I am not an American citizen. The thought of carrying an American passport horrifies me. There. Now you know.
My parents are from Europe, refugees of World War II. Yes, they are part of the “Greatest Generation,” or does that term apply if you lived through those hardships without being an American citizen? Venezuela, where I was born, was not their first emigration choice. From my maternal grandmother’s stories, I know that it was that side of the family’s third choice. My father? I don’t know. He never said.
When my family emigrated once more, this time to their first choice, no one asked me if I wanted to move. I was just packed up and moved, like another piece of carry-on luggage.
At home, I lived in a very Eastern European environment: the food we ate, the customs we had, the songs we sang, the dances we danced, the languages we spoke were just as strange in this country as they were in the country of my birth. In school, I was asked if I knew what a telephone was, if we had indoor plumbing in my country, if I’d lived in a grass hut. American was always better, as long as it didn’t conflict with my grandmother’s ideas of appropriate and we didn’t bring too much of it into the house. Community involvement? It wasn’t our community, I was told, don’t rock the boat, don’t get involved, that’s how the communists will get you. No matter where I was, I always felt I was on the outside looking in.
America has always been held up to me, by those I’ve loved and trusted, as a beacon of all that is good and great in this world. My mother speaks with pride and gratitude about how the American GIs gave the children of her war-torn country chocolate and food. The thing is, she also speaks of the ordinary German soldiers who occupied her country doing the same thing. So how are the thoughtful GI’s actions better than the thoughtful German soldier’s? I’m still trying to figure that one out. My point is this: I’ve never been able to reconcile how being an American makes anyone better and how not being an American makes anyone worse. So, until I can wrap my head around that, I will carry a Venezuelan passport.
Today, in this country, “We The People” have the opportunity to cast a vote for whoever best represents the vision of what this nation, this government should be. I urge you all who qualify to go out and cast your votes.
And then I urge you to continue the dialogue with your elected representative, whether you voted for her/him or not, after you’ve cast your ballot. Follow the voting record on any issue you hold dear and let your representative how you feel about that vote. E-mail, call, fax, write a letter. Let them know every day where you stand – always respectfully. Waiting two, four, six years between conversations to let elected representatives know what the people think is too long.
Today is not the end of a journey. It is the beginning. Go vote.