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My love is a fever, longing still for that which longer nurseth the disease
September 17, 2012 11:33 PM   Subscribe

"I don't see anything anti-American about not wanting to become an American citizen; it's similar to the fact that I don't know how to swim. I'm not anti-water; it just never mattered that much to me and my life is fine without it." Why I'm Still Not An American, an essay from a British green-card-holder with complex roots and complex feelings.
posted by Phire (65 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that's a whole lot of words to say, "I can't be bothered".

(Or, I can't be arsed, if he decides to be British that day)
posted by madajb at 11:48 PM on September 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


But honestly, it's good to know how to swim.
posted by freebird at 11:54 PM on September 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think Richard Morgan is as special as he and his editor does. My dad lived in Canada for 37 years, and my mom for 30, without bothering to take Canadian citizenship. Part of that was that the US was, for many years, a total pain in the ass about dual citizenship, and part of it was that - like Morgan - they were privileged to have birth citizenship in a stable, relatively rich nation. But mostly it was that, just like Morgan, they both thought the whole business was more hassle than it was worth, between the process and the indignity.

(Me, I am a fan of voting, which is the one civic responsibility and privilege you generally can't get without citizenship.)
posted by gingerest at 12:08 AM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


My mother-in-law married a Brit in her early twenties, and never really returned to the US. But even after living in Edinburgh for thirty years or more, she didn't take out UK citizenship until she was in her seventies. There were occasions when it seemed her children would be let into Britain but not her.

In her case there was an element of patriotism to it. I remember her looking up from the newspaper one morning and saying to me "Whaddya know, we're the number one car producer in the world again!"

"What, Scotland?" I replied.
posted by Segundus at 12:36 AM on September 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


I get it , he's an arrogant prick. Surprise.
posted by wuwei at 12:39 AM on September 18, 2012


And how would Google Autocomplete respond to the sentiments expressed here?

patriotism is|
patriotism is a virtue of the vicious
patriotism is a disease
patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel
patriotism is stupid
patriotism is bad
patriotism is bullshit
patriotism is not enough
patriotism is the first refuge of a scoundrel
patriotism is an infantile disease
patriotism is evil
posted by fredludd at 1:07 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


On about the third list of magical south of France ranch hand half Arab wow I've been everywhere man, I lost interest. Everyone is a special snowflake, especially him.
posted by letitrain at 1:26 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mine is a third world passport. I was eligible to apply for naturalization in the US in October 2006. I chose to leave in 2007. I have held on to the green card but just this weekend had a long conversation with a high school classmate who recently retired from the Foreign Service/State Dept and we concluded that there is no viable benefit remaining to my holding on to the green card and I'm better off relinquishing it. If I'm lucky, they may offer me a multiple entry US visa in return.

I *miss* San Francisco, conceptually, but the reality of daily life, especially for foreign born residents who are from South Asia, got to be too hard to swallow in the decade following 2001.

The conceptual principles on which the nation was founded are worthy of continued respect, however, just a pity how far the current day reality has strayed from "We, the people..."
posted by infini at 1:37 AM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a non-American with a certain vested interest in the country, I actually found this a very interesting read. I mean, I figured the "I was never part of Nazi Germany and haven't overthrown any governments" would show up in the naturalization process, since I've had to answer those questions every time I've flown to the States, but there was a lot of other things I didn't know. (Having had an affair makes you ineligible for US citizenship? Really now.)

Also, nobody who links to Eddie Izzard as a part of his arguments can be all bad.
posted by harujion at 1:38 AM on September 18, 2012


God Save the Queen! The Fascist regime
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 AM on September 18, 2012


So why am I here? Why aren't I one of those move-to-Canada blusterers? Or why don't I move to one of the states that wants to secede, or just dismantle itself? Outside of the practical reasons I'm here—HBO, family, work (yes, I take your jobs)—America is this weird, wonderful trap. On the hot/crazy scale, America is the hottest country by far and so is also by far the craziest. I do love America but, to quote one of my own countrymen, "my love is as a fever, longing still for that which longer nurseth the disease."

In other words, "I can't think myself better than all of you, if I become one of you."
posted by three blind mice at 2:07 AM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


The adultery clause was apparently repealed in 1981. But you can still be barred - theoretically, anyway - for polygamy, prostitution, gambling, or habitual drunkenness (p. 25 of this big ole pdf), if you want some good eyeroll value.
posted by gingerest at 2:14 AM on September 18, 2012


Arrogant? Thinking himself better than all of you? That's a fairly chippy reading of a harmless piece. He's just working out his thoughts on why he hasn't done this moderately significant life thing in response to a prompt (a request from an editor, perhaps) to write about it. If he were writing about why he'd remained single, would that imply he thinks he's better than married people?

It's obvious from the title onwards that it's a personal essay about his own life and feelings; otherwise it would be "Why Some Non-Citizens Don't Become Americans" and written entirely differently.

He's included lots of interesting details about what it's like to be a non-citizen long-term resident, and about the citizenship process. I found it enlightening to compare and contrast with the UK process, not least because his experience of having moved there as a kid but still not wanting to go through with it is different from mine. Personal essays are a useful spur to reflect on your own experience.
posted by rory at 2:57 AM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I thought this would be interesting, as I'm a US citizen married to a Brit and living as a Perm Resident but not citizen in the UK. I never thought that I would become a British citizen. My wife would probably never become a US citizen.

Our young children have dual passports at the moment, but are growing up as shorts and jumpers wearing London schoolboys - who happen to love baseball, and on visits to the Chicago suburbs go native in shockingly short time, soaking up all the organised sports, groomed parks. It will be interesting to see how they develop and where they end up.

This all came up on Talking Points Memo in an interesting way when the Facebook guy skeedadled to Malaysia.

Citizenship Matters

Readers Share Their Stories

Interesting
posted by C.A.S. at 3:05 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't really come away from this essay with any greater understanding of why he doesn't become an American citizen. The reasons he cites sounds more like hollow rationalizations. He says it is partly process but I doubt that if they suddenly streamlined the process he would be signing up tomorrow. The philosophy section is ridiculous. The egregious things he cites:

America is a place where the Navy was founded for the express purpose of beating down Muslim pirates in the Barbary Wars... It's a place where Florida was acquired by one guy, Andrew Jackson, virtually single-handedly massacring some Spaniards, an act that helped promote him into the White House.

Well, I won't post examples but based on that, he should renounce his British citizenship as well. The British Empire was not created and maintained without its share of injustice and bloodshed.

He's rationalising. After all that, there's a reason he's not telling us. Possibly he is one of those people that likes to define himself as a contrarian.
posted by vacapinta at 3:25 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between actively embracing something and continuing with the status quo by default. Same way you choose your partner, but not your parents. If Mum and Dad aren't perfect, should their kids renounce them?

The Barbary pirates thing might seem an odd historical detail to bring up out of all the possible candidates, but then again I don't have a Palestinian parent.
posted by rory at 4:04 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


asked a random selection of ten, only six of which they have to answer correctly, which would be a failing grade in any school

Though it would be a pretty good passing grade in any British university.
posted by biffa at 4:18 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a Canadian citizen living in the US -- since 2004 continuously, and before that from 1994-2000. So I've spent a plurality of my life in the US. I love Canada, but that's not where my life has taken me, and I may stay my whole life in the US just because of having no compelling reason to leave.

My mother has US citizenship. It would be a bit more convenient for me to have US citizenship; I get annoyed that I get really interested in US politics but I can't vote, and I'm not allowed to vote in Canadian elections either.

Whenever I think about it seriously, though, I look at the oath of allegiance and I just think, no -- I can't swear that I'm willing to bear arms for the US. Not after Iraq, not after Abu Ghraib. I am aware that there's no draft in the US these days; I am aware that even if there were, they wouldn't want an out-of-shape 30-year-old woman; it's just that I am not willing to say those words.
posted by Jeanne at 4:20 AM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I plan to eventually get British citizenship. Even though it will require me to say:

I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.

I'm not a Royalist by any means and so at first I thought that, no, I would never become a citizen. But, lately, with all the horrid things the Tory thugs are doing, I realized that if I indeed cared about the country and if I wanted to have a say in changing things for the better, in participating and making my voice heard then I should become a citizen.

I think thats why, although I respect Jeanne's decision (In fact, it is similar to one my father has made) it seems to me that becoming a citizen means that you care enough to try and change things whereas not doing so is to say: well, let armies go abroad and let people protest them too. I don't care either way. I'm happy to be a bystander. I'm just passing through.
posted by vacapinta at 4:50 AM on September 18, 2012


He's rationalising. After all that, there's a reason he's not telling us. Possibly he is one of those people that likes to define himself as a contrarian.

Taxes? If you're a US citizen, you need to write the IRS explaining larger bank accounts in other countries and pay taxes on non-US income over 80k/year (I think that's the number). People who are in that tax bracket are perfectly happy to stay permanent residents forever so that if they decide to move away one day, they won't be taxed. (Okay, he's a writer, so the money thing is unlikely.)
posted by jeather at 5:34 AM on September 18, 2012


The guy says he's lost two or three greencards and a passport, and accidentally travelled on an expired passport. I suspect this whole essay is just covering up for his inability to get through all the paperwork involved without having half of it go missing.

Many people ask me if I'm going to become a US citizen now I'm living here: I usually say that I don't really care because although it would make airports hopefully more convenient, I don't yet see myself retiring here. So I'll fill in the papers as work hands them to me, but I won't do anything inconvenient like stop travelling back to Australia/Europe in order to get it. I have a very low patriotic/nationalist quotient anyway.
posted by jacalata at 5:37 AM on September 18, 2012


We ought to remember that national boundaries are just imaginary lines drawn to divide members of the human race.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:39 AM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


This all came up on Talking Points Memo in an interesting way when the Facebook guy skeedadled to Malaysia.

For what it's worth, I am pretty much 100% sure that it was Singapore. But hey! Allow me a moment of pleasure at Malaysia being mentioned on the blue.

I identify with his apparent disregard for where exactly he's a citizen of, because I've seen it in my friends who basically have nothing to lose, choosing between one country or another. Such is citizenship law here that although those above 18 can't hold dual citizenship, children can. So between a UK citizenship that would get you anywhere in the world, and a Singapore citizenship that would do the same, there isn't much of a choice. Like he writes, the UK-US choice is not really big.

It did, however, get me to reflect on my own experience. I've been asked many, many, many times in my short life whether I will trade up the Third World citizenship of my birth for a First World (and next door country) one where i now live, for the sake of subsidised education and whatnot. I doubt I will, and when I say that, they ask, 'But surely it's nicer to live here, isn't it?' and I very much agree. My friends are here, the educational heritage I identify with is here, and all that, you know? But living here is one thing, and being a citizen - which, in Singapore, is similarly festooned with formalities like the Pledge, educational trips, and perennial debates about job stealing and cultural assimilation - is not just a hassle, it's also a clear line to be drawn about where exactly I want to belong. It's hard not to see the debate in those terms, here where integration and national pride are the subject of huge, almost-Communistic displays.

That said, the comment above obviously shows I'm still confused. But thanks for this post; I haven't thought about the dynamics of citizenship for a while, and it's about time I did.
posted by undue influence at 6:03 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


My wife's been a legal alien for 23 years and counting, and has no intention whatsoever of renouncing her Hungarian citizenship. She finds it insulting and an affront that anybody should expect her to believe being American is in any way better than being Hungarian.

We... don't bring certain topics up at family events.

Me, on the other hand - now that we're in Hungary for a year I'm definitely considering adding a citizenship to my portfolio. But I'd never give up American citizenship.
posted by Michael Roberts at 6:13 AM on September 18, 2012


I was raised in the US by a British mother. This gave me a tremendous anxiety about crossing borders, particularly entering the US. Sometime in high school, I learn that my mother had been terrified of being separated from me and my brother at the border and the anxiety had transferred to me. I remember helping my mother study for the citizenship test as a kid, but had probably been told so many times in school that being an American was such a good thing everyone would want it that I don't think I asked why she was doing it. If I did, I don't remember the answer. But I learned in college that it was the same fear--there had been a round of anti-immigration rhetoric and she got scared enough to become a citizen.

I'm really quite conflicted about the two nationalities that are accidents of my birth. Or not really. I'm conflicted about being American. It wasn't until I went to college that I felt I could say "I'm American" and not worry someone would tell me I wasn't allowed to call myself American. (I went to a university where 2/3 of students have at least one parent born outside the US.) But I find that ability slipping away. I don't know how to claw it back. Sometimes I feel like I did in elementary school, when I stopped supporting the US in the Olympics and whatnot to spite the kids who were mean to me.

Well, I won't post examples but based on that, he should renounce his British citizenship as well. The British Empire was not created and maintained without its share of injustice and bloodshed.

Sure, but he didn't have to sign up for that. Plus being stateless is a massive pain in the butt.

The author does seem to have missed the bit where the renunciation in the citizenship oath is not considered legitimate by Britain (nor by a whole host of other countries). Granted, no American would tell him that--it's got to be all in or nothing.
posted by hoyland at 6:19 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am still amused that, as a 17yr old travelling from the UK to the US in 1999, I had to make clear to immigration on my form that I wasn't intending on engaging in Communism or Nazism. Mind you, it was only a week's holiday, who knows what might have happened if I'd stayed a fortnight.
posted by mippy at 6:19 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The silliest thing I've ever had to do for customs during my misspent youth was upon leaving Costa Rica as a single male I had to sign (and have notorized!) a declaration that I was not knowingly leaving any illigitimate children behind.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:36 AM on September 18, 2012


My mother didn't become a US citizen until she'd lived here for 30 years. She told me that she only became one then because my father was terminally ill and she was afraid of being deported upon his death.
I don't think it's a big deal these days- the world is indeed smaller.
posted by pentagoet at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2012


SO has lived more of his life in the US then the UK but he's never thought seriously about US citizenship cause ...he doesn't really care? Also, tax stuffs.
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 AM on September 18, 2012


Unfortunately, KokuRyu, those imaginary lines on maps are patrolled by very real people with guns, and sets of laws to enforce them. I would love a world where we could easily hop between countries, but I don't see it happening any time soon (and certainly not in Asia, with the way things are going, speaking of stupid borders).

I've been in Japan for twelve years, and while I have permanent residency, I will never, and I do mean never become a citizen here. Aside from the relative usefulness of being a U.S. citizen, becoming a Japanese citizen means that you have to take a Japanese name. Seriously. For most, it means a Japanese name that sounds almost what your birthname would sound like, if fed through google translate a couple hundred times, and if google was drunk.* My name, after all, is my name. It's not really a choice at all.

For an example, Debito Arudo was once David Aldwinkle.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:15 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, the hostility here is pretty telling. Just imagine how much you all are going to freak out when the aliens come, the imaginary barriers fall and we're all forced to become Global Citizens.
posted by Mooseli at 7:34 AM on September 18, 2012


I plan to eventually get British citizenship. Even though it will require me to say:

I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.

I'm not a Royalist by any means and so at first I thought that, no, I would never become a citizen. But, lately, with all the horrid things the Tory thugs are doing, I realized that if I indeed cared about the country and if I wanted to have a say in changing things for the better, in participating and making my voice heard then I should become a citizen.
An interesting thing about the UK is that, unlike the US, citizens by birth are never asked to swear this oath, either meaningfully or in simple repetition. I would never swear anything to either a god or a king, and I'm sure there's a hard core of folk who would have problems over one or the other. In that spirit, feel free to mouth the words meaninglessly, and take your own oath in private.
posted by Jehan at 7:35 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think my totally idealistic comment was in response to the folks calling the fellow "an arrogant prick", but, yeah, we're very familiar with this issues. My wife is a permanent resident here because she doesn't want to give up her Japanese citizenship (and I don't blame her) and both our sons will have to choose at age 20 (I think) between Japanese and Canadian citizenship (they are dual citizens right now). Since we live in Canada for most of the year (but will be spending several months in Japan starting at the end of this week) Japanese citizenship is not a consideration for me, but, interestingly enough, I qualify for Estonian citizenship and after that an EU passport, which I think is something worth passing on to my kids.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 AM on September 18, 2012


Ghidorah - I've often wondered this since meeting Chinese students who took a Western name to study in the UK. I think in her case she just picked a name she liked, but are names generally based on your non-English name, or completely different? And would it not be easier to take a Japanese name for daily life in a non-Anglophone country? I ask this because I have a first name that is very difficult for non-native English speakers to pronounce, and if I lived in Spain, for example, I'd have the choice between people attempting to pronounce it in a Spanish way (confusing as it sounds nothign like it in English) or having to take a name that would be easier for people to pronounce (more confusing).
posted by mippy at 7:37 AM on September 18, 2012


becoming a Japanese citizen means that you have to take a Japanese name. Seriously. For most, it means a Japanese name that sounds almost what your birthname would sound like, if fed through google translate a couple hundred times, and if google was drunk.

Is that requirement just for the sake of having a Japanese sounding name, or is the Japanese sounding name the result of having to write the name in Japanese characters on a passport and other official documents? I've heard my name pronounced as written in Japanese, it didn't sound quite right simply because it wasn't possible to do better. Maybe similar to the way, for example, the German name Günter sounds completely wrong when read as Gunter or the Polish name Paweł isn't quite the same as Pavew.
posted by romanb at 7:37 AM on September 18, 2012


An interesting thing about the UK is that, unlike the US, citizens by birth are never asked to swear this oath, either meaningfully or in simple repetition.

I've never been asked to swear an oath to the US. I am a citizen by birth. I don't think I've heard of anyone having to do so since the Reconstruction.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:38 AM on September 18, 2012


I came over to the US as a matter of happenstance and I'll be getting my US citizenship as soon as possible. Australia has a tax treaty with the United States so the tax problem becomes near negligible and having a US passport gives you a LOT of freedom. I can't imagine being disconnected from my resident country's political process (poor as that engagement may be in the United States) for any extended length of time.

I don't think I've heard of anyone having to do so since the Reconstruction.

I think the OP is referring to the Pledge of Allegiance.
posted by Talez at 7:42 AM on September 18, 2012


I've never been asked to swear an oath to the US. I am a citizen by birth. I don't think I've heard of anyone having to do so since the Reconstruction.

You never had to say the pledge of allegiance?
posted by srboisvert at 7:42 AM on September 18, 2012


I've never been asked to swear an oath to the US. I am a citizen by birth. I don't think I've heard of anyone having to do so since the Reconstruction.

A loyalty oath is a condition of employment in the UC and CSU systems (I assume for all CA public employees, but I don't know). Someone stands their ground and gets sacked for it periodically.

You never had to say the pledge of allegiance?

The courts have actually held that the pledge is meaningless (and thus can't fall foul of the establishment clause). Kind of wish I'd been told that in second grade when I thought I was swearing to fight against my mother in some hypothetical war. (I actually thought this. And solved the problem by crossing my fingers.)
posted by hoyland at 7:45 AM on September 18, 2012


Isn't it also the case that you can't get in trouble for decling to to say The Pledge? I swear I read YA novel by Avi about this once... (How's that for citing a source?)
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:47 AM on September 18, 2012


You're thinking of that book by Avi (the name of which I can't remember either), which was about a kid getting in trouble for singing the national anthem.

Your right not the say the pledge is protected, courtesy of some Jehovah's Witnesses who took the issue to the Supreme Court.
posted by hoyland at 7:49 AM on September 18, 2012


You never had to say the pledge of allegiance?

What does swearing friendship to a flag have to do with an oath of citizenship? But to answer your question, no, I never had to say it, meaning I was never forced, even growing up in the ultra-conservative south.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:50 AM on September 18, 2012


Pretty sure the book's called Nothing but the truth.
posted by hoyland at 7:50 AM on September 18, 2012


Is that requirement just for the sake of having a Japanese sounding name, or is the Japanese sounding name the result of having to write the name in Japanese characters on a passport and other official documents? I've heard my name pronounced as written in Japanese, it didn't sound quite right simply because it wasn't possible to do better. Maybe similar to the way, for example, the German name Günter sounds completely wrong when read as Gunter or the Polish name Paweł isn't quite the same as Pavew.

I had to laugh when reading this. There is just no way that a Western name will sound anything but ridiculous (in either language) when transliterated into Japanese.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 AM on September 18, 2012


What does swearing friendship to a flag have to do with an oath of citizenship?

You can construe the pledge as a loyalty oath and people do (despite it being meaningless). Experience suggests those who refuse to say it get looked at askance, if not hassled (or, you know, called a 'traitor').

But to answer your question, no, I never had to say it, meaning I was never forced, even growing up in the ultra-conservative south.

It is now mandatory that the pledge be said in schools in Illinois (has been since 2002 or so) and I doubt Illinois is the only state with such a law. What happens if everyone exercises their right not to say it (and thus there's no one to lead the damn thing), I don't know. If you never heard the pledge said in school, it's likely a product of the precise moment you were in school (if you're, say, five years older than me, there's a reasonable chance you never heard it--I remember it in second grade, maybe fourth grade, eighth grade and then not until the law came in). If you heard it and never said it without being called out, you were insanely lucky.
posted by hoyland at 8:03 AM on September 18, 2012


I can't imagine being disconnected from my resident country's political process (poor as that engagement may be in the United States) for any extended length of time.

One of my stock answers in political discussions is, "Hey, don't blame me, I didn't vote for either of them".
Not being able to vote does have its advantages.
posted by madajb at 8:17 AM on September 18, 2012


My mother didn't become a US citizen until she'd lived here for 30 years. She told me that she only became one then because my father was terminally ill and she was afraid of being deported upon his death.

Now that I have my very own anchor baby, the idea of citizenship has crossed my mind more often.
But you know, although my 'foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty' are currently flashing their bits to the entire world, I'm kind of fond of them, and I'm not sure I'm ready to renounce them just yet.

And to be honest, the idea will probably simmer on the back burner unless my spouse gets a job overseas, in which case, the hassles of dealing with visas/permits might force the the issue.
posted by madajb at 8:29 AM on September 18, 2012


I am still amused that, as a 17yr old travelling from the UK to the US in 1999, I had to make clear to immigration on my form that I wasn't intending on engaging in Communism or Nazism.

Yeah, I always had to lie in response to the question about gross moral turpitude though. If I got lucky, I was *definitely* hoping to engage in a bit of that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:31 AM on September 18, 2012


If you heard it and never said it without being called out, you were insanely lucky.

Where I grew up, the pledge was done every morning.
I don't have any idea if it was a law or just a district policy thing.

But every year, we'd have a few kids who would decided to flex their fledgling political wings and outright refuse to say it*. This was usually met with a few groans by the students next to them and rarely noticed by the teachers.
I wonder if the schools around here do the pledge, I'm going to have ask.


* As opposed to most kids who just mumbled their way through it, or tried to work the lyrics to a popular song into the cadence.
posted by madajb at 8:35 AM on September 18, 2012


I plan to eventually get British citizenship. Even though it will require me to say:

I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.
That's actually the real citizenship test.
If you can mentally roll your eyes whilst mouthing and mumbling your way through such utter bollocks then you're proper British.
posted by fullerine at 9:31 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


My wife's been a legal alien for 23 years and counting, and has no intention whatsoever of renouncing her Hungarian citizenship.

The US is entirely happy for people to retain dual citizenship. If she would be forced to renounce her Hungarian citizenship it would be by Hungary, not by the US.

The thing I found odd about this piece was his complete silence about voting. I've lived for long stretches in two countries as a non-citizen, and not being able to be a full participant in a political process that I had come to care passionately about drove me crazy.

I can't swear that I'm willing to bear arms for the US. Not after Iraq, not after Abu Ghraib.

But surely the country you are currently a citizen of and which has the power to demand your military service has fought in even less justifiable wars and participated in greater crimes than Abu Ghraib? I think that having the chance to add your voice to the political process to prevent another Iraq war is really the more meaningful part of that particular moral equation.
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ease of visa issues have certainly tempted me to give up my own passport, but then again, there's Amartya Sen, who still hasn't given his.
posted by infini at 10:03 AM on September 18, 2012


Here's a PDF of his resume, if you care.
posted by BWA at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2012


America is a place where the Navy was founded for the express purpose of beating down Muslim pirates in the Barbary Wars

What point is he making there? What is the proper response when pirates are seizing merchant ships from your country and enslaving the crews?

The U.S. government has done lots of bad stuff, but I don't understand what's wrong with creating a navy to fight pirates and protect the merchant fleet. Is the word "Muslim" the key? Was he looking for some early example of American hostility to Islam and that was the best he could do?
posted by Area Man at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was he looking for some early example of American hostility to Islam and that was the best he could do?

I'd say yes, and he picked a lousy example.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


People who are in that tax bracket are perfectly happy to stay permanent residents forever so that if they decide to move away one day, they won't be taxed.

British citizen who is US permanent resident here. I don't believe that's the case. My US wife and I were looking into relocating to the UK for her work and when I looked into her tax liabilities I discovered (and was horrified*) that I had the same tax liabilities as her. I would have to renounce my green card to get out of them. Not something one can do if one has a 401k, mortgage, kids etc.

*Why horrified? Because if I was to go and work in a zero income tax state (e.g. Oman) I see no reason why the US should claw back taxes from me. If the UK -- the country that educated me from birth to university, paid my doctors' bills, etc. for 23 years all for free until I started paying taxes -- wanted tax I wouldn't mind. Happy to pay more taxes to the US while I live here than I do currently... but that's another thread.
posted by NailsTheCat at 11:18 AM on September 18, 2012


Citizenship is a very complicated subject for me.

I was born and raised in Malaysia, but due to the country's arcane immigration laws and the hostile bureaucracy I didn't get citizenship till last year. Everything I experienced in Malaysia was filtered through the lens of the Other: I was shut out from educational opportunities, told over and over again that I was an Other, tried to make a difference but knew my impact was limited. Voting is a farce, but I was moderately amused to find out that some of my blogging compatriots in Malaysia got elected into office on the last election on the strength of their blogs - because had I been a citizen then and still active with EducateDeviate I would had stood a very strong chance. (one of the elected bloggers was another big edublogger and we cross-posted a lot)

In many other countries permanent residency is actually pretty good. In Malaysia you might as well not exist. One of my cousins has a temporary 5-year visa and he gets way more privileges than my 30+ years as PR family did. No one knew what to do with me. As a PR I had to go to Government/public school; as a PR my school kept trying to kick me out.

When it came to visas everything rested on our Bangladesh passport. Being practically Malaysian - I was only in Bangladesh for holidays - didn't matter. Bangladesh, third world green passport, high risk. All the visa regulations were stricter. We had to provide every piece of paperwork known to man. I went to Australia on a student visa and had to apply for a pre-visa three months in advance. Had I been Malaysian I could do everything online in two weeks.

My family had to apply for citizenship twice, after waiting 12 years + any time spent overseas even for holiday (we tacked on a year). I was underage the first time and my application was attached to my dad's, and they all got rejected on some bullshit claim that I wasn't actually a PR and that my parents' Malay language essays were 10 words too short (seriously). I didn't want to reapply; I had already given up on the country by that point. But my parents coerced me into trying again, and for about a year or two I was flying between Malaysia and Australia to sit some stupid interview or retake a language test even though I got As on my Government exams. Not like it mattered.

The interviewee asked what was my biggest responsibility as citizen. I rambled some answer about community service. The interviewee said that my biggest responsibility was to vote for Barisan National (the ruling party) because they gave me the "gift" of permanent residency. I wanted to throw a chair.

I got my Malaysian citizenship around my 26th birthday. It has been a painful lifelong process and now I don't really have anything to do with it. There are no indications that I have ever been anything else. I could have passed for local all my life. I don't have the "71" in my ID card that denotes foreign birth. I pass now. 26 years too late.

I applied for Australian permanent residency three years ago. Soon after I applied they changed the rules and suddenly my occupation is no longer on the "skills wanted" list (a misnomer, as they are not looking for skills but job titles, and your work experience does not matter). A few months ago I got yet another email from Immigration saying that my application is delayed further and strongly hinting at applying for another form of visa. Being on a bridging visa sucks; no one will hire you, you pay all the taxes but get no social security asides from Medicare (I couldn't even claim flood money despite having my apartment be directly affected; my Aussie partner who had been in Egypt during the floods got the money in 5 seconds and then gave it to me). I hate being in immigration limbo. It reinforces the fact that you will never belong and you will never be wanted.

I got fed up of the Aussie limbo and fled to the US, under the guise of grad school. People ask me if I'll stay post school. I don't think so. Mostly because I don't want to go through yet another bureaucratic nightmare. Visas and immigration are traumatising to me. I feel most at home travelling, but every border thinks I am a liability, there to cause explosions and steal from their houses. I want a UN passport so badly; it would make much more sense.
posted by divabat at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


My US wife and I were looking into relocating to the UK for her work and when I looked into her tax liabilities I discovered (and was horrified*) that I had the same tax liabilities as her. I would have to renounce my green card to get out of them.

I did not know that, but the people I was thinking of would all just have dumped their green cards if they decided to leave the US (it's more a question of retiring than moving to a low-tax country to work). It's a lot easier to do that than to give up citizenship. This isn't a particularly uncommon action for high net worth people who work but were not born in the US.
posted by jeather at 11:33 AM on September 18, 2012


"It is now mandatory that the pledge be said in schools in Illinois (has been since 2002 or so) and I doubt Illinois is the only state with such a law. What happens if everyone exercises their right not to say it (and thus there's no one to lead the damn thing), I don't know."

Both teachers and students exercise their right not to say it all the time. If it's a teacher, they usually have students lead it in turn. Or sometimes principals just lead it over the PA anyway, so teachers don't have to do anything. If neither of these was an option, and the teacher was alone in the classroom (i.e., didn't have an aide, co-teacher, etc.), probably the principal would ask a reading interventionist, teacher aide from down the hall, social worker, janitor, or some other convenient adult to step into that classroom and lead the pledge. Students who don't wish to say the pledge just remain seated politely while everyone else says it.

If a student gets hassled about it by a teacher or other school official, and even a whiff of a word of that gets to someone else in authority, what happens is that person calls the superintendent, the superintendent calls the district lawyers, apologizes to the parents, reaffirms to the student that he has every right to refuse to say the pledge and not be hassled for it, and the wrath of God comes down on the teacher. Because BASIC CIVIL RIGHTS OH MY GOD.

Actually almost all the reports we've had about it since I've been on the school board has been a kid who DOES say the pledge going home and saying, "Hey mom, Joey didn't say the Pledge and the teacher made fun of him. Why didn't he say the Pledge?" and then THAT kid's mom calls the district and is like, "I don't know for sure what happened but this is what my second-grader told me and that shit needs to stop."

(I was given a loyalty oath all about communism when I was elected and I laughed and said, "I'm not signing that." (Not because I'm a communist but because I think I have every damn right to be one if I want to be one, that's what being an American IS.) The secretary who dealt with all that paperwork said they hadn't been able to require it since the 60s but they still had to give everyone the oath and ask them to sign it, because nobody wanted to be the state legislator who got rid of the loyalty oath. What a waste of paper.)

One of our closest friends is a U.S. permanent resident and it never occurred to me to take his wanting to remain a citizen of his home country as a personal or national affront. Surely many other people from many other places love their nations of origin as much as I love the U.S., and feel that giving up that citizenship would be a change of identity they're not willing to undergo. That's particularly understandable while living abroad and wanting to retain that little connection to one's homeland. You can love the U.S. and want to live here and still not want to STOP being Australian or Swiss or Kenyan or whatever.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:04 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



I (name) swear by Almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.


If you're an atheist or agnostic, you can leave God out of it. (Presumably if you're an Orthodox Jew, you can avoid naming Him as well.)

As someone who's planning to take out British citizenship next year, I hope that Queen Elizabeth II remains alive and in good health; I don't like the idea of swearing allegiance to her idiot son.

(In reality, I guess one can rationalise it away as swearing allegiance to the ceremonial powers of the state as ritually acted out by the current office-holder, not to the modernism-hating, homeopathy-pushing holder of the office at any one time. Much in the way that Deists exalted a god that was basically a circular definition.)
posted by acb at 2:28 PM on September 18, 2012


The name thing here is alive and well. You get to make your new name, but it must be from a list of acceptable kanji, of course. The official reason is documents. Of course, it's much easier to keep track of pictograms with dozens of possible readings, sure.

The thing is, my wife took my name,* and her own given name is, as written, very common, though the reading of it is a non-common reading, so she has to constantly correct people who read her name and call out the wrong reading. That said, she now has my last name, written in the phonetic language for loan words from foreign languages. Aside from having to sound it out over the phone** she hasn't had any problems with any form of official documentation. More and more Japanese are getting married to foreigners, but assuming a foreign name isn't a problem, aside from occasional annoyances. Foreigners wanting to become a citizen, though, it's unacceptable.

* Yes, my hypocrisy knows no bounds.
**Every time I'm in the room, and she has to sound out her name over the phone, I get the most evil, accusatory glares.

posted by Ghidorah at 3:08 PM on September 18, 2012


I became an American citizen last year, after being a permanent resident for just five years, and being on various work-related visas for a decade previous. I had to think hard about the tax situation but since I don't expect to live outside the country again I decided it didn't matter. I wanted to be able to vote and feel quite strongly about it. However, I also remain a Canadian citizen. If I'd had to give up that citizenship to take on the US one, I probably would not have done so and remained just a permanent resident. In my case there seemed to be no downside. I know several other dual (or in one case triple) citizens as well. It was far less of a paperwork pain in the ass to go from being a green card holder to being a citizen than it was to get the green card or an H1B visa in the first place.
posted by marylynn at 3:18 PM on September 18, 2012


"I was never part of Nazi Germany and haven't overthrown any governments"

Just out of interest, has anyone ever had any trouble with this question because they were involved in overthrowing the Nazi Germany Government?
posted by biffa at 3:41 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


We ought to remember that national boundaries are just imaginary lines drawn to divide members of the human race.

, man.
posted by dhartung at 3:49 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who's planning to take out British citizenship next year, I hope that Queen Elizabeth II remains alive and in good health; I don't like the idea of swearing allegiance to her idiot son.

The heir and successor you'll swear allegiance to in the very next breath, acb?

As a republican Aussie I wasn't thrilled to swear that when I became a UK citizen (two passports, wheee!), but as she's been Queen of Australia my whole life I figured it wasn't a dramatic challenge to my principles. I reserve the right to vote for a UK republic if hell freezes over the opportunity ever arises.
posted by rory at 2:26 AM on September 19, 2012


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