"In America, dream can become reality as long as one is willing to work for it, wrote Minh-Duc of State of Flux in a touching Fourth-of-July post, "I (heart) America" we just stumbled upon via our blogfriend VietPundit [Welcome back! So glad you decided not to give up the blog.] :
I ran off [from Communist Vietnam], barely escaped with my life and arrived here on this land, and since then have come to love America. She was kind, sweet and exceptional. A place where a first generation immigrant is made to feel he is home, that he is part of the greater society. That his naturalization is not merely a piece of document, but a welcome embrace into a loving family, an equal to all. America gave me back my humanity, my dignity, and an ability to believe in the goodness of mankind.
Testimonials like Minh-Duc's always make us weepy, of course [You know how you ARE. --ed]. Like others who know from personal experience what it's like to live under the boot of tyranny, Minh-Duc -- who chose to become an American -- understands far better than many of our native-born fellow Americans that freedom isn't free. His essay on why a constitutional amendment to outlaw the burning of the flag ironically betrays the American spirit says it best:
Our Congress fails to understand that our flag cannot be desecrated. As if it is possible to demean the American spirit. No amount of burning, stepping-on or any other physical abuses can destroy the spirit of our flag. Its symbolic and enduring value is that it represents freedom, -- even freedom to abuse it. The spirit of Freedom cannot be destroyed by physically burning a flag. But it can and will be destroyed when it is taken away by a constitutional amendment. Congress in an attempt to save the physical flag kills its spirit.
Kleenex, please. Scott Pham of A Free Vietnam [again via VietPundit] -- another American by choice -- is using his blog to solicit and post English translations of Vietnamese dissidents' writings. Like his fellow Vietnamese-American bloggers, he provides valuable perspective on freedom vs. tyranny plus news of what's going on in Vietnam today. It isn't pretty. We American bloggers may be threatened by John McCain & Company's desire to stifle our freedom of speech during election seasons, but at least we can fight back. Hanoi has more than 1000 police persons monitoring the internet, and many emigre-run websites have been blocked. Or how about this one? To teach at the university level, a professor trained abroad must earn a degree issued by the Ho Chi Minh National Political Institute:
In other words, professors are supposed to parrot the Party line.
'Reminds us of our own professsoriate stateside. As we wrote last winter in "Fear societies, heavy and lite":
[Former Soviet dissident Natan] Sharansky's "mechanics of tyranny that sustain such a society" are at work in those lofty intellectual bubbles just as surely as they were in the old Soviet Union and are today in the Arab tyrannies. A repressive society is a repressive society, wherever it may fall on a continuum of brutality and thought control. The crushing of dissent brutalizes the human spirit. Sharansky's optimism encourages the human spirit to soar.
Fascinating how prone our species is to the temptations of thought control, even -- especially? -- at the heart of the shining city on a hill. It must be Darwinian, but therein lies our hope. Just as new genetic strains from outside the tribe can lend vigor to a homogeneous population, so new perspectives from immigrants who have tasted tyranny for themselves can lend vigor to our understanding of what it means to be an American.