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My celebration as an Eritrean-American

Dr. HabenThese days Mr. Isaias Afwerki seems to be itching to explain and defend his ideas of totalitarian rule as one of the best.   He is coming on TV more often now, and he is telling the world that the EU got it wrong, Africans don’t know what they are doing and the USA is corrupt and its economy is in shambles, and the UN is passive.  And he continues to think that “one man rule” is the best for Eritreans.    Even if 30,000 of Eritreans flee to Ethiopia to become refugees there, he still thinks his way of  thinking and rule is the best for Eritreans.  Even if people from different walks of life languish in prison without due  process of law, he still thinks his way is the right way.  Even if families are searched and harassed in the middle of the night in their own homes without  any warrant or warning, he still thinks what he does is best for Eritreans. Eritrea has become a large size jail with concentration camps (“schools”) all over the country.  The punishment the leadership is inflicting on its own people is cruel, inhumane and demeaning.  The GOE punishes to inflict pain and suffering, and break the spirit on its own people, and not for correction  and/or discipline.  Why am I so critical like this?  It is simply because for the short life we live here on earth, humans (GOE) can do much better to govern their citizens than what we are witnessing.   What is then good governance? Let me share the freedom I experienced living in the U.S.A.  With all of its flaws, I think GOE can learn a lot from the governance and the constitution of the United States of America.

Last year, I celebrated my 30th year of living in the United States of America. I celebrated because the more I stay here in the U.S. the more I appreciate freedom, and the more I admire the founders of this country.  When the forefathers of this country came up with the constitution more than two hundred years ago, I can only say they were inspired to come up with such a small document that was able to ultimately create a society that is free, people who are creative, and communities that are able to absorb multitude of individuals from around the world, and enable them to live in peace and harmony.  (Okay-you critics: I am not naïve; the U.S. has its flaws and is far from perfect. In fact the constitution was written mostly for selective people at first).  However, the wise men put amendments and after over 200 years it has achieved to become what it is now. But with all its flaws, I can honestly say, relative to other countries of the world this country is one of the best ones.  I am content to live in this country and believe me; I celebrate my living here every day.  I wish the leaders of Eritrea come to their senses and start to process the constitution that was drafted by the people of Eritrea in 1997.  If they had started to implement the constitution in 1997, by now Eritreans would have accomplished plenty.  Instead the Eritrean constitution is collecting dust, and I hope one day a change will come when Eritreans will be able to clean the dust off and start working for the will of the people.

I celebrated, because in the 30 years of living in this country I was never ever stopped by a police or any government authority to be searched or harassed.  Personal liberty is perhaps the most important characteristic of American democracy. The number one Amendment in the American constitution was ratified as early as 1791, to guarantee individual freedom of expression, speech, press, religion, and freedom to assemble.   I traveled in almost all the 50 states and not even once was I harassed by authorities.  The framers of the constitution intended Americans to be free from governmental infringements and from unreasonable search and seizure etc.. This is a great testimony for the United States of America.  Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters in Eritrea are being harassed on a daily basis not only on the streets but even in their own private homes even at nights. This atrocity of intrusion by night is degrading and demeaning to women, scary to children and disrespectful to men.  This is an act of terror.  

Yes, I celebrated because of the freedom of relegion I have enjoyed in this country  No one seems to be intruding into my life and tell me what to believe.  I am free to practice my faith and I am free to teach my faith.  Again the framers intended Americans to be free from governmental infringements on freedom of religion and speech. The constitution gives me the full right, and the constitution recognizes that freedom of relegion is God’s gift not a gift from the government.   

I celebrated, because I have the freedom of speech.  Moreover, I have also the freedom to vent my feeling or share my ideas in writing.  I have shared my opinions (no matter how small or stupid they may sound) in newspapers, e-mails, letters etc.  By doing so I never feared that some one might come and scrutinize or harass me, or put me in jail, for writing my feelings about different subjects. I have been criticized and I have been praised, and that is to be expected in a free society. Thomas Jefferson once said, "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." What a conviction! 

I celebrated, because I live in the land of opportunities. Simply by living in the U.S. I was given the chance to live my life to the fullest.  And so are millions of people who come to this country.  Educational opportunity is given all over the country.  As long as people are willing to work hard, become responsible for themselves and get education of their choice, they have a chance to use the God given brain to the fullest and live life to the fullest. Thousands of Eritrean-Americans have seized this opportunity and we can see many graduating from Universities and become Doctors, Engineers, Lab Technicians, Lawyers, Journalists, Biologists etc. We have a great government, appointed by the consent of the people, that constantly works hard to get our children grow with promising opportunities. 

In the U.S. there is an incentive for elected officials to serve the people. Not vice versa.  If the government or government officials who are elected by the people are corrupt or mess up, then one of three things may happen.

1) During the next election they may end up loosing.  2)or they may be impeached and loose their position before they end their terms, or 3) if they committed crimes they may stand before the law and get convicted. The principle of the rule of law, and the inherent belief in individual right makes this country to be economically stable, developmentally forward looking and creates fundamentally sound and creative people.  These principles makes this country great and are reasons to celebrate. 

In my opinion, the difference between an impoverished country and developed country is spelled out on  how a government treats its citizens. Individual respect and individual human rights produces development ,whereas, individual disrespect to its own citizens by the government, and rule by intimidation produces corruption, ignorance and poverty . If a government does not honor the dignity of its own citizens then its citizens should expect even worse from others governments.  As an American my rights and protection are not only applicable within the country but also outside anywhere in the world.   

The following story will beautifully explain America and what it means to be an American, enjoy reading this story as written by an Australian dentist. If you had an opportunity to read it before, please read it again. 
“To Kill an American………………….

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. 
 
So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is . So they would know when they found one. (Good one, mate!!!!) 
 
'An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan. 
 
An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans. 
 
An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. 
In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan . The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses. 
 
An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. 
 
An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. 
The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence , which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. 
 
An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. 
 
When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country! 
 
As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan . Americans welcome the best of everything...the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least. 
 

The national symbol of America , The Statue of Liberty , welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America . 
 
Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.


So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.” 
 

Please understand I am not suggesting that Eritrea should transform itself to become like America or try to duplicate America instantly. I understand that this expectation is unrealistic.   I am suggesting however, that there is a universal law of human rights, and those rights should not be denied by one man or a few followers of that one man, and Eritreans should be allowed to be free from tyrant or tyranny. Yes, there is a universal truth of decency.  For example, if people are given the chance to elect their leaders, the collective judgment of the people usually is right, and they will end up voting for people who will respect them, serve them and will find leaders who will work for them.  

 
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