Americans who hate America – and live and love to bash all talk of American exceptionalism – are interesting. They seem to suppose all non-Americans are rewarding such self-hatred with standing applause. Tell it to the thousands of Central Americans and Mexicans in ever-larger caravans headed our way with hopes of freedom and a better life.

The sincerest compliment you can pay to a country is not imitation, although America wins that derby, too. In areas ranging from comic books and fashion, all the way over to copying our Constitution and embracing it as their own, America is a proudly imitated country. No, the sincerest compliment you can pay to a country is not imitation. It’s immigration. And the caravan of those who want to live American lives is a hundred paces closer to our southern border than it was when you started reading this.

Do you remember the philosopher on the pier during World War II who saw the flags waving and the red, white and blue bunting streaming and the bands playing and the sweethearts kissing goodbye as the troopship loaded up for the perilous voyage into Nazi submarine-infested waters? He turned to his friend and said, “You know, if only nobody ever got killed or hurt, war would be more fun than anything else in the world!”

We can solve the immigration problem, but first we need a declaration of total war against its causes, beginning with a barrage of honesty, which is mysteriously lacking in this argument. I’m proud of my public education in a North Carolina school system, but I’m sorry they sent me out into the world thinking every country south of our border was a happy but smaller edition of the United States of America.

With some exceptions – too few! – we’re looking at our western hemisphere falling into a sizzling cauldron of corruption, greed, crime and failure. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” may have been a proper Band-Aid® to alleviate hatred and sabotage against the United States during World War II. And teaching the capital cities of Latin America to American school children was nice, quite nice, but feckless. It was like dropping honeysuckles down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo. Step One is to understand we’re dealing with countries that do almost everything right locked into dealing with countries that do almost everything wrong. Every Latin-American country could become free and prosperous. But it will take more than we may be willing to approve.

There has to be a Grand Awareness that we are the doctor and they are the patient. And that may be the end of the experiment right there!

If the afflicted countries will accept that truism, we must then move into a series of miniature Nuremburg Trials in the appropriate countries to uproot the endemic corruption that cripples so much of Latin America at the starting gate. Nobody denies this, and few believe it can be cured. It’ll require gutsy prosecutors and good bodyguards.

There are good reasons why their caravans trudge northward while no U.S. caravans trudge southward. Will they face up to those reasons? Israel has shown the way to help other countries succeed with little or no cost in “foreign aid” expenditures. Israel long ago realized that, with implacable enemies on all its borders, it would have to leap-frog over those bordering enemies and make friends beyond them. Israeli agronomists taught grateful countries like Senegal and other African states how to improve their lives through better crop yields and public health measures. Israeli aid-givers won applause from the government of Jamaica for teaching them the most up-to-date methods of drip irrigation. Americans – principally retired American specialists – would relish assignments to lift the lives across Latin America for little pay except the thrill of seeing poverty turned into prosperity.

During the Cold War, Cuba drove its Communist allies nuts by, for instance, assigning half the class in fighter plane operations to go pick crops instead, a disappointment their East German teachers, with their demanding schedules, found hard to fathom. It may be unkind to mention this, but values like promptness and reliability must be jackhammered home in too many areas of Latin-America.

Until our neighbors to the south quit criticizing el imperialismo yanqui and start learning from it, there will be little to cheer about. We’ll know we have a fighting chance when a caravan of Latin-American journalists, politicians and thought-leaders look to the north and say, “We are not just doing well. You are doing very well. Will you help us live more like you?”

One of my teachers, Mrs. Andrews, let us know things weren’t so rosy south of the border. I remember thinking how childish and ridiculous Mrs. Andrews seemed when she explained that the reason we were doing so much better than our neighbors to the south was, “Those who colonized the Latin American part of the hemisphere came looking for gold, while our predecessors came looking for God.” That lesson took 78 years to sink in!

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