Here's serious food for thought about the immigration reform debate.
Sometimes, particularly in the midst of horrifying and dramatic events, it is important to listen to what is and what is not being said when making striking comparisons.
The unending reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing is one such case.
Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the suspected plotters who lives in Montgomery Village, called both nephews "losers" who were "unable to settle themselves" and "hating everyone who did."
A typical reaction to such comments might have led one to think he meant the young men were unemployed or unemployable, or that they were Joe Sixpack or deadbeat dads, and if you reside in a crime-plagued urban hub say Baltimore, Chicago, New York or the District you easily could have misinterpreted his characterization as young men hellbent on living a thug life.
The operative words spoken by Mr. Tsarni were "unable to settle themselves" and "hating everyone who did."
Those young men were afforded more legal rights and privileges than many Americans born right here on U.S. soil, including ex-felons or returning citizens, as they prefer to be called who are often unable to resettle themselves because law forbids them from returning to their family or childhood homes, or their pre-prison careers.
When in search of a job, their employment applications are often tossed in the trash.
Assimilation, or "settling in," is hardest for those who have been locked up for several years, and for those imprisoned for decades it can lead toward the revolving door, where walking the straight and narrow is easier.
The Tsarnaev brothers obviously felt confined by our way of life but refused to be institutionalized, if you will, by the West.
Like men and women behind bars, they knew their gender, race and ethnicity would remain the same regardless of their geographical location. Yet unlike most American inmates, the Tsarnaev brothers hated even those people who were like them and were unwilling to do whatever it took to integrate themselves.
They wanted for themselves what we, Americans, freely hand out, though.
They were immigrants, and they pursued U.S. citizenship.
They were not treated as being unworthy. They had U.S. voting rights, while many former felons do not.
They were educated, having accepted the availability of public schooling.
They even took advantage of that teenage right of passage and became licensed drivers.
And, hey, for all we know at this juncture, our tax dollars are paying for excellent medical care at a Boston hospital.
Oh, yeah. They figured out how to "settle themselves" all right right down to wearing the ordinary, everyday apparel to blend into the throngs of folks at the marathon.
It is indeed time to reform our immigration laws, but let's make sure we don't consider quotas, gender or other such nonsense, including whether the immigration applicant is a "dark-skinned male."
While it's certainly appropriate and important that we know whether immigrants are aware of our history, laws and culture, it's also vitally important to seek out who they are and where they are headed, not just where they are coming from.
The Boston bombing case highlights the problem that the current pathway to American citizenship and the one playing out in the halls of Congress fail to address what could happen.
Regardless of one's religious beliefs, hatred is a powerful emotion and motivator.
The horrors of what happened in Boston are indeed a wake-up call and the alarm will stop only when our immigration laws allow us to dig as deeply as possible before we lay out new welcome mats.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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