Some immigrants are luckier than others. We were embraced by complete strangers when we came to the States. “Welcome to America!” “God bless you!”

Then there is the Iraqi man in Texas who went outside to look at his first snowfall and was shot dead in front of his home. His welcome wagon was, shall we say, a little less festive.

What makes one person a target and not another? Was it simply that the color of his skin was darker than ours? Or were we lucky to be dealing with people slightly less crazy than the ones in Texas?

When we lived in Idaho, our neighbors pointed their many guns at everything else that moved–the squirrels, the birds–but not at us, at least as far as I can remember. Not that there was any love lost between us. They didn’t like us because we had an accent and spoke to each other in our native language. Actually, they were drug dealers, so they were paranoid and didn’t like anybody very much.

I was told when I came to America that I should fear the big cities with their muggings, but the scariest time I’ve experienced here has been the five years we spent in Boise. Still, we didn’t get shot. Since America is portrayed around the world as the country where people get shot, this was a big deal for us.

I guess this rambling post is to reflect on the randomness of fate. What decides which human beings live and die? Whether or not you look like the type of person who gets killed. And if you do, whether or not you are doing something “suspicious”. Whether or not you live somewhere where weapons get waved around in public, or a more civilized area like the one I currently inhabit, where the residents keep their weapons hidden in their homes. Whether or not the nutjob down the street finally reaches his tipping point. So many things can go wrong.

Some of us just happen to be lucky.

This article is a great example of a business doing it right–Trader Joe’s.  Much like Costco, Trader Joe’s is going the anti-Wal Mart route, paying their employees a good wage and giving them benefits, and is a well-liked source of organic food and two buck chuck for us here on the leftie coast.

And since last summer, Trader Joe’s has been expanding–for the first time–into Texas.  Hmmmm…could this be another sign that Texas is turning blue, or at least a milder shade of red?  We know about the rising demographic shift gradually changing the state.  Could this be yet another reason for those who believe in Texas as a bastion of conservative thought to be just a little worried?

We’ll see…I guess they better secede soon before we corrupt them completely.

I can kind of sympathize with passionate conservatives at the moment.  Since the Democrats hold both the Presidency and the majority in the Senate, conservatives find themselves in the same position progressives like me have been in many times, valiantly struggling for the things they believe in without having the power to really make them happen, until that struggle turns into something a bit quixotic and silly.

There is no better example of this than the current conservative hero, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Conservatives sing his praises for sticking to his right-wing principles, but…what has he actually been able to get done?  So far, he is 0-to-11 in his Senate votes.  He has introduced a bill to repeal healthcare reform (snort).  He has voted against John Kerry’s confirmation for Secretary of State while attempting to smear him as anti-military, and lost that fight.  He has participated in the Chuck Hagel hearings and tried to make the Secretary of Defense nominee look anti-Semitic by quoting out of context from an interview in which Hagel in fact criticized Iran and emphasized the importance of a strong relationship with Israel.  When all else failed, Cruz threatened to filibuster Hagel’s nomination.  But this turned out to be an idea which other, more sane, Republicans are backing away from.  (And I’m using the word sane to refer to John McCain here, which feels like quite a stretch.)

I realize that when he does all this, Cruz is appealing to his conservative base.  But he is also not accomplishing much of anything.  His dramatic gestures may get attention, but that is all they are, gestures–like his letter to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel opposing gun control measures.  I’m sure Emanuel cares deeply about that one. Again, as a liberal I feel some sympathy for Cruz here.  He’s like one of those tree sitting anti-logging protesters.  You know that tree will get cut down anyway, but good old Ted is gonna keep sitting up there.

But I guess I shouldn’t completely dismiss Ted–he proudly represents the red-blooded American values of a state like Texas.  At least, until the demographics shift and Texas turns blue.  Tee hee.