People COME to America

By July 5, 2007 culture No Comments

Yesterday I was feeling especially patriotic. I know, it was Independence Day, and those feelings are typical considering the holiday. But yesterday I was struck anew with the freedoms we have here; I was grateful to be alive and be an American.

Like many other Independence Day celebrators, we listened to our local radio’s SkyConcert—the music played in conjunction with the fireworks display. And what SkyConcert would fail to play Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America”?! Initially we all gave a chuckle and gave a hoot for old Neil. But as I listened once again to the lyrics, it struck me: People COME to America.

America isn’t a perfect nation. We have homeless. Unemployed. Uninsured. We have corruption. Greed. Hate. Yet people still come here. Why? Why, if our nation is as awful as some declare, why are people still coming here? Why aren’t more people seeking freedom elsewhere?

I am not an especially political person. Posturing and positioning is bothersome to me. It disturbs me that our political system has become a web of deceit and deals. I am disheartened when I realize that so many in our country are needy, and I feel convicted that I have not done more. But I must say, the little bit that I’ve heard of the politically charged documentary Sicko, makes me ill at ease. It bothers me that our country is labeled as the worst, not because I feel the need to be first, but because there are so many factors that play into the tapestry of each country—to pull out one thread, such as healthcare, and complain that we “have it the worst,” makes me quite irritated. There is a tradeoff for having various forms of care; no system is perfect. (I found this an interesting angle.)

So as I’ve pondered our country, and the differing perspectives held by the people here, I’ve wondered why it is that people stay here; or even more baffling, if it is so awful here, why does Neil Diamond’s song still ring true? People are still coming here. I did a quick search for immigration and citizenship rates around the world. I found that the United States has the highest citizenship rate in the world, at 898,000. (I’m guessing this is per year, although that is much higher than I had expected. Next in line is Canada, with 215,000.)

If our country is so awful, why are people coming here? Here’s why I believe people still come to America.

1) Opportunity: things aren’t perfect, but we are free to take chances and try our best to make life better for ourselves without government interference or opposition.
2) Freedom: things aren’t perfect, but law-abiding citizens are able to move about without restriction and do whatever they please within the confines of the law.
3) Access: things aren’t perfect, but we have access to food, clothing, shelter, and jobs, and our government supports our welfare (even being the hefty bureauacratic beast that it is).

For these reasons, people come to America. And because we live here, in the land of free, I feel compelled to reach outside of this land to those who are lacking opportunity, freedom, and access. Yes, we should be ever on the task making this country better; it should be more efficient and more honest and more giving so that we might help more people here and abroad.

But I also believe that we Americans, sitting in the seat of plenty, aught to recognize that we have it good—so good, in fact, that people want and wish to be where we are. So when I hear people criticize our country’s healthcare, government, and leadership, I think it’s great that we live in a land where we can state our opinions without being killed or imprisoned. But I also think that we should step up and give and be agents of change instead of agents of complaining. Sometimes I think we are just a bit spoiled (myself the worst of any).

Why is it that people still come to America? And why is it that Americans aren’t leaving to go where the grass is greener? I know why. Because no other land has it so good.

I am thankful today to live here where I am free to be an agent of change. That’s why I’m staying here in America.

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