November 6, 2011

The original Social Security Act was passed in the 1930s, the era of the Great Depression, to combat skyrocketing poverty rates, economic instability of senior citizens, unemployment, and the struggles of widows or widowers. The Social Security program uses social security taxes paid by the nation’s citizens in order to provide economic security to the previously mentioned groups of people. Your personal Social Security Number (SSN) often times gives you identification and presence in the United States. Therefore, a common way identity theft occurs is when someone steals your SSN. I guess this means I received my identity last night.

Quite contrary to how momentous the occasion was, I felt quite apathetic about the whole situation. I haven’t taken the time to really reflect on how wonderful it is to have a Social Security Number. Wait a second…am I actually supposed to be happy that the government finally gave me a SSN? Maybe you can help me find the answer to that question in the next few minutes you take to read this.

When I first got here in September, Debby asked me to read an article titled “Help! I’ve Been Colonized and I Can’t Get Up…” by Jane Anne Morris. She addresses this phenomena occurring in the world concerning the public’s tendency to not take action against corporate exploitation of the environment, rather choosing to complain and blame other people. Jane Anne Morris describes the population in three parts. She explains that one of the three thirds “are preparing testimony so you can be persuasive at a generic regulatory agency hearing while you’re begging them to enforce a tiny portion of our laws.” I call that “groveling,” as Morris puts it, begging, sycophancy, being a toady, maybe kowtowing, even for the smallest of results. After seeing the fruit of all your efforts, you rejoice for the killing of 600 trees, not 2000. The government has us under so much oppression that small, minute outcomes produce celebratory parties with champagne. That is being “colonized.” So yes. I have a right to be apathetic that my SSN came in the mail last night. I have a right to question whether I should really be happy.  When it comes right down to it, are we living in a true democratic nation, when we have to beg for things that should be granted, such as an “identity”?

How about the other side of the story? An enormous number of immigrants are working day to day, and paying their taxes, praying that an opportunity to receive even a Social Security Number and eventually their Alien Registration Card crosses their paths. Do I really have a right to say that I am apathetic now? Let me take some time to explain to you what it would be like if I had never come to the United States. I would be living in a crammed, overpriced apartment complex with my Mom. I would be taking about an hour commute to school courtesy of the Korean subway system. I would be going to school and returning home, in the dark. My Mom would be working almost 24-hour workdays. I wouldn’t know how to speak English. I would have never known that there were bigger opportunities outside of my country. Ultimately, I would have never questioned the status quo. I’ve laid out both sides of the debate. Should I be glad about this next step towards citizenship? Should I question the government’s limitations on its source of power, the people of the nation? What do you think?

Now I realize that I talk about immigration and the government a lot. Maybe it’s because this has been such a large part of my life. Maybe it’s because it really matters that people know. Maybe it’s just because I’m eighteen and I’m pissed. No matter what the reason, it’s safe to say I’m still perplexed. However, in this post-911 era, I am well on my way to receiving an Alien Registration Card. That’s a minor miracle.  Oh, the irony…

-Skye Jang

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