Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Tired and Poor, Come on Down!"

Imagine my surprise when my friendly, United-Nations loving web browser Opera displayed a banner that proclaimed "Win the green card lottery. Become A Citizen of the United States!" This is very alarming.

Admittedly, when it comes to gambling, I'm not exactly a craps dealer, but I'm not cloistered in the Vatican either. I have never bought a Super 7 or a Lotto 6/49 ticket although I used to play bingo with my mother in the school cafeteria. But gambling for your citizenship? Have we resorted to building a New Vegas for the refugees?

'Give me your tired and your poor, let me write their names on little scraps of paper, let's spin this barrel for awhile, and then fifty thousand lucky little foreigners will gain access to our land, for better or for worse.'

I can picture the game show, airing on Fox of course, right after America's Most Gruesome Wedding Accidents (7 PM EST). (I'm painting with broad strokes here so please don't expect any sublime, nuanced satire here. This is just me tossing pebbles across a sandbox.)


"Hosni al-Mughrabi, come on down! You are the next contestant on "America's Right", the show where we remind you that our way of life is far superior."

Hosni runs down the aisle waving his arms and smiling. He is covered from head to toe in his native garb and he has tears in his eyes.

"So, Hosni, where do you hail from?" asks the bureaucrat with the perfectly coiffed Elvis hairdo, about to write him a ballot for the 2003 Green Card draw.(TM)

Hosni begins to say "Ir..." as two Homeland Security stiffs run up, handcuff him, and drag him into a room for questioning. The screen goes blank and then begins to show a little American flag waving proudly to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's 'The Rising', until the stiffs realize that he's from Iran, not Iraq, although they secretly believe that both of those countries are breeding grounds for terrorists. Hosni is shuffled back to his place in front of the Jeopardyesque stage. There are cameras fixed on him but he's not sure if anyone is watching this.

Little does he know that he is one of the pawns in the largest ratings sweep in history, by none other than C-Span (in association with Fox).

The bureaucrat smiles without showing his teeth and says "Welcome back to Green Card Lotto, where everyone with a high school diploma or two years of work experience has a chance to plug one of the 50 thousand slots that we offer to overseas folks. Our newest contestant, sounds more like a good honest Christian name... What did you say your last name was? Mudravy? Sounds about right -- Honsey is going to tell us a little bit about where he is from."

"My name is Hosni..." says our contestant, his eyes lowered and his voice calm and restrained.

"Whatever, Ayatollah. Anyhow, did you see the commotion going on across the border from your slum village? Are ya feeling a little worried that our fearless leader might send some cowboys to pay you Erans a visit?" asks the bureaucrat, ending his sentence on a high note as he looks at the cameras for support.

"I want to come to America to study."

"No pilot school, though, right?"

"What?" Hosni seems slightly confused.

"Never mind. Which pillar did you plan on studying, boy? I hear that daily prayer is a doozy."

"I want to become an economist. And another thing...maybe I want to move to America, but I want to keep a little bit of Iran right here, you know? My country has it's problems but we were once a strong and powerful nation. We were inventing mathematics and achieving great conquests while your country was nothing but forests and plains. You must give us the respect that we are due. We are a humble people but we don't all live in mud huts. Even if we did, your country has people sleeping in the snow without shoes on."

"Only because here in America, we have too many poor people. If only we could make a reverse lottery and send the whole lot of them to live in your country...that would be something, wouldn't it?"

"There are poor people everywhere," said Hosni, scratching above his eye and looking very disappointed in the "American Way".

"Honsey, if you want to be an American, there are a few simple rules you just gotta follow. First of all, always keep your freedom, and when I say freedom, I mean freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to be watched by our own government... simple-God fearing freedoms like that. I know that you're not used to that, I mean with the hands being chopped off and all, but you're going to have to learn that in this war on terrorism, you're either with us or against us."

"What about neutral countries?"

"You mean like Switzerland? Oh, who can trust those chocolate-loving Alps hikers? Who cares about "Old Europe" anyway? Let them reenact the French-Indian War for all I care."

The bureaucrat claps his hands together and two attendants, both clad in Nike jogging suits, dart up to Hosni. One removes his traditional headdress as the other replaces it with a red, white, and blue tophat, with a neon rendering of the American Flag flashing up the stovepipe. The bureaucrat throws Hosni's ballot into an emerald-encrusted barrel and gives it a spin. Commerical break.

Hosni removes the tophat, grabs his headdress, and runs out the door. He cabs it to the Canadian embassy and is surprised by the quaint little building with the single armed guard in front. He wonders if there is a "Canadian Way".


Canada accepts about 225,000 refugees and immigrants per year. Everyone is welcome, whether you are the gambling type or not. All that we ask is that you learn French if possible, and that you don't expect to carry around a handgun. And watch hockey, as soon as the NHL gets back on the ice. Or just fill out a ballot and maybe America will accept you with open arms (provided you have your grade 12!)

Does the Green Card Lotto make sense to you? Share your thoughts with us.