Thoughts & Views: Still plenty of afflictions to cure, here & abroad

The time is out of joint – O cursed spite,

That ever I was born to set it right!

–“Hamlet”: Act 1, scene 5

You don’t need to be tipped off by any ghost to know that the world has gone mad these days with a global glut of insanity sufficient to send any sober-minded soul into the abyss.

Far be it from me to say that I’ve got the answers for the world’s ills but, at the very least, I can bring a reminder of some of the crises to your attention and perhaps a general outcry from the masses will help bring pressure on our public servants to right those wrongs.

Turmoil in Syria continues to call for intervention by the international community. With nearly 2 million of the country’s residents displaced by the civil war, and with many forced into crowded refugee camps, surely that should be enough to push the United Nations Security Council into action, to force the combatants to the negotiating table and crack down on the flow of weapons into the country.

Now, the Obama administration, with perhaps the best of intentions, says it supports arming the anti-al Assad insurgents – up to a point – but is that commitment a precursor to troops on the ground? Obama says it isn’t but who knows?

Meanwhile, the lives of Syrian citizens – people just trying to make a living, attend university, etc. – are being mightily disrupted and cities, along with ancient historic treasures, are being destroyed.

Something’s got to give.

So, too, with the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, being aided and abetted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

If the negotiators for the Palestinians can be persuaded to acknowledge the existence and validity of the State of Israel and if those who speak for Israel can agree to compromise a bit on the borders issue, we could begin to see movement toward a two-state solution.

No easy thing, indeed, after so much enmity in the region and blood spilled. But reasonable adults can find a way to agree for the sake of peace.

In Russia, meanwhile, the recent conviction and sentencing of dissident Aleksei Navalny – who was found innocent by a court of allegations that he stole from a timber company – reminds us how the Putin regime treats those who dare speak out against officially-sanctioned corruption.

It should also remind us that our country’s democratic process – skewed though it is in favor of the banks and big corporations – still affords its citizens with an opportunity for due process and the right to be heard without facing the likely prospect of time behind bars.

And despite the operations of secret FISA courts in the U.S., the New Jersey Supreme Court has offered some solace to privacy advocates with its majority ruling that law enforcement agencies must first secure a warrant before asking Verizon to track a suspect through his or her cell phone transmissions.

Meanwhile, where is the Congress headed with plans for immigration reform?

On the one hand, one version of the bill being considered proposes to loosen current visa restrictions for foreign students, for those highly-skilled and for agricultural workers, for example, and would create a 13-year path to citizenship for those living here since prior to 2012. Advocates say these measures will boost our economy by allowing the government to collect substantial new tax revenues from the influx of prospective new citizens.

On the other hand, the bill would double the length of the security wall across our southern border and double the number of security agents, allegedly ensuring a 90% “capture” rate of those looking to enter the U.S. illegally.

Conservatives are against the provisions of the bill that would extend citizenship opportunities to those currently here without the proper documents, saying that is unfair to those who were born overseas and went through proper channels to establish themselves here legally.

But America has always been a beacon to those living in developing countries or in lands where poverty is the daily norm. Should we now be thinking of closing our doors to those aspiring to make a better life for themselves and their families?

Compared to the rest of the world, we are still a young country and still puzzling over how to interact with our neighbors in an ever-shrinking globe. And we are still a democratic republic with many of the republic’s virtues – though not perfect – still intact.

Let us endeavor to live up to those ideals, as best we can, in an imperfect world.

–Ron Leir

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