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Tuesday, September 06, 2005 

Foreigners and Airports

Just because I know where the airport is doesn't mean I'm going anywhere.

There probably isn't a single foreigner in the world who hasn't heard some variation of the following statements whenever they make negative comments regarding their host country.

If you don't like it here, you know where the airport is. Somebody better tell the Greek on the street to watch themselves on this one. Avramopoulos will have a conniption fit after having spent $31 million on Greece's 2005 campaign trying to convince people to come to Greece and the Greek population is doing their best to get rid of them.

As if your country is any better. Once this statement is uttered, it is, more often than not, followed by a litany of scandals, embarrassments or talentless singing sensations emanating from your country to prove their point. Since I'm Canadian, I always hear about American foul ups, since most people don't even know for sure if Canada is a sovereign country or the 51st American state. If they do know a bit about our history, we'll get blamed for what the French and British did to the native Indians. All of this, in some bizarre way, proves that no Canadian can ever complain about getting shafted by cab drivers, pollution or stolen parking spaces let alone anything REALLY important like the state of the Greek economy.

So why should I have a problem with native citizens telling me to put up or shut up? It's simple. If any foreigner has made their home legally outside their native country, pays taxes, makes a decent effort at integration (ie., learning the language, culture and history), works and is not an economic burden to the country, respectful of the local laws, customs and traditions (no one in my family ever fought in the Greek War of Independence or was affected by Oxi Day but that doesn't mean I can't respect all those who did) then they have every right to express their views...good or bad. These are the same reasons I don't vote in Canada's elections anymore. I don't pay taxes there, raise my child there, educate him there or even live there so I feel I don't have the right to have a say in who runs Canada since I am not directly affected by the outcome of any election. My life is here now and this state directly influences my life therefore, I believe that I and every legal immigrant have every right to criticise, applaud or denounce its actions.

On the flip side, back in Canada, when law-abiding legal immigrants told me that they had problems with some aspects of our society, I wouldn't immediately get insulted and tell them to go 'home' unless they wanted to infringe on my basic human rights or those of others. For example, Palestinians adamantly opposing my choice of lawyer, doctor or friend because they were Jewish or Lebanese Christians telling me that Canada should not allow muslims to build a mosque. Other immigrants have also told me that Canada should ban interracial relationships because that's how it was done in their country. I am not the least bit offended if a foreigner had told me that our education and health system needs work, our divorce and crime rates were too high. I would be upset if someone who has never paid a dime in taxes and never will because he or she entered my country illegally, tells me that our welfare system is failing them.

The only time I would accept being told to go home if I don't like it is if I'm a burden to my adopted country by being an illegal immigrant or engaging in criminal activities. If they don't like what I have to say, then they can exercise their right to ignore me.

Excellent points SeaWitch.

Living in the US (where I was raised, but born in Europe), I find this attitude quite common. While there are many things I love about this country, I am often labelled as anti-American. People who say that are half-right. I am anti-American foreign policy (starting with the Harding administration).

My papou was tortured simply because he was against the oppressive measures of the US backed Royalist government (he was no Communist or insurgent, he just had strong views) after the Second World War and had a big mouth about it (I believe I inherited that gene). My family lived under martial law during the Colonels rule (when my papou also had a heart attack after curfew and my oldest uncle had to light a Red Cross sign with a flashlight in order to avoid being shot while carrying blood back to the hospital). When I tell people these things, do they expect my views of American foreign policy to be? Just forget even though the US is doing the same thing, just in different countries?

Yes, I know many brave men and women have died that give me the right to criticize the US, but my point is that through the years, the US has frequently denied people in foreign countries of enjoying such freedoms.

Does that mean I should back my bags and go back to Europe where I was born and still hold citizenship?

I think not.

Kosta

One of the fundamental rights in a democracy is freedom of speech. This right is protected in the Greek and American constitutions and the Canadian Charter of Rights. This doesn't mean that only the right to say complimentary things is protected but the right to express any opinions which don't incite hatred. You have every right to criticize America's support of the junta. Bill Clinton apologized for it so it wasn't a conspiracy theory that upset people. The truth does hurt sometimes but recognition of a problem is the only way to fix it.

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