Monday, October 16, 2006

Visas: They're Nowhere Where They Need to Be

In last week's New Yorker, the estimable George Packer laments the fact that some Islamist was denied a visa by the US government, even though he'd been invited to teach at Notre Dame.
Since 9/11, both regular citizens from other countries and more importantly, singularly talented individuals in every field of the arts and sciences have routinely been denied visas to come here.
I'm not the first one to complain about this, but it is outrageous. In order for someone to get a visa they must jump through hoops of fire. I have friends who want to bring their mom for a visit and it's as if they were trying to bring in enriched Uranium. The attitude at the American Embassies everywhere is one of abuse of power and the routine exasperation, bordering in the humiliation, of regular, law abiding people.
Just yesterday, as we came back from Berlin, my friend who is not a US national and holds a special visa, and who has been living here, spending money, paying taxes and giving people work for 10 years, was told by the "Homeland Security" agent that processed her that she is actually not living in this country, and that she should never say she is living in this country because for all bureaucratic intents it is not so. I think this is horribly insulting, but that's the way the cookie is crumbling nowadays. This has ceased to be a haven for people who look for freedom and opportunity. In essence, everything great this country has ever stood for is disappearing, if it's not already half dead. You should be scared shitless, my friends.
It is well known that many gifted artists and scientists have been denied entry even though they are invited by reputable institutions. This is a disgrace and a terrible danger, because the isolation which the Bush Administration is fostering and imposing on this country will have dire consequences for progress in every realm. We are already lagging behind in science and this country is no longer the first in everything. Used to be, people all over the world looked to whatever happened here because it was at the forefront of progress, creative expression and experimentation. Not anymore.
We are slowly becoming a one horse nation, with an ignorant cowboy at the helm.
However, it is not a bad thing that the US has lost its perceived cultural supremacy. Just now, at Pictoplasma in Berlin, I realized that the US no longer holds the prime spot on what is the newest and the hippest. People from unlikely places like Argentina, South Africa, Israel, and many other countries are doing amazing, original things that seem fresher and more genuine than anything we see in our shores.
The same has happened in advertising for years. Most anything coming from other parts of the world is smarter and edgier than the lame stuff we see here. It is a shame, because we are undergoing a massive, rapidly expanding process of moronization. Just don't start moaning when you realize that we've become a land of retards.

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