It is truly amazing what John Oliver is doing over on Last Week Tonight. He’s not just entertaining us, and enlightening us to subjects like our drone program or our antiquated Miss American pagaent, he actually has the power to affect change, as he did with his segment on net neutrality, which led to the crashing of the FCC’s website. It’s amazing the way he takes an issue that I wouldn’t otherwise think I’d be intereseted in — like, Buzzfeed’s native advertising or how broken our prison system is — and turn it into a fascinating 15-minute rant so good that it actually propels us to want to get up off our asses and do something about it.
Maybe the very best instance of this was last night’s segment on translators in Afghanistan. That doesn’t sound like something anyone would be all that interested in discussing, and yet, before the segment is over, your blood will be boiling. I have seldom been as angry with our government’s lousy bureaucracy as I have after having had listened to the segment.
To get the full effect, I encourage you to listen to the entire segment yourself (John Oliver promises at the outset that, by the end, you’ll be angry with a donkey, and he is not wrong). However, here is the gist: American soldiers use translators in Afghanistan to fight the terrorists and to protect themselves. The translators are incredibly valuable to our war effort, and those translators literally risk their lives in order to help the Americans. However, once the soldiers leave, those translators and their families are at huge risk, because without our protection, the Taliban is very likely to locate them and murder them for helping us.
It should be a simple open and shut case: They helped us, so we should help them by keeping them safe and bringing them to the United States. In fact, we do have a system in place to ensure that happens. Unfortunately, that system is incredibly broken, mired in bureaucracy, and worse, set to expire at the end of the year.
As a result, people whose lives are in imminent danger because of the life-saving assistance they offered to Americans not only have to go through an impossible 14-step process in order to get a visa, but they have to do so while hiding from the Taliban, or while paying kidnappers their life savings to keep them from beheading their family members.
As you’ll see in the segment, that process is unrealistic and insurmountable, so we essentially leave those translators to perish. It is supremely f**ked up. We have to do something about it, and I hope to God that this segment provokes real and quick change to the process because it is maddening how poorly we treat our friends over there. I don’t say this lightly, but for this, the American government should truly be ashamed.