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Author's Citizenship

February 09, 1986

As an American citizen, writer and former editor of Ramparts magazine, I was interested in your article on Margaret Randall, an ex-American who, having renounced her citizenship and devoted her energies to the service of America's enemies from abroad, now wishes to resume her citizenship so that she can continue her assault on this country and its institutions from within ("Author Is a 'Woman Without a Country,' " by Elizabeth Mehren, Jan. 29).

As an ex-new leftist and ex-Marxist who understands firsthand the magnanimity of America's tolerance toward its dissenting citizens, I feel it would be a travesty to restore Randall's citizenship while she remains an unreconstructed enemy of American institutions and principles.

Moreover, it would be doing Ms. Randall a disservice, treating her like a child and delaying her political education by allowing her to have the best of both worlds: the moral self-righteousness of the rebel and the practical privileges of the status quo. For having chosen to spend a good deal of her adult life in totalitarian societies, Randall still has a lot to learn. Hobnobbing with the Sandinista Stalinists has not done much to rectify her elitist attitudes, which long personal experience has taught me are endemic to the "revolutionary" left. In answering your reporter's questions, for example, Randall shows the typical leftist's contempt for other people's intelligence by claiming to be only a feminist and only an opponent of the Reagan Administration and only interested in her constitutional rights--this from a woman who for two decades has put her talents in the service of communist movements and police states. . . .

In seeking to return to the country she rejected, Randall has unwittingly stumbled upon the bottom-line difference between the communist regimes she cherishes and the democratic society she despises.

In Marxist and communist countries all over the world, without exception, the immigration authorities and border guards are there to keep people in--because life under Marxism is so intolerable for ordinary people. In America and other capitalist democracies, the border guards and immigration authorities are there to keep people out, or rather to establish a rational policy for allowing them the privilege of entering, because life here relative to the whole experience of humankind is so good to ordinary people.

A rational immigration policy at the very least has to reinforce the values that have made this country such a desirable place to live. That it is why the Reagan Administration is right to have said no to Randall's request. In attempting to bar Randall, the Reagan Administration is also reinforcing the pride we Americans have in our democracy. The reason for our pride is that democracy is difficult to achieve and takes a unique combination of vigilance and tolerance to maintain. To bar a declared enemy of democratic values, therefore, is a necessary if largely symbolic means of defending those values.

Randall has made a lifelong commitment to destroying the institutions and premises on which this country was built. To restore her citizenship now, while she retains this commitment, would be an act of gross dereliction and disrespect. Even if it did not injure the fragile fabric of our democratic polity, it would still be an insult to all those immigrants past and present who have learned to love this country and what it stands for.


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