Ilhan Omar is a cautionary tale about US immigration – and so was I

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After a TV host called the congresswoman Ilhan Omar a poster child for US immigration troubles, her response – calling him a racist – proved his point. Yet she is only the latest such case. I should know, having been one myself.

Tucker Carlson hosts one of the most popular opinion shows on Fox News. On Tuesday, he had a segment calling out Omar (D-Minnesota) for accusing America of bigotry and racism in “virtually every public statement” and displaying “undisguised contempt for the US and its people.”

“Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration is dangerous to this country,” Carlson argued. “Some of the very people we try hardest to help have come to hate us passionately.”

Omar did not deny, or even contest, any of Carlson’s claims or characterizations. Instead, she called him a “white nationalist” and threatened those who advertise on his show.

Watching this sordid spectacle unfold has left me shaking my head, because once upon a time I was just like Omar: rescued by America from the ruins of a country that US intervention helped destroy, brought into the utterly alien culture and landscape of the American Midwest, and given a lot of support but little guidance. One difference was that Omar came with her family and with the intent to settle, while I left mine behind and hoped to one day go back.

During those college years two decades ago, I too was aggrieved with almost everything about America. I even had more reasons for that than simple culture shock, as the US mainstream media (there wasn’t another kind at the time) reporting on the 1999 Kosovo War transformed me overnight into a cartoon villain in the eyes of Americans I had considered friends. All told, I would have made a terrible American back then. 

Yet here we are, two decades later, and I am defending America’s right to be America while working at a “Russian” news outlet, while Omar is denigrating the country that made her a member of Congress.

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What happened? Simply put, I got to understand America along the way: where it came from and how it got to where it is today. I did not swear that oath of citizenship out of convenience, but by choice. Though I often criticize this country’s politics and policies, I do so from the perspective that they deviate from its core principles and values, and are harmful to the interests of its people – all of them. I also did not seek political office to impose my values on others.

Omar, on the other hand, has chosen to follow in the footsteps of other prominent immigrants rescued from war, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski or Madeleine Albright (born in Czechoslovakia as Jana Korbelova), who saw the US not as a limited constitutional republic created for the benefit of its people and their posterity, but as a vehicle for their personal ethnic grievances and revenge fantasies.

Brzezinski, for example, was so obsessed with destroying the Soviet Union – because of his native Poland – that he got the US to support jihad in Afghanistan, from where it later spread to the world.

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When confronted about this in an interview, he scoffed. “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

He never did take those words back, even after 9/11.

Albright, a student of his, also became a champion of US imperialism, casting every conflict anywhere in the world as a rerun of the 1938 partition of Czechoslovakia at Munich. One of the countries she eagerly destroyed in the 1990s was Yugoslavia, despite it having sheltered her family in the 1940s, first from the Nazis, then from the Soviets. 

She has treated her adoptive homeland with the same kind of “gratitude,” too. In 2016, Albright threatened American women who did not vote for Hillary Clinton with a “special place in Hell,” and later published a book accusing President Donald Trump’s administration of “fascism.” 

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Whether you agree that the US is a “nation of immigrants” or not, the fact is that this country has offered a deal to Albright, Brzezinski, Omar and myself: it is open to people like us, with the expectation we would help it prosper as we engage in our own “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That expectation is part of the bargain, though. Being welcome here is not – should not be – a one-way street.

“No country can import large amounts of people who hate it, and expect to survive,” argues Tucker Carlson. From my experience, both in this country and before, I can’t say that he’s wrong.

By Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2015

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