Columns

ONE NATION, WHERE ALL ARE EQUAL

I have lived in the United States for 30 years, and I am still amazed by this nation’s boldness in addressing issues of equality. As we get ready to celebrate the nation’s founding, the Supreme Court’s expansion of equal rights for gays and Congress’ recent steps toward immigration reform are reminders that the spirit of the Declaration of Independence is still thriving more than two centuries later.

These two developments embody the essence of liberty by demonstrating that we are all created equal. All of us. On June 26, in its decision to strike down the main provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that married gay couples are entitled to the same federal benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy, which will impact every aspect of life from marriage, parenting and adoption, through things like inheriting property and how pensions are administered.

A day later, in a 68-32 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would offer most undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship (the bill is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration). Both decisions demonstrate that in America, no one takes precedence over anyone else, and that is what I love most about this nation. I have remarked before in this column that one of my favorite passages from Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 book “Democracy in America” is the French author’s remark that upon visiting this country, “nothing struck more forcibly than the general equality of condition among people.

We have made a big step forward by ensuring that gay Americans and undocumented immigrants who have lived here for years can enjoy the same “general equality of condition” as everyone else.

A new enthusiasm regarding civil rights is spreading in this country. It began with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, which signaled that the nation had moved beyond the discrimination and racism of its past. This revitalization is remind in everyone that while our laws are all works in progress, they are founded on the belief that one person is equal to another — skin color, religion, country of origin and sexual orientation do not affect this basic fact.

This is a vital democracy where such debates — debates that are encouraged by our system’s checks and balances — guard against injustice. But while Americans’ devotion to democracy is what I love most about this nation, I, like many other people, am troubled by the stumbling blocks we have encountered recently when it comes to our relationship with the outside world. The United States may shine when it pushes for equality, but its worst aspects should not be glossed over or hidden. No matter how many times the Obama administration denies it, the government does appear to be taking on the role of Big Brother through the National Security Agency’s spy programs.

Documents that were released by Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, and published by The Guardian newspaper last month indicated that in March of this year, the federal government gathered 97 billion pieces of data from cellphones and computers around the world. While I understand that post-9/11 we need to protect the country from terrorist attack, one would not expect the world’s most powerful and influential democracy to spy on its own citizens and its allies. The war in Iraq is another troubling episode in our history that most people who believe in democracy and justice cannot forgive or forget.

We still lack an adequate explanation for why former President George W. Bush ordered the invasion in 2003. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, yes, but he had nothing to do with 9/11, nor was he harboring weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion. More than 4,000 American soldiers were killed in that war, along with about 113,000 Iraqi civilians, according to some estimates: All paid with their lives because this country imposed its will on other nations without fully considering the costs and consequences.

Many people will be celebrating the nation’s birthday with great happiness on Thursday. I spoke recently with Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, who is promoting his new movie, “Pacific Rim” a striking tale of a planetary war between giant monsters and robots. Del Toro left Mexico to live in the United States after his father was kidnapped and ransomed. This country gave him the same opportunities that other Americans enjoy – opportunities to make movies he never could have in Mexico, because of financial and security issues. Del Toro, who says he has the soul of a 12-year-old boy, is creating some of the most imaginative films in theaters today. What other country can offer such opportunities to a foreigner?

Yes, the United States is not always perfect. But I am in awe of our ambitious and generous nation, the place where my children were born and where we live in absolute freedom. The promise of America is that everyone is equal: America keeps her word.

By Jorge Ramos Avalos.

(jun 20, 2013)

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

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