Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Dictators Yearning to Breathe Free

That Emma Lazarus really knew how to turn a phrase.  I think we all know at least a line or two from her famous poem on the Statue of Liberty. 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

What the movie “Argo” failed to mention was that the Iran hostage “crisis” was the outraged, and ultimately non-violent, response to the U.S. granting asylum to the Shah of Iran, who with western support, ruled with an iron fist for decades.  He stood accused of corruption and mass murder, you know, basically the kind of guy who creates the above-mentioned homeless, wretched refuse in the first place. 

The U.S. also provided asylum to the former “leader” of the Philipines, Ferdinand Marcos. Maybe this guy  was in the same Dictator 101 class with the shah, sponsored by “foreign aid”.  I’m the kind of nerd that looks up immigration statistics in the CIA Factbook.  It’s pretty interesting, really.  There seems to be a pattern of using “foreign aid” to start civil wars, then granting asylum to those who helped start the toppling of “regimes” unfriendly to international corporate interests. 

Then we have Edward Snowden seeking asylum for revealing a tiny portion of the truth. Countries are competing for the privilege of granting him asylum.  There’s a petition for his asylum in Brazil, signed by over a million people already.  I like the whole idea of a bottom-up rather than a top-down immigration policy—it helps keep out tyrants and mass murderers.

 I don’t get it—the government grants asylum to tyrants to escape the consequences of their heinous actions, yet here’s Mr. Snowden—and I’m pretty sure that he’s yearning to breathe free. Where’s his asylum?  Or do we need to change the words to the poem to read “yearning to breathe with a limited degree of freedom, to be determined by what the surveillance tapes reveal about your beliefs and activities”? 

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