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Sunday, March 17, 2013

USA: Taking the Oath

Email from America: 2

The article below was first published in the pages of the Record Courier of Ravenna, Ohio.
Why I became an American

Last Friday [April 18, 2008], after nearly 30 years as a British ex-patriate working in the USA, I became an American citizen.

You may wonder why it took me so long. My wife says it’s because I hate change; I like to think it’s because I want to make the right decision.

I thought about it seriously, because it’s saying goodbye as well as hello. I had to swear in front of a Federal judge that my father’s birthplace and my mother’s adopted country would no longer be ‘home’.

But thanks to my friends and family, I realize that this is the best ‘home’ I’ve ever had. Americans value the individual, even when his views, like mine, are unorthodox. Here, in my homestead in Northeast Ohio, surrounded by my friends and family, I fit in better than I ever did while growing up. And now, I belong.

There are things I miss about England, of course, but most of them are just memories: quiet pubs that served ‘warm’ beer; fish and chips wrapped in newspaper; the selective university system that gave me a great education. Now, those pubs and chip shops have become noisy night clubs and McDonalds, and as for college, I remember how brutal it was for those who couldn’t succeed immediately. Here in America, the system gives you a second chance.

Most of all, I miss the English bloody-mindedness, the determination to push back against stupid rules; but that is also mostly gone. As the British government tightens restrictions on personal freedom, few people protest, and the mechanisms to fight back just aren’t there. As my brother frequently reminds me, we in the U.S. have a written Constitution, and a legal system willing to support it and challenge the government on our behalf. In fact, we have the best of the English tradition right here, alive and feisty.

Now that I’m an American, I will have to make some changes. I can’t say ‘you Americans’ any more; though I refuse to delete the ‘u’ in ‘colour’, or to stop pronouncing ‘garage’ the way I do. But I can still weigh in pounds and ounces, pump gas in gallons and measure height in feet and inches; which is more than my English brother can do.

And, I will finally be able to participate in that greatest of all American entertainments, a national election.

As for the future, I will always remember the Judge’s speech at our ceremony, where he quoted President Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”. I intend to do my best to honour that commitment.

Tim is a math professor in Ohio.

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1 comment:

A K Haart said...

My brother emigrated to the US over thirty years ago. As the years slip by, the reasons why I'm still here in England seem less and less convincing.