1 dark night for America: The bigamist’s tale

by awindram

One dark night to go. 

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Starting tomorrow it’s going to be ! Thank you for a great morning Sarasota, Florida!”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Tomorrow, we face the test of our time. What will we vote for?

Daily election article of interest: Imagining America on Nov. 9

Tomorrow I vote. I will cast a ballot for the first time in my capacity as an American citizen. I don’t, however, feel overtly American, and I certainly don’t sound it, but almost exactly a year ago, in the sterile setting of the Fresno Convention Center, I became one.

There were many people around me for whom it was an emotional event, young people finally gaining full legal validity in the only country they had ever known, others who had come from countries torn apart by war and for whom this moment represented the end of incredible personal journey, and while it was a privilege to share in some small way that moment with them, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that my own reason for adopting American citizenship was entirely pragmatic. America did not represent a land that could provide me a better and safer life than that I had been born into, instead it was just something that … well, sort of happened to me.

Truth be told, I was becoming American so that I would never have to deal with US immigration again, and so in the event I were to move back to the UK, I wouldn’t have to worry about my green card lapsing should I, a few years later, want to move back to the US and have to navigate through the immigration process again. Not that you can tell them that at your immigration interview. They don’t want to hear that one of your most compelling reasons for taking up American citizenship is that it makes moving away from America just that much more convenient for you.

So on the floor of the Fresno Convention Center, along with four hundred other people, I took the naturalization oath. I swore to abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty even though I did so in the full knowledge that the diplomatic compromise of dual citizenship was allowed, and even though I was becoming American, I was still British, born and bred. I felt, as I made that oath, like a bigamist saying his second set of wedding vows in the full knowledge that his first wife was happily waiting for him at home.

And yet for all the indifference I may have felt at the ceremony, tomorrow, in casting my ballot, feels like the first act I am making solely as an American.

Americans like to talk about their nation’s exceptionalism, about its unique place in the world, and with that comes a degree of culpability; tomorrow I assume my share of that culpability. I will be part of America the beautiful, and of America the ugly. When America does things in the world that I don’t approve of, or that others don’t approve of, I can no longer play aloof, it is my government too now. A government that will have been formed in a process I, as an American, will have taken part in. This election, this fascinating, bizarrely compelling election has been viewed by me a lot in those terms, that this election – for me – ends in me being American.

That’s partly why I have blogged the way I have about the election, as a way of trying to work out my own place in this process, and my own feelings and views on it. Perhaps it is the case that my first election as a US citizen is a natural end for this site. I mean how long can I really keep claiming discombobulation?

I intend to be up early so I can vote as soon as the polling station opens. I am still, of course, a bigamist. I feel entirely British in everything about me, but perhaps from tomorrow onwards I will start to feel as equally American. We may abhor the bigamist, but he may be entirely genuine in his love for both wives.

One last sleep, America.

Citizenship Ceremony, Fresno, CA, November ’15

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