Monday, June 04, 2007

Ronnie's American Day

If other bloggers saw their days in terms of themes, as Mojo does, I guess today would be my American day. Which started yesterday, actually, since I decided to watch the first few minutes of the Democratic Candidates' Debate and ended up watching all two hours of it. I was impressed by a lot of what I heard and tend to agree with the pundits who give Hillary Clinton the "win" but, dammit, her weaseling on voting to support action against Iraq got even worse last night. Now she says she couldn't possibly imagine Bush would actually use force, which is why she voted to give him the authority to do so. That's even worse in my opinion than her pigheaded refusal to admit it was a mistake couched in these terms: "if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it". She was recently given the opportunity to do just that. It is an easy out, because it takes the blame for casting the vote off her, and places it on the false and erroneous information that Congress was given before the vote.

Did she take that opportunity to say that IF she knew that some of the information she'd been given was false or wrong, she wouldn't have voted to authorize the use of force? An opportunity that allowed her to get the issue off the table and admit the mistake while not actually looking like she did something wrong?

Nope.

I heard a CBC news story about a Clinton rally and an older gentleman attending spoke in glowing terms about Hillary. When asked by the reporter whether he would support her in the primary and/or the Presidential election, he surprised her by saying he hadn't decided. "Sooner or later," he said, "she is going to have to come to terms with the Iraq vote thing. Until she does that, I don't think I can vote for her."

I am not sure her campaign really understands what a deal-breaker this might be for Democratic voters.

Then today I was in the office of a new co-worker. She's an older woman, the oldest on our staff now. Tons of NGO experience and a good addition to our team. I dropped by today to say hello and, more importantly, to make her feel welcome by asking her about the photos of her adult children and grandchildren she has on display. Her children's photos are wedding pictures, but for her youngest daughter who isn't married. She showed me a photo of her youngest son and his wife.

"Is that... a U.S. Marines uniform?" I asked, surprised.

"Yes," she said, and she explained why he joined the USMC, but that's a little too much of someone else's personal information for inclusion in this blog. Then she paused, and then she said, "He was deployed to Iraq on March 1st, and I can't sleep a wink. I'm terrified for him."

Hard to know what to say to that.

Just a couple of hours later, I got one of the most unusual phone calls I've gotten in my career. It was an absolutely cold call from a woman in California who wants to emigrate to Canada. She'd found our organization through a web search and wanted to know if there was anything we could do to help her.

Honestly, it was one of the most poignant work conversations I'd ever had, because there was so little I could do to help her except direct her to the people who could. We, I said, worked on settling the people once they got here - the mechanics of getting here was a bit outside my scope of expertise. I directed her to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the NB Provincial Nominee Program, etc. I explained Provincial Nominee Programs to her, told her that most provinces had one and that it was her best bet for getting into the country; I explained the point system.

It was, at times, oddly funny. "Do you know where we are?" I asked, wondering why she was contacting NB of all places. "You're... you're on the east coast. Right?" she said. "I went to the web site. It's beautiful. I looked at the map. It's far away."

Right!

At another point she said, "Will I need to learn to speak French?"
"Oh, Lord, no," I said. "I barely can, and I live here."

It was her reasons for wanting to move here that made the call poignant - that, and the knowledge that unless she has a skill in an area of shortage, her odds aren't great. Contrary to popular belief, Canada is picky about its immigrants; and Americans and Europeans do not get extra points for being white and western. (Having fluency one of the two official languages is about the only benefit American applicants have, and any Ugandan has the same benefit - English is their official language, too - ditto Cameroonians [English & French].)

"I have two children," she said. "I'm a single mom. I don't want to raise my kids here anymore. What's happening in this country politically, it scares me. My oldest is about to start school. I don't want to send her to school here. It scares me. The crime is so bad in the neighbourhoods we can afford. I'm a good person. I'm willing to work hard. I have no criminal record. Will that help? [Oh, my, yes.] I want to live somewhere that is more in tune with my values, where I can feel good about the values my kids are learning."

Frankly, I think she is indulging in the type of idealistic fantasy that Husband and I engage in when we talk about buying a little place in the Caribbean. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If investigating a move to her idealized vision of Canada keeps her sane and gives her some potential rosy future to look forward to, good for her. As a stress-relieving pursuit it beats popping Prozac and drinking cheap wine.

And who knows? Maybe she'll actually do it. And maybe it'll be the right thing for her. I just think it's sad that she feels the way she does.

I took her name and phone number. I actually think I'll follow up with her, see how she's doing.

If nothing else, she'll know she has a friend in Canada.

ronnie

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7 Comments:

Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Such hopelessness this poor lady feels! I feel for her, but I really thing the Right has an advantage of morale in this country. They truly believe they can prevail and we seem to be dejected and Eeyore-ish about it all. I wish she'd consider moving to a swing state, where even a few more blue votes could make a huge difference!

11:30 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

I hope she stays here in California and helps us right the ship -- but it is a disheartening thing to hear of people like her who are so thoroughly demoralized that they want so badly to leave.

I ain't leavin'. At least not to Canada, it appears -- I don't get a passing score on the points test. (That -22 points on the age thing didn't help a bit.)

1:22 a.m.  
Anonymous Dann said...

She ought to move to Montana or North Dakota. Low crime rates. Very low unemployment.

Unless she's looking for something else.

Regards,
Dann

10:56 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

I think the reason she was looking for a whole other country, rather than another state, is that she had completely lost faith in the federal government. It seemed to be something bigger than a state-to-state move could change, and that to me means it is either the whole national zeitgeist that is troubling her, or the current administration (and not much enthusiasm for the Other Gang's ability to fix things should they take over in '08).

I didn't get into a lot of detail on the blog post, which was already long enough, but she talked about the influence the Christian right-wing had over education and that being why she didn't want her kids going to school there. (And if she feels that way in California I doubt she'll find a state where they have less influence.)

ronnie

4:02 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

She definitely is not alone. I know PLENTY of people who would give their right arm to be able to move to Canada permanently. Like Sherwood, I also took the Canadian gummint's points test. They actually take off for age? No wonder I didn't make the cut. (Isn't that *gasp* ageism??) Well, too bad. The south of France isn't nearly as snooty. Hmph.

5:01 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

"(And if she feels that way in California I doubt she'll find a state where they have less influence.)"

and it sure as heck wudn't be montana or north dakota!! two VERY red states. jaysus...my egg lady was a john bircher!!

6:58 p.m.  
Anonymous Dann said...

[one more]

Knowing that you have withheld details [and properly so], I hesitate to read too much into this.

Oh, what the heck.

Having witnessed the sort of demoralized state on the right as you seem to be describing, I understand a bit of what you are trying to say. At the same time, I saw some pretty goofy things on the right in those days that just could not be defended based on the facts. I suspect that the same is true of your new friend.

California has been dominated by leftish politics for decades. What exists there is the only logical conclusion of such policies given America's long term history. That's a long way of saying that most of the problems she sees are the product of policies and of a culture that extend well beyond the timeframe and scope of Mr. Bush.

Since Canada has a clearly different history and culture, I suspect [mainly because I've visited a time or twenty] that similar policies executed in a different culture yield different results.

With regard to education, one of the chief complaints in the midwest is that California's education policies essentially determine what is published in most American textbooks. They have that sort of buying power that cannot be easily countered by a handful of less populous states. And again, California suffers under more leftish educational policies than the rest of the country. So I highly doubt that there was any signification factual intrusion of conservative Christianity into her children's education.

As for other current trends in the US, I highly doubt* that any recent national policy changes have substantially affected her day-to-day life. Unless she flies a lot. Travelling via airplane in the US is a huge pain in the keister these days. [*unless she's of Arab descent and/or Muslim]

Checks and balances worked a few years ago to constrain leftish excesses. Just as they are working today to constrain rightish excesses. Perceptions regarding speed and efficacy of those checks and balances duly noted with respect to constraining both leftish and rightish excesses.

Dogs bark at ghosts in the night. Cats spazz for no apparent reason at all.

And people of all political stripes see overwhelmingly oppressive governance when their preferred policies are not in favor....regardless of the lack of evidence of any real oppression.

Regards,
Dann

[now back to work]

10:51 p.m.  

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