Why I Still Want to Be an American Citizen
Photo by: CC BY-SA 3.0
A few months ago, I applied to become a U.S. citizen. If my application moves very fast, I will be looking at a portrait of Barack Obama, a man who represents so much of what I admire about America, as I take my oath of citizenship. But more likely, I will be looking at a man who makes me fear for the future of this country and the world: Donald J. Trump.
When I tell friends about this, trying to sound bemused rather than disheartened, they all ask some version of the same question: “Why would you even want to become an American citizen right now? Hasn’t Trump’s victory shown you just how messed up this country is?”
My short answer is that I love America. I love her Dionysian cities and her Apollonian fields. I love the daring grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge and the understated beauty of her oldest towns. I love her informality and her ambition, her dynamism and her depravity. In the 10 years I have lived here, I have even come to love the things that seemed most alien to me when I first arrived: Reese’s Pieces, the conspicuous friendliness of strangers, the smell of the New York City subway on a hot summer day.
But there is also a longer answer, one that has to do with who I am—and what America might become. Let me tell you a little about myself. I was born to Jewish parents in the Germany of the 1980s. In many ways, I had a happy childhood. We lived in nice enough towns, I went to decent enough schools, and my classmates were, mostly, tolerant enough. Unlike so many people who seek refuge in the United States, I have not suffered poverty or persecution.