It is official. I have become – American! Some people have said, “I thought you are already American”. It has been brewing for a while. 10 years to be exact. After all, it is not a decision I take frivolously. A rite of passage I never dreamed of undertaking when I was a little girl in pony tails, playing jump rope with my girlfriends, in the dusty village in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In fact it was heart wrenching. I felt like I disowned my family, my country and my heritage. It didn’t make it easier when my ever insightful boy had asked, “If you become American, then who will be Ethiopian?”
But finally, I came to terms with things and started the process. I filled out the forms, presented all the materials pertaining to my life, paid a fortune, got finger printed so the FBI could get my background checked, studied all the history and constitution of United States, did some mind cleansing, got interviewed, passed the test and took the Oath of Allegiance. And voila … I am Naturalized!
According to the state department’s web site, as a US citizen, I am now entitled to the same rights, obligations, and opportunities as all other Americans (well almost, I can’t be a President, but that’s about it -:). Otherwise, I can vote, hold public office, carry a US passport, serve on a jury, work for the US government, serve as an officer in the armed forces, and I almost forgot (but Uncle Sam wouldn’t) continue to pay taxes.
I HAD mixed feelings the whole time, though. You see, love brought me here.
It would have been easier if I was seeking a religious freedom. But I was born Christian Orthodox in Ethiopia, a country that practiced Christianity from the 4th century. So I was right in my element.
It would have been easier if I had an economic need. But I was at the top of my game when I moved to the states. I had worked for United Nations (UN) as a web master in the mid 90s. The technology was so new that I was sent to other African countries to train UN branch offices. I was sent to Canada for knowledge sharing. I was sent to the UN-New York office to implement the work I’ve done.
It would have been easier if I have abomination for my country of birth. But my country raised me. It gave me pride and free education, all the way to college. Needless to say, I am as proud of the country as any other citizen on the street. I am proud of this oldest independent nation that is the cradle of mankind, the source of the Blue Nile, the origin of coffee, the house of 9th century church architectures and 12th century masterpiece paintings. Most of all, I am proud I came from a loving, caring and warm people. It made me, who I am today, which depending on who you ask, is a good thing.
I was also one of the lucky few who got the opportunity to travel abroad as a tourist to many European countries.
Fate brought me here and I CHOSE to be American. I chose because I believe in the core values of the constitution of United States. I believe in the freedom of choice. I believe in real democracy (where the people actually decide the elections), I believe in the American dream and the pursuit of happiness. I believe in the constitutional right of all people are created equal and the respect of human rights. I believe in the freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial. The people in my country of origin and many others are still fighting for these freedoms. I believe in the goodness and insightfulness of our fore-fathers who constituted these laws. I believe you are as big as your dream. All these and some make America a great country that it is and I am proud to be a part of it all.
Echoes of my past are embedded in my physical and spiritual being, in my thick accent and in my favored spicy dishes. This and the other will only enrich mine and my family’s lives. I embrace my past. But home is here with my wonderful family.
From this day forward, for better or worse, in sickness or health, I am AMERICAN.