February 12, 2004


During the month of January, 1,502 refugees from the Dominican Republic were detained by the US Coast Guard. The Dominicans regularly risk their lives to cross the 60-mile Mona Passage, a treacherous stretch of water between their country and Puerto Rico, the nearest bastion of American civilization. And they attempt this in 35-40 foot boats in which up to 200 people have been found. Many have died.

What could possibly drive these 1,502 people to seek refuge in the United States? What in their lives is so bad that they think the possibility of dying in a boat, drowning in high seas, is a viable alternative? Or is it the possibility of achieving the American Dream?

Nearly 60% of the kids living within the border of the District of Columbia go to bed hungry at night. That’s three of every five kids in our nation’s capital, the most prosperous country in the world. And while this may be an extreme example, it doesn’t get much better throughout the rest of the country. What is it those Dominicans are looking for?

The FCC received over 200,000 complaints from Americans sitting in their heated living rooms watching the Superbowl on big-screen televisions as a result of the now-famous Janet Jackson breast incident. To that end, the FCC is reviewing decency laws that govern the public airwaves, fines are being levied and congressional hearings will soon be launched. And in that very same town, three of every five kids will go to bed hungry. What is it those Dominicans are looking for?

We live in a country of diverse groups of people – its that whole “melting pot” mentality we’ve all grown up with and tried (most of us, anyway) to preserve. And yet love, possibly the one value that should, ideally, triumph over all, is deemed unimportant, relegated to some emotional wasteland in a nation of legislation better left to common sense. Where the union of two people, be they black, white, straight, gay, man or woman, is tossed around like a political football. All the while the message we’re sending to our children and the rest of the world is overlooked. What – we’re a tolerant people who really believe in the pursuit of happiness but only if you meet our standards? What is it those Dominicans are looking for?

We live in a scary world, a world in which conflict will inevitably take place. We live in a nation that prides itself on its ability to defend the rights of its people and the ideals in which it believes. We believe so strongly that we’re willing to put our reputations and our lives on the line to protect others. Yet we’re unwilling to adequately protect those who help us. During the month of February, 209 Iraqi citizens have been killed because they were trying to support the cause of the American military in their country. Dispensing with the argument of whether the conflict was right or wrong – that’s not going to get us anywhere…what’s done is done – we seem not to have considered what to do with the country once we rid it of its oppressors. Instead we focus on the lofty goals of putting a man on the moon…again. What is it those Dominicans are looking for?

It seems as though there are too many problems on the radar screen to possibly deal with at once. Starving kids, bad roads, poor race relations, school violence, education in general, homeland security, personal privacy, affordable healthcare, civil liberties, gun control, the environment – it all just seems like too much to get our arms around. But really, its not. As utopian and naïve as it sounds, its really just a matter of being nice to one another, keeping an open mind and giving of yourself to those who don’t have as much. Practice the values that, deep down inside, we all hold dear – trust, loyalty and compassion. That’s what those Dominicans are looking for.

Posted by Chris at February 12, 2004 11:31 AM

Beautiful and inspiring and heartfelt and insanely true and exactly the kinds of things that I expect to hear from you. You make me think and you make me laugh, and at the same time I also admire the room of yours that looks like a big cloud. :)

Even though you kept the room that way because it looked like someone else had spent a lot of time on it, you expanded on it and made it yours. And that's what it's all about. And maybe that's something else that the Dominicans are looking for -- the ability to have that choice in the first place. :)

Posted by: Zandria at February 12, 2004 12:37 PM

All I can say is "Wow". You've expressed yourself excellently and there's not much more I can cay than "Wow". You can vent any old time you want!

Posted by: Kristi at February 12, 2004 03:25 PM

Amen...what more can I say? Vent anytime: you can be the Liberal Lileks! :-)

Posted by: amalah at February 12, 2004 07:10 PM

Excellent writing, beautiful thoughts.

Posted by: Lisa at February 13, 2004 08:50 AM

yes, well said...

Posted by: stacy at February 13, 2004 05:48 PM

Awesome post! I couldn't add anything to it. Perfect.

Posted by: dawn at February 14, 2004 01:15 PM