I remember my first days in the United States when I spent the summer of 1975 with my Baptist host family. The Sunday school, streets, billboards, cable and Ma Bell telephone services were all fascinating.
Even the air smelled pleasantly different. Although the country I was coming from was blessed with good oil revenue and lots of developments at that time, the U.S. was simply amazing. People could read any books, say anything and Xerox any information. They could travel freely by car or airplane to and from anywhere within or outside the United States without inquisition and prosecution. Johnny Carson joked about the head of the state and his policies. Unbelievable! People left their homes unlocked in that small town. Unheard of!
I was taught at my host family's home and in the Boy Scouts about the U.S. and all that it stands for; the Constitution and its Bill of Rights; that unlike third world countries and the Soviet Union people are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. That no one can be detained unless charged with an alleged crime, and having our day in court to face our accuser.
My America is changed today unlike anything I could have imagined 28 years ago. It is like a “back to the future” sequel into the 13th century or a horrifying nightmare. Prop 187 is coming back with a vengeance like Schwarzenegger in Terminator: I'll be back! America, the darling of the world after WWII has lost its innocence. There was a school shooting in that small town where people didn't used to lock their homes.
Families are being torn apart and lose their livelihood for looking and sounding different, being born in the wrong country, or simply being foreign born in San Diego before the Super Bowl. They can no longer travel freely without being questioned, and our airports look like a scene from WWII movies.
Bill Mahr gets pulled off the air for being “politically incorrect”. People are presumed guilty until proven otherwise, they can be detained indefinitely without being charged, they may never know of the charges made against them, and they may never face their accuser in the court of law under the secret evidence law.
The saddest part of all this is that those are all true. Our civil rights, as citizens of this great country, are deteriorating without bothering the majority. So many people are eager to give up their civil liberties and rights in exchange for a false sense of security. When was the last time that we won the war on drugs by saying “NO!”?
When was the last time that we won the war against crime? Crime is never eliminated, but reduced if its root cause is treated from the socio-economical standpoint. The same is true about violence. (You've got to see the documentary film by Michael Moore called Bowling for Columbine.) These are also true about the war on terror. Law abiding citizens and residents are being horrified while potential conspirators roam around with the judicial system jammed with misguided procedures.
Foreign-born males from certain countries were rounded up in California during the special registrations. Shortly after realizing that those procedures were ill conceived, foreign-born males in San Diego were rounded up in “Operation Game Day” prior to the Super Bowl. Ironically, some of them are Hispanics from nowhere near the Middle East. last time I checked the maps. Their mistake or crime: working in transportation or as security guards around the Qualcomm Stadium. Where does all this end? That is the $6M question.
It is indeed disheartening when we can draw parallels between what we are doing today here in the U.S., and what we accuse other third world countries of doing. Especially when the economy has been in such a deep recession — or depression — for such a long time and no one in a position of power is paying the kind of attention it deserves. Instead of going after Enron type white color criminals who do as much, if not more, damage to our great nation than our enemies from the outside, our law abiding and tax paying residents are being targeted. These are the folks who come out to comply with the registrations or any other rules.
Today's mutated Prop 187 mentality is a more formidable opponent to defeat. It has developed an impenetrable defensive façade of protecting the public from harm. With the ill-conceived rules that are being written into the law, defeating this new strain of Prop 187 is much harder to detect and to defeat. There will soon be liberty and justice for all, except for you and me! But I like the United States that I fell in love with back in the summer of 1975. I love my United States with liberty and justice for all where “ALL” means everyone, including you and me!
Ramin Moshiri, President of the Association of Iranian American Professionals (AIAP). This article was first published in La Presna Persa .