If you’ve never been to a Naturalization Ceremony, where immigrants are sworn in as new citizens of The United States, you should look up the schedule at your local federal courthouse and go sometime. I’ve been to several over the years in a variety of capacities, and they are the most uplifting of events. Smiles and tears are always in abundance, and I’m not only talking about the newly minted Americans and their families. It is an emotional thing to watch as people of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds, many of whom have fled unimaginable living conditions and dangers, proudly take the Oath of Allegiance. My own German mother was once one of those, in the 1950s, being solemnly sworn in after having left post-war Germany to a new life in America with her G.I. husband.
The path to American citizenship for an immigrant is a long one, with a minimum of 5 years of residency in the U.S as a green card holder before even applying, and then there are still many more steps along the way (including a civics test that many natural born citizens might find challenging). This does not include the years it might take to extract themselves from their country of origin. The Naturalization Ceremony itself is understandably embraced with great joy and relief, as it is the culmination of a long and arduous process.
A Pledge and a Prayer
I sometimes wonder if these new citizens think about the deep divides that currently plague our Country on all levels. The social and political rancor is loud and disturbing, and the disparity of resources and opportunities among our fellow Americans is undeniable. Leaders from both sides of the partisan divide blow hard with their rhetoric, and seem to produce cringe-worthy words and actions on a daily basis. And while I am thankful to be an American, there is plenty that I witness and read about that makes me shake my head and feel less than proud. The pledge line of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is certainly not a description of how things are in America, but for me, nevertheless, remains a hopeful prayer. Perhaps it is also important as a reminder of the telos or goal toward which all citizens, new and old alike, should be moving and working. Be the change you wish to see, right?
A Birthday Wish
But on this 4th of July, I’m reminded that in spite of all of the injustice, poverty, prejudice, corruption, lack of civility and strife that are a part of our national experience, and sometimes feel like they are pushing America to the breaking point (even literally – I’m talking to you, California secessionists), there is no country to which I’d rather pledge my allegiance. I really am grateful to live here and call the USA home. So happy birthday, America! May we all continue or begin posthaste our part in the huge task of turning Your Dream into a reality of “liberty and justice for all.”