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Please Melt
Sure, come to America (ideally, if you are a highly educated Japanese scientist -- not a Muslim looking to take flight lessons and spread the joy of Sharia law).

The way I see it, immigrants and foreign visitors are guests in our country, and should behave accordingly. I don't go to France demanding that things be done like they are in America. If I need things done like they are in America, I'll stay home.

Swedish politician Nyamko Sabuni, herself an emigrant from the Congo, champions an idea I've taken for granted until recent years: that immigrants need to make an effort to fit into their adopted country. Sarah Lyall writes about Sabuni in the IHT:

Nyamko Sabuni would stand out anyway, being tiny, dark-skinned and obviously foreign in a place where those things are still anomalies. But as the recently appointed minister for integration and gender equality, she tends to draw more attention for her unusually blunt pronouncements about the place of immigrants in Swedish society.

As an opposition politician, Sabuni proposed banning the veil for girls under the age of 15. She proposed that schoolgirls undergo compulsory medical examinations to check for evidence of genital mutilation. She denounced what she called the "honor culture" of some immigrant groups, proposed outlawing arranged marriages and called for an end to state funding of religious schools.

Even as furious immigrant and minority groups demand that she be removed from her post, Sabuni, 37, insists that she is not as extreme as people make her out to be. Given the political reality of Sweden's center-right coalition government, it is unlikely, anyway, that most of her ideas could plausibly translate into actual law.

..."A lot of people misread their rights," she said recently. "They think that freedom of religion means that they can do anything in the name of religion, or that human rights means that they can act however they want against others."

Not true, she said. "If they want to live here, have kids, have grandchildren, they must make an effort to adapt to the society where they live."

Posted by aalkon at January 14, 2007 1:48 PM

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Amy, as usual you aren't shy about edgy subjects!

Having been expat American in France and England myself, beginning when my Dad's job took my family overseas, I identify with your opinion that foreigners are like guests in another country. Like you, I have always respected and adapted to the way things are done, and especially to the laws, of the many countries I've visited. Not that it isn't frustrating at times!!!! At least I've been able to represent an "American" who's not perceived negatively as "ugly", "pushy", or "loud"... I do admit that in Britain my direct approach frightened some people until I caught on and toned it down!

Concerning Nyamko Sabuni in Sweden, bravo Amy and thank you for telling us about her. It's refreshing to see a young politician standing up for ideas she believes are good for her country. What she's proposing is the protection of the rights of women immigrants, that they may participate fully in the civil rights accorded to all women in Sweden! Bravo Nyamko!

Also we all would do well, wherever we are, to think closely about her statement that people may be "misreading their rights".

On the subject of women's rights, although much progress has been made in the 20th century, all is not won forever. The progress made cannot be taken for granted! Notice the attacks on women's rights being made all the time.

For an article about a French woman politician, Yvette Roudy, now 78 years old, that tells about the major accomplishments she made for women in France, and her advice to women now, see here:
It's also enlightening to see only how recently some of these rights for women have been achieved - just since the 1980s.

Posted by: Sue Rynski at January 14, 2007 4:24 AM

Thanks so much for posting that. The lady was busy! Here's an excerpt:

Most famous for her appointment as the Minister for Women’s rights (1981-86), Yvette Roudy’s tenure was marked by six major laws, including the law on the reimbursement of abortion (1982); the law for equal access to public jobs (1982); a law on the equality of men and women in the workplace, allowing among other things the implementation of equality plans in various companies (1983); a law on the collection of alimony payments (1984); a law on the equality of spouses in marriage (1985); and a circular relative to the feminization of names of professions, functions, military ranks, and titles (1986).

Those laws, who appear so obvious to us today, were obtained through sheer political combat and resistance to all sorts of virulent attacks coming from all sides (like in Star Wars!). We cannot expect politicians, apart from some exceptions, she quoted, like Lionel Jospin, François Mitterrand, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, (who appointed Simone Veil as Minister of Health in 1974), to welcome women with open arms. Just as in the introductory statement, one of the key messages she sent to us was the fact that “it doesn’t necessarily take a large group to change things”; it takes persistence. That was the good news. On a more challenging aspect, she admitted that working part time was not the way to really build a presence and that was unfortunately one of the key differentiating factors between women’s and men’s careers.

And she's a realist (see above, about working part-time). But what I didn't agree with was a bit at the end, here:

One of the topics brought forth at the dinner by Colette Guillopé, (who, if she was paid by the weight of her diplomas would be richer than Madonna), was the recent outcry caused by the French Minister for Research and Industry; when asked why he did not nominate any women on the CNRS board (a key governing body for French Public Research), he reportedly turned to his assistant, and said “oh, you want a woman? I ‘ll ask my assistant”. Yvette’s reaction was immediate and firm: “You cannot let this drop. Do not let him get away with it. He will bend, ask for not one woman, but 50% of women on the CNRS board”.

I don't judge people by whether or not they have vaginas but by whether or not they're the best person for the job. It seems likely women have been kept out because they're women, but bringing them in because they're women isn't the answer, either, and is, in fact, discriminatory.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 7:53 AM

"Reimbursement of abortion"?


Haven't the heart to follow the link.

Who gets reimbursed, the mother, the father or the aborted? And for what?

Fuckin' France, man.

Posted by: Crid at January 14, 2007 8:47 AM

They have socialized medicine (as you know). It just joined the procedures that are covered. If you're going to pay buttloads of your income in taxes, and make little money (salaries in France for the average person are decidedly ungreat), why should you pay out of your pocket for an abortion if, say, smokers aren't made to pick up the cost of their emphysema?

The notion that funding abortion makes more women have them is incorrect, just as is the notion that making birth control available causes people to fuck (who otherwise would not).

P.S. A scraping of cells is not a human being -- despite the contention, by people who believe, without evidence, that they're being moved around like chess pieces by an Imaginary Friend in the sky.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 9:00 AM

Oh that's all horseshit!

Posted by: Crid at January 14, 2007 9:22 AM

Which part or parts of it, specifically?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 14, 2007 9:34 AM

I've allways wonered. Since women can get out of a pregnacy and 18 years of responsiblity by having an abortion - why cant guys have the same window of opportunity to shed hemselves of all legal and finacial burdens of a child?

Posted by: lujlp at January 14, 2007 11:10 PM

I've written about this. I don't think a woman should expect some casual sex partner to be daddy when she gets pregnant. Since it's her body that gets "with child," it should be her responsibility to guard against pregnancy, same as it's the diabetic's responsibility to guard against eating sugar, not the donut-maker's responsibility if the diabetic wolfs down three donuts.

Anyway, if you're a woman, and you're having casual sex, or sex with a guy who has made it clear he doesn't want a child, the way I see it, you should be prepared to have an abortion, give the child up for adoption, or raise it entirely on your own.

Here's the column where I talk about this, "Fetal Attraction":

Here's an excerpt:

This isn't 1522. If a woman really doesn't want a kid, she can take advantage of modern advances in birth control like Depo-Provera or the IUD, combine them with backup methods (as recommended by her doctor), add an ovulation detection kit, plus insist that doofuses like you latex up. Since it's the woman who gets a belly full of baby, maybe a woman who has casual sex and is unprepared, emotionally, financially, and logistically, to raise a child on her own, should be prepared to avail herself of the unpleasant alternatives. It's one thing if two partners in a relationship agree to make moppets, but should a guy really get hit up for daddy fees when he's, say, one of two drunk strangers who has sex after meeting in a bar? Yes, he is biologically responsible. But, is it really "in the child's best interest" to be the product of a broken home before there's even a home to break up?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 15, 2007 1:25 AM

Getting back to the immigrant issue.

I'm an immigrant(from Germany)and as such have to adjust. There might be certain laws and rules I don't agree with(for get married, go to jail, fight a war, but you can't have a beer??), but I still have to live by them, like it or not, or go back home. People always ask me where I like it better, here or there. There is no "better" for me, just different. When I call a customer service line and hear that you have a choice between english and spanish, I crinch. I live in South Florida, which has a huge hispanic population. But it also has a large haitian, french, german, french-canadian population. we need a choice of all those languages? I believe if you want to live in this country you should at least make an effort to speak the language, and many do, but there are also a lot of people who've lived here for 20 some years and still don't speak a word of english. I think America is more than willing to help the ones that want to help themselves, but if you don't want to adjust or at least make an effort then to hell with you. If you want everything to be like it was in your mother or fatherland....I suggest going back.

Posted by: Tanja at January 19, 2007 10:31 PM

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