Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uncle Ruslan's American Dream

A friend sent me a Washington Post op-ed by Asra Nomani regarding "Uncle Ruslan," that I highly recommend you read. Seriously, just go read the whole thing and then come back here.

Ruslan Tsarni, as you probably know, is the uncle of the Boston marathon bombers (and no, I'm not saying "alleged bombers." Dzhokhar can sue me. Bring it.) and I was struck by the huge difference between his attitude about America and the views that his nephews apparently held. 

"Uncle Ruslan's" heartfelt press conference last week captured America's attention, partly because of the sharp contrast between the brutality of the bombings and Tsarni's humble attitude and unequivocal condemnation of his nephews' actions:

Washington Post |  Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of Boston Marathon bombing suspects, denounces them
Ruslan Tsarni spoke in passionate tones about family members of the bombing victims: “I am ready just to meet with them,” he said. “I am ready just to bend in front of them, to kneel in front of them, seeking that forgiveness . . . in the name of the family.”
Asked what he thought of America, he said: “I respect this country. I love this country. This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being, just to be a human being.”
Read the rest here.

The Tsarnaev brothers had every advantage needed to succeed in America - they were young, smart, educated, healthy, had received scholarships and financial aid, and were even apparently getting welfare benefits. The American Dream was theirs for the taking. Instead, they chose to kill and maim innocent people in order to express some sort of misguided resentment and anger at the country that had given them so much. Would they have been riding around in a friend's BMW or playing around on social media apps back in Chechnya?

I don't think there's any way to easily and efficiently psychologically screen potential immigrants - at least, not in any way that's fair and able to be evenly applied - but reading stories like this makes me wish there were. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was apparently on an FBI watch list years before he became a citizen. What happened between his addition to the watch list and the approval of his application for citizenship? How are these decisions made? Maybe not everyone who ends up on a watch list deserves to be there, and maybe some of them would be great Americans, but is it asking too much to say that maybe potential immigrants who have been on a watch list might deserve a little more scrutiny for their applications?

What about the people who aren't on a watch list but are developing the radical associations and beliefs that precede many of these terrorist actions? Is there any way to screen for this? What questions are we asking people before we grant citizenship?

We need lots of "Uncle Ruslans" in this country - immigrants who share our belief in the American Dream and are willing to work hard to make sure they can enjoy all the opportunities available here. How do we make sure that the "Uncle Ruslans" have a way to legally immigrate here, but that we also do what we can to protect ourselves? I don't think there are any easy answers, but these are questions that we desperately need to be asking.

Follow me on Twitter at @rumpfshaker

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