Monday, December 21, 2009

Corner Gas

Thanks to a Netflix recommendation I had the pleasure of viewing the Canadian TV series Corner Gas. I have trouble describing this sitcom - it has a feel kind of like Northern Exposure, but the setting could be a small town anywhere (USA or Canada). I'm sorry in a way that they are finished filming the last season of this fine series - but I think that there is a time for all good shows to bow out and allow something else to take over. Thankfully, since I just started viewing the series on DVD, it will be a while before I get to the final season!! Some people who have reviewed the series on Netflix found it to be boring. I found it to be refreshing - an alternative to the laugh-track-laden stuff that is currently on TV. I really enjoy the dynamic between Lacey and Brent in the first season, with there being an obvious attraction between the two characters, but (like what seems to happen with me) Brent either doesn't recognize what could be, or is somewhat oblivious to it.

When I watched Northern Exposure, I wondered what it would be like to live in Alaska. When I heard the now defunct "Cool Country, Rock, and Blues" station KICK-AM from Australia on the Internet, I wondered what it would be like to live in Sydney. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that as I was watching Corner Gas, I wondered what it would be like to live in Saskatchewan (or anywhere in Canada, for that matter). While I won't bore you all with the gory details of what I found and didn't find, I think I've come to the conclusion that while Canada is a fine country with a lot of positive attributes, I don't think that retiring to Canada (for me) is really practical. What I did find is that the U.S. has a fair amount to learn from our neighbor to the north. We should be as open to ideas from them as they have from us, over the years.

When looking at the potential to immigrate to Canada, I discovered that it isn't easy to become a resident of another country. It caused me to take pause about the current debate over illegal immigration to the United States by Mexican individuals. Let's stay on Canada for a few moments, and I invite you to take a look at Canada's Citizenship and Immigration web site as well, as it is quite enlightening.

If you want to buy a hunk of land in Canada and go there for vacations and stuff, then it's a fairly simple deal to do that. Really, as long as you can state your intent to visit Canada and your intent to leave Canada at some future time, you're in pretty good shape. Note that visiting Canada means that you are just visiting, and that you do not get most of the benefits that Canadian residents or citizens receive (and you shouldn't). In order to qualify to become a Canadian citizen, you first must become a permanent resident of Canada for a number of years. To become a permanent resident, you have to meet one of the following qualifications (simplified):
  1. You have a relative in Canada that wishes to sponsor you (subject to some restrictions)
  2. You have a job in Canada, and the employer wishes to sponsor you (likely subject to certain quotas)
  3. You are a refugee from another country seeking asylum in Canada. Note that being a refugee means that, due to your political or other beliefs, your life is at risk in your home country.
Note that retiring to Canada doesn't meet any of the above three qualifications, so the chances of being able to take advantage of the privileges that come with being a Canadian citizen are near impossible. To put it in other terms, you cannot just decide you want to go to Canada and become part of their country. They have rules for citizenship, and rules for entry to and exit from their country.

The United States isn't any different in that regard. My father's parents were German immigrants who came to the U.S. just before Hitler took power in Germany. I never knew much of what my father meant when he said that his parents needed to be "sponsored" before they could come to the U.S., but now that is very clear. So when we're talking about illegal immigration to the United States, we're talking about people who are entering the country as a permanent resident without being able to satisfy one of the very basic qualifications for that privilege. There are reasons for these rules. The rights and privileges of citizenship of a country depend on those people fulfilling certain responsibilities - which include paying taxes and being able to effectively communicate with other citizens. People who enter the U.S. illegally should not expect to gain any of the privileges of U.S. citizenship. When my father's parents came to the United States, they were expected to learn English in order to maintain employment (and their sponsorship) in this country.

The United States was never an open country. While we did, at one time, welcome immigrants, we did so at a time when our country was prosperous, and even then immigrants were subject to the same conditions as those in other developed countries. It is time for people on both sides of the debate to carefully consider the rules and regulations, think about why they are in place, then consider why illegal immigrants from Mexico or any other country to the United States is a bad thing. It seems that other countries, including Canada, have rules too.

How we deal with illegal immigration is still, to me, a bit of a bigger issue to address. Part of the problem is that our society is so obsessed with money that we're willing to hire illegal immigrants to work in order to increase our own profits. Likewise, there is a shortage of skilled laborers (who are citizens) in this country because, frankly, we're a bunch of greedy, lazy bastards. We also have developed a system by which the people who aren't lazy bastards and have learned a trade have a hard time earning a decent living. The current economy is not helping matters either. Even in this country's worst economic times, for the moment, we're still doing better than Mexico. So illegal immigration to the United States is a lucrative activity. For now. Do we kick out illegals? Do we arrest them? Do we fast-track them to citizenship? How about communication - should we be printing everything in Spanish in addition to English? Is that fair to our existing citizens? Is it fair that we have cities in the United States on the brink of collapse due to the downturn in the economy and yet there are people entering the country and taking jobs from these people? With that in mind, how can we justify allowing U.S. corporations to outsource major aspects of their business to foreign countries without some kind of intervention, if our own unemployment rate is so high? These are all questions that require some serious thought, and not just the knee-jerk reactions I've heard thrown about. In that thought should be the notion that we all have to adapt our lifestyles to the current economy. Just because you're doing well today doesn't mean that you'll be doing well tomorrow...

Keeping all this in mind, I have decided to post what I considered a controversial piece that I wrote several weeks ago and withdrew. I will re-date that piece as being written today, and will explain (at the beginning) why I decided to re-post.

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