Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, July 7, 2014

On Being an American

I wrote this post around July 4th of 2013.  One year (and 3000 fewer American citizens) later, it still sums up beautifully my thinking on these matters.  So I am dusting it off and posting it again.  Enjoy.  

Love where you're from but bloom where you're planted. 

Asking a migrant if she prefers her home country to her country of residence is a little like asking a child if she loves her father more than her mother.  It's an unfair question.  To the people urging us long-term Americans abroad to just go ahead and renounce already, they are taking that question one step farther and asking not only which one do you love more, but which one would you disavow if we made you choose? 

Now I'm a goofy old lady who firmly believes that love shared is not love halved.  I will never accept the premise that one can only love one country at a time and I reject any model that says that ideally we should all be serial monogamists (or that a person can't have two mothers/fathers).

I had an epiphany the other day.  I may have spent most of my adult life outside the U.S. but I was born and raised in Seattle.  No one can take away the first 20 years or so of my life.  I am an American and will always be one even if I decide to forgo the pretty blue passport.  Cutting ties by relinquishing/renouncing will mean cutting my ties to a political community but here's the kicker:   America is so much more than that.  There is a nation beyond the government and perhaps it's time to start putting the people above the state.  Yes, if I renounce I would no longer be an American citizen, but I would still be an American by culture, blood, language, and inclination.  I am part of the collective memory of this country and no one on this planet (not  the US Congress or the President or even the homelanders themselves) can take that away from me. 

And they can't take it away from anyone else either.  To the Canadian/American reader who left a comment about how distressed she was about giving up her U.S. citizenship, I'd just like to say that as far as I'm concerned she's an American as long as she wants to be one with or without her U.S. passport.  So she won't be able to vote anymore in US elections.  Big deal.   It's not like American citizens themselves do that with any regularity. 

Thinking about it this way makes me much more serene about the whole business.  What do you think of this motto for those of us thinking about renouncing? "Forget the state and just be a child of the nation."  

6 comments:

kermitzii said...

Victoria, I was in Victoria BC yesterday (we are now in Tofino drizzle). I saw the Seattle fireworks on TV on the fourth. I was so impressed by the American exceptionism, they are so proud of themselves. They do not know they invade foreign countries and everything else, that is because they are great. I am proud not to be American now, and to appreciate the rest of the world.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Kermit, Did you see Simon Anholt's TEd Talk Which Country Does the Most Good for the World? Really fine.

http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_anholt_which_country_does_the_most_good_for_the_world

Anonymous said...

Very interesting TED Talk. USA at 21st place http://www.goodcountry.org/country/USA

But the USA doesn't care if they are good. They only care who makes the game rules (and its 'them')

Does this mean doing good isn't really an American virture?

Or does it mean US Govt. only does good when it's conditional (strings attached) - and in their best interests? We all know the US Govt. does 'bad' when its in their self interests.

There seems to be a fundamental conflict between being a good American and how the US Government is run...

Anonymous said...

Victoria,
Well reasoned, as always.
.
For the first time since I have lived in Europe, I have to say that am not proud of my country.

But when weighing whether to renounce or not to renounce, I remember that nasty Reed-Shumer amendment (to the, now dead,
Immigration Reform bill). It proposed that Homeland Security "exclude
from reentry into the United States former United States citizens who
renounce their citizenship to avoid taxation."

(They will likely argue that "taxation" includes the Fbar and Fatca travesties.

They failed twice to get it through, but next time they could try to bury it into some bigger Apple Pie bill, the way they sneaked FATCA into the
HIRE act.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@anonymous, Just for fun I read Anholt's book about identity last night and I just started his book Brand America this morning. Just a few pages into the latter books is an observation that I think is entirely correct: Americans do believe with all their heart that their nation and people have the very best intentions and want to do good. But they confound what's good for them with what's good for the rest of the world. They think it's the same thing and they react very badly if you point out a conflict of interest or a poor perception of their actions.

@anonymous, Yep and the point I was trying to make in my post today about expat voting is that it really hasn't made any difference - we simply don't have the clout to stop people like Reed or Schumer. Hell, we haven't got enough influence to even get these folks to talk to us, much less take us seriously.

I would watch the renunciation numbers carefully. If they shoot up, then I think some US lawmakers will shoot back. Get those numbers down by hook or by crook because they are wreaking havoc with America's citizenship "brand".

DL NELSON said...

I once thought that if I were a plant the roots nearest the stem were American and the roots from there on were Swiss. I thought if you cut the Swiss roots the American roots wouldn't sustain the plant because they were too short. And if you cut the American part of the roots the plant would die. It comes down both are needed to sustain the plant.