Last night I was finishing “La Suma de los Dias” , or “The Sum of Our Days,” by Isabel Allende and she worded my own worries. On the last chapters she explained how she had finally reunited her “tribe”, which consists of her immediate family and her friends in California, to have them scatter again thanks to the irresponsibility of President George Bush’s administration.
I’ve seen this myself.
When I came to the United States from Colombia eight years ago, I came with my whole family that consists of about 20 people and we all settled in South Florida. Now, after years of struggle trying to get a green card, most of my “tribe” left the United States and headed back to Colombia because of the same reasons Allende discussed in her book.
Allende has similar fears. In the book, she mentions her friend Tabra, an American, who decided to leave the United States and go to Costa Rica just like she left the country during the Vietnam War to protest Richard Nixon’s administration.
Allende also mentions two relatively recent instances when the United States has violated human rights without much consequence: Guantánamo Bay , Cuba, and the incident of the Abu Ghraib prison. The New Yorker published a story about torture at the prison complex the same year Bush was re-elected and some of the wrongdoings that were reported are:
Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
I really don’t think that any of the above mentioned abuses of authority fit into the Geneva Convention agreements dealing with the treatment of war prisoners.
Such atrocities against humanity are really bothering me, and Allende is in tune with me on these issues. Like me, she is a legal resident of the United States and lives here while she stays in touch with her own country. However, she is indirectly (or directly) part of this country. Residents of the United States pay the same taxes citizens pay but have no power over the electoral process. Only citizens of the United States are allowed to vote.
Allende really made me wonder about my place in the United States. Outrages like these ones really make me wonder if someday I want to become a citizen. However, thinking about the power that United States’ citizens have by voting in the upcoming elections somehow makes me reconsider. This is definitively a right I don’t want to pass on.