Shifting Allegiance?


Six and a half years, I’ve been here now.

This is where my children have spent ten of their aggregate twelve years on this earth.  This is where my wife was born.  This is where I work, live, and play.  While I was apparently looking the other way, my roots have been burrowing quietly into this soil, and it seems fair to conclude that I’m in the United States to stay.

My mother, who moved to England nearly fifty years ago (sorry, mum), still refers to New Zealand, where she was born, as “home”.  But America is my home now.  When I return to England, I don’t feel homesick, just oddly misplaced.  Perversely, it’s the one place where I feel self-conscious about my accent.  I feel far more at home as a foreigner in a small Midwestern town than back where I came from.

So, here’s the thing.  I’m thinking about becoming an American citizen.  I’m already committed to the place in all the ways that matter.  It seems silly to be contemplating spending the rest of my life here with a different passport in my pocket.  Not much will change, to be honest, except I’ll be able to vote (and they won’t be able to kick me out any more.)  I’ll still speak funny and listen to cricket matches that go on for five days.  What matters, I hope, is who I am, not what I am.

My new book tells the story of an immigrant family arriving in the United States from Germany.  The process of writing it helped crystallize much of this for me.  I know it’s insufferably obnoxious to quote from your own work, but writing passages like this can’t help but have an effect:

Frederick loved America.  He loved its big open spaces, the sunsets that drenched the evening sky in blistering color.  Above all, he loved the smell of promise that hung in the air.  Europe, he could see now, was slowly suffocating under the weight of its own history.  In America the future was the only thing that mattered.  Frederick turned his back on everything that had gone before, and looked ahead into the bright lights of the young century.

A hundred years on, that’s me.

I wrote here about my admiration for the Declaration of Independence and the ideals upon which America was founded.  Nowhere else on this earth are the principles of freedom and democracy so passionately believed in by its citizens.  And you gotta love that.

Am I sure about all this?  Not completely.  After all, I could have applied to do this years ago and never did.  America has its faults.  (Sean Hannity, health insurance companies, the NRA, jello salad, take a bow.)  Yes, I will have to take a deep breath when they ask me to say the pledge of allegiance, but I’ve never been one for looking back.  Nostalgia has always struck me as a rather redundant emotion.  I’m here now.  I must look towards the future, and the promise and hope that lies in each new day.

Comments 8

  1. If you become a citizen, you will have to put the period inside the quotation marks, not outside. This may be a deal-breaker.

  2. Congratulations on your new site… awesome! I love it!
    Life is good…
    Let’s celebrate your potential citizenship…
    We can go to SHELTER (insurance) gardens for lunch, enjoy some JELLO SALAD, listening to Sean Hannity on the radio discuss the importance of the NRA….

    Take a Bow… you deserve it.

    If that is the worst we have to offer… not too bad… not too pleasurable.. .but not too bad…

    ….. come on over to our team we welcome you with open arms!!

  3. You might have to exchange your favourite coloured socks for the honour. Which might affect all future novels. Something to think about.
    PS: If you call it “jelly” salad it’s not quite so bad.

  4. Alex, great web-site. Barns & Nobel will have an order for Novels before I wing it again to
    the Middle East (with kids in uniform, most of which return as old guys 12 months later)
    I am ‘celebrating’ 40 years survival in my part of the sandpit out there, teaching guys, together with my team, how to avoid being blown up by roadside/suicide IED’s

    Pal, you have arrived in the USA and look at the future with a young family.
    So, follow your heart when it comes to citizenship.

    Forgive me, I won’t follow suit.
    Let me continue to show respect for the Stars & Stripes as a visitor and use the passport for the purpose of international travel. There has to be always a tent for me in the Caribbean, to live the simple life that has no room for world politics and wars without end. All that war business in Iraq and Afghanistan for the purpose of “exporting” our values of democracy and freedom to people who do not want them, creating Billions of Debt for the next generation is, in my view, insane.

    I will get in contact after my return
    Take care, I will too.

  5. Get ‘er done dude. I don’t think you talk too funny to be Americun.
    And if you want to listen to crickets matching up for five days go for it. It’s a free country.
    Ps: What’s wrong with the National Republican Association and jello?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *