tremendous contribution that immigrants from all over the world have made to this country’s development. At the same time, bellicose pronouncements by the President and leading officials increase the danger of a major war with North Korea, whose consequences can only be disastrous.

This country has been good to me and my family. We have enjoyed its freedoms and prospered professionally. However, I dread the consequences that the uncaring policies of the present administration may have on the common people and, even more dangerously, on world peace. I am glad I became an American citizen. I am saddened, however, that the beliefs I had when I was young are being systematically betrayed.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail