There are different levels of commitment in life, for example carbon over steel. Less important are things like marriage, and moving down the priority list, citizenship. After 30 years of marriage to a Usonian, Yasuko finally decided to apply for naturalization.
“That makes no sense,” I said. “You’re already natural.”
“But I think it’s time to become a Usonian.”
“You want to be a citizen like our President?”
“No, I’m afraid that even with my green card they will kick me out.”
She had a point.
Putting things on ICE
Last October she applied for citizenship, in July she had a citizenship interview + exam, and today she went to the LA Convention Center to take the oath. There were 3,506 folks getting sworn at by a federal judge, and about triple that number of friends and family members who had come with them to savor the greatness of Usonia and the magical moment when $150,000 in immigration attorney fees transmutate into a $2.00 naturalization certificate printed on dime store paper stock.
The judge who swore at everybody talked about how the magistrates in his department loved getting to do naturalization because it reminded them of the hope and greatness of Usonia. I suppose that was his diplomatic way of saying that being a federal judge on most other days reminds them of the hopelessness and meanness of Usonia.
In any event, the newly minted citizens, a/k/a newly voting Democrats, listened to some more propaganda and watched a video beamed in from the Trump Führerbunker, where the President pretended ever so briefly that foreigners not from Slovenia are welcome on our shores. The applause was so tepid as to make your ordinary tepid applause sound like a standing ovation.
The New Democrats then received citizenship packets, their naturalization certificate, and were hustled back outdoors into Usonia. Outside the convention center vendors were hawking hot dogs ONLY sold by what looked like immigrants. Cue irony.
We celebrated by skipping the irony and visiting Caffe Tre Venezie, an Italian coffee shop run by an immigrant who, if he is not making Torrance great again, is certainly helping make it great for the first time.
Who are these new Usonians?
The judge talked at length about how some of the petitioners had given up everything, escaped violence, war, famine and disease, and surmounted all odds to make it to this ceremony. It was inspirational as long as you didn’t ask any questions.
- What about the other millions plunged in violence and war and famine and poverty? Why weren’t they also deserving? Or is the promise of Usonia nothing more noble than dumb luck, like a winning lottery ticket?
- Where were all the Africans? Out of more than 3,500 petitioners, hardly any were black.
- Who wrote the naturalization oath, and why is it all about fighting and bearing arms and defending America? Why is there nothing about waging peace, promising to vote in every election, swearing that you will succor the poor, and giving an oath that you will never subsume civil rights and human decency to capitalistic greed? Why is there nothing in there about your commitment to carbon?
- How did they forget to mention the rule of law?
- Why hot dogs, especially in LA? Has no one at ICE ever seen a fucking taco truck?
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
As Yasuko came out of the procession and into Usonia, she had a huge smile on her face as she waved her honking certificate. I was as excited as she was, I had my video at the ready, I was on tenterhooks trying to pick her out from the crowd, but when the big moment came we wound up with one of the less impressive videos ever filmed in LA:
Having lived abroad for many years, I know that there is something different about being an alien and being a citizen. And unlike Japan and Austria, where citizenship confers rights without admission to the culture, in Usonia there is a remarkable degree of belonging once you become naturalized.
Similar to everywhere else, there is also something that comes over you when you discard your old passport and trade it in for new nationality. Perhaps that something is no more profound than a feeling like you can’t be driven away at the whim of a despot, that whatever tiny stake you’ve claimed, it is yours and at least nominally backed by rule of law.
Over the decades, the topic of citizenship often arose between us, and Yasuko always deferred to later. In a way, there’s something powerful to be said for well considered decisions not made on the spur of the moment. Trading in Japanese nationality for a Usonian one isn’t like giving up your Syrian passport.
Japan has health care, education, peace, no military worth mentioning, a robust economy, the world’s biggest uncontained nuclear disaster, and Pocky. Usonia has Pocky (imported from Japan), none of those other things, and a car “culture.”
Yet for all its faults, Usonia also has things that no other country can boast: Telo, Flog, the Donut Ride, and NPR. Some things are indeed worth the sacrifice. Welcome to Usonia, kid. We’re glad to have ya.
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