5.27.2015

Naturalization

Yesterday, I went to a friend's naturalization ceremony, which was lovely and moving.

I felt so proud to be an American, and so dismayed that the process of becoming a citizen of the State of Israel is nothing like the process of becoming a citizen of the US (though that, too, is flawed). It seems almost automatic there, barring odd circumstances, if you are Jewish or even have at least one Jewish grandparent, and almost impossible if you are not.

The speech that the judge gave was lovely, and some parts of it, although not all, would have been impossible in Israel. Other speeches would be possible in Israel that are not possible in the US, of course, and what is possible in the US was built on the backs of land stolen from Native Americans and the free and under-paid labor of many, many generations of African Americans among others--there is a lot not to be proud of here. But there is also a lot to be proud of. (The same is certainly true of Israel. But I feel more embarrassed about the part that I am not proud of there. More culpable. Because I could move there and dedicate my life to making a difference, or trying to, and I feel a bit more powerless to right what is wrong here.)

It totally skeeved me out that one of the people becoming a citizen was a woman who was covered head to toe except for her eyes, but I also felt immensely proud to be a citizen of a country where that was possible. (I later said, "Congratulations!" to her when we were using the restroom at the same time, and I was surprised that she had no accent, although perhaps I shouldn't have been. She could have been Canadian or raised in the US from a young age, or learned really great English somewhere else.) A man sitting next to me said proudly, "It's illegal to wear a mask or any head covering at all in court in [his native country]," and I was proud to live in a country where that was not the case. A statement was made at the beginning asking men to remove their hats that they were wearing for any purpose other than religion, and saying that women could keep their head coverings on. (There were a lot of Muslim and Hindu women becoming citizens wearing various manner of head or hair coverings, plus a sheitel and a fall, among the new citizens.) I felt proud to be a citizen of a country where so many people who look so different from me had worked long and hard with lawyers, learning American civics, and sacrificed so much to become citizens, and they were welcomed with open arms.

People from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, and various other repressive (and non-repressive) countries became American citizens yesterday, and I feel like that can only be a good thing for the world.

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