My plans for preparing a series of posts with my “closing” (you might say) comments as I prepare to leave Kenya were interrupted. Professional priorities took over, and we all know what that means in the scheme of things.
“The best-laid plans,” etc….
So apologies to regular readers of these posts. Will hope to stay on track over the next few weeks.
In keeping with my little theme, I was duly impressed with not only the Winner of the Women’s Open Division of the New York Marathon (Edna Kiplagat of Kenya) but with David Brooks’s essay in today’s New York Times.
In The Crossroads Nation, Brooks makes his usual strong and well-thought out case for his topic, which this time is how America attracts creative and innovative people, how in the United States people who have the talent to move forward with their ideas can do so. Despite the difficult times we’re living in, Brooks notes, there is still an opportunity for creative people to find a place where they can fulfill their creative destiny. It doesn’t seem to matter where you come from (he refers to someone living in “some small town in Ukraine or Kenya or some other place, foreign or domestic”). You want to go, he says, to “where people are gathering to think about the things you are thinking about, creating the things you want to create.” And he’s right. America – especially the United States – is the place you want to go. American truly is – and always has been – the “crossroads nation.”
But is it?
I’m not an expert in these things, but of course I couldn’t resist, and I responded to David’s column (I read him so often I feel like we should be on a first-name basis!).
From my experience – from what I’ve observed and from what I’ve heard Africans speak about – I fear there is one important barrier inhibiting the United States as a crossroads nation, at least for people from outside our borders. Here’s what I said:
“Thank you, David, for this cogent and stimulating essay: I totally agree with what you’ve said, and being a crossroads nation has many important implications for us both as a nation and as a society. However, there is one ‘layer’ (we might call it) that is preventing our moving forward in this direction: the dangerous, petty, and offensive resistance at embassies with respect to granting visas. I’m currently wrapping up a year-long business assignment in Kenya, and I’m shocked to hear the stories people tell about attempts to come to the United States from several of the African countries. In fact, the joke here is that ‘it’s easier to get into Heaven than to get into America.’ In the past, I had not thought about this very much, and it is very sad to hear about this. It’s a situation that, I fear, could be a serious impediment to our being a crossroads nation. Thanks again for your good essays. Good work. All the best.”