Becoming an American…it’s complicated

Big personal news: I became a citizen of the United States yesterday morning. Laura and I celebrated with a big American cafe breakfast at the sunny Square Cafe.  The citizenship ceremony was quite moving. New citizens from India, Burma, and UAE provided powerful personal testimony of coming to US.  My own feelings  were complicated; I decided to pass on the opportunity to speak to my fellow new citizens and their friends.  Becoming an American is a bigger deal emotionally than I had anticipated. I was ecstatic but wiped out yesterday by the experience.

My new American identity

Ironically, it was distrust in American bureaucracy that motivated naturalization. I wasn’t in a big hurry to move from permanent residence status to citizenship. That is, until a nasty encounter with an immigration officer at the border showed me that USCIS has way too much power for me to ever feel securely part of this society while I remained an alien. Now as long I don’t commit treason or take a super high level position in a foreign country (all quite manageable tasks), I won’t have my American citizenship taken away.

On a more upbeat note, I was reminded yesterday morning that it’s all easy to take the right to vote for granted.   I will register to vote soon and look forward to voting in American elections. As a newly minted American, I’ve also become more responsible for what the US does in the world in my name; I can’t pass the buck like I used to.

Something I need to do soon:  apply for my US passport.  I find it odd that I will have to part with my hard earned naturalization certificate one federal agency (USCIS) just gave me to prove to another agency (Dept of State) to send me a US passport.  USCIS has already scrutinized me thoroughly to grant me citizenship. The Dept of State could get data directly from USCIS instead of me.   On further reflection, I probably should be glad that the government doesn’t have me all figured out.