I am American. Today was the day that it happened, and it has been an interesting experience. I have been resident in the US for over 16 years now, and the time here will soon eclipse the time that I spent growing up in England. At first I hung tightly to my British-ness. It is hard not to when you are an ex-pat. In many ways I felt *more* British being away from the motherland. You become the token, and get all of the questions and weird looks at your funny accent.
Over time I dropped the mate for dude, and even switched from colour to color. Who am I kidding. My wife and children are American. My parents and brother have become American. I find myself in a bit of a weird place, being in between. I don’t fully feel “at home” here, but no longer feel at home when I find myself back in blighty. It isn’t the place that I grew up, and I wasn’t there to roll with the changes.
I have had a green card for a long time, and should have gotten my citizenship awhile back, if not just to be able to vote against the likes of George Bush. But, something held me back.
Then I looked at my young children and knew it was time, so I applied and went through the crazy experience of naturalization. First time around I randomly got a “DENIED” letter which ended up being because something didn’t come in the mail to me, so I had to start from scratch (and pay again! Thanks fellow citizens!).
You are required to learn some simple civics as part of the process. The kind of questions that on the face of it you will nail without any study. Fortunately, my father-in-law has given me quite the civics lesson over time, and it is primarily due to he that I have been proud to take this step.
You see, I often poo-poo’d America. This baby country that has more conservative areas than I would personally like. I don’t like the role as World Police. I think that recent wars have been criminal. But with all that being said, look at how fantastic it is that I can criticize her. This blog isn’t censored. In fact, it is now my responsibility to take care of her.
Take this (from the oath that I just offered):
“I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Domestic, not just foreign. This country is young and has a lot of growing up to do, but at the same time, it offers me a chance to become younger again too.
My full oath is below:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
It is really quite fantastic that you are executing an oath to the Constitutional ideals and not a President, or Monarch. On that note, I looked up what a Dion in a parallel universe, who moved to the UK from the US, would be saying today upon joining the United Kingdom as a citizen:
“I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.”
That’s right. You are swearing your allegiance to Queenie still!
One thing I did like though was the note:
“You can make an affirmation if you prefer not to swear by God.”
I appreciate that, and wish that I didn’t have to use that term so much in my ceremony today. It undermines my oath since if I don’t believe in Him, am I really able to take the oath?
The ceremony itself beat my expectations. It was held at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland (they made me pledge allegiance to the Oakland Raiders too! :), and the chap running the show was funny! He welcomed people in 8 languages…. very impressive indeed. He was incredibly respectful of all countries, and there wasn’t even a hint of “you have joined the most amazing country! you were so smart to leave any other!” and instead the already mentioned respect for countries all over the world. There were over 1300 people present, from 106 countries, some of which I had never heard of, and others that do not exist anymore. Barack Obama said a few words (recorded of course), and I was thankful that I waited for his welcome rather than a predecessor.
I now look forward to adding to the melting pot, and hope to be a bridge between the yanks and the chaps.
Here’s to my fellows from both countries that I adore.