On Becoming a Citizen

 

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Now that the election is over, I’m trying to come to terms with the outcome. I know that life goes on, and somehow we’ll survive and get on with it.

We will continue to wake up each day, have our morning coffee, do our work and gaze in awe at spectacular sunsets. Soon, we’ll be gathering for Thanksgiving with family and friends and expressing our gratitude for the special people, places and things in our lives. After all, it is our innate resilience as humans that will make sure we get through this.

Now it’s time to draw from our inner-strength and reach across the aisle. I truly hope that all of us can find some common ground, through respect and kindness toward one another. In the words of the gentleman from Illinois who addressed the Democratic Convention in 2004, when he was still four years away from becoming our first African American president:

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America….We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Coming together may be easier said than done, but I have two words for you: baby steps.

In the meantime, I remain hopeful. Here’s to new beginnings. A new president, a new administration. Sigh. And here’s to my friend, Linda, who recently became a United States citizen.

Linda Caballero Sotelo, who is the executive director of the New Americans Museum in San Diego, expressed on Facebook her utter joy in this significant achievement, and her words touched me, reminding me why I’m proud to be an American. I asked her if  I could share her writings and she happily agreed. Here it is:

“Today I took the oath of citizenship to our great country. The little kid in the picture below, that 4th grader in parochial school in Imperial Beach, because Irma, my fearless 20 year-old sister, and my equally fearless and fierce Mama, were determined that I study in the States (the only one of six siblings to do so) —traveling back and forth daily between Tijuana and San Diego for those 10 years, straddling two countries, two languages, two cultures…two “cuisines”(!)

Somehow knowing early on that America held the promise of opportunity and equality… for a vocal and precocious little girl who believed that anything was possible, everyone equal and opportunities abound in the US with great, noble and generous Americans from all ethnic and cultural multi-generational backgrounds reinforcing those beliefs to this day… I am finally an American.fullsizerender-2

As I took the oath this morning from the honorable Judge Moskowitz, my throat tightened and my eyes twinkled and fought back tears because I remembered why I love my country of birth, BUT also why I’ve always loved this amazing and complicated country, America: because its potential and promise framed in democracy and our Constitution continues to be a work in progress — and I continue to have faith in us, that we will not be defined or co-opted by emboldened voices of divisiveness, bigotry and thinly veiled messages of hatred and racism now bubbling to the surface… but instead by those common values that unite us.

For a first time voter who has spent most of her adult life advocating, organizing and encouraging civic engagement, and for Americans to use their voice and exercise their right to vote, it’s overwhelming and humbling coming round full circle. Our nation of immigrants, just added one more new American, and I wanted to share how full my heart is.”

Congratulations, Amiga!

19 thoughts on “On Becoming a Citizen

    • Thank you, Christy. It’s been a challenge, this past month, but it’s only the beginning. I like to find the good in things. For now, I try to focus on the good in my life. Not always easy, but worth trying. For example, I am grateful you stopped by and discovered my blog! 🙂

  1. I will never forget the day I became a citizen! I’ll never forget – it was a pledge built on hope, really! This is the same hope that fuels Linda’s resolve and belief in the value of such a milestone. As bad as it is – and it is about to get incredibly worse before it gets better, we can’t lose hope. I don’t believe I will never refer to the president-elect as my president. I cannot and will not.

    Also, I’m not sure we’ve ever been a United States of America, Monica. This nation has always been divided, though fundamentally, we aspire to this unity. (I believe that POTUS Obama eloquently delivered those words, believing in this same premise.) There is a lot of work left to be done yet; for this, we will need a radical hope and a hands-on kind of love. I’m still hopeful. I will not ever lose my song.

    • Thank you for sharing your feelings about becoming a citizen. Since writing this about Linda, there’s been an update: Over the Thanksgiving holiday someone defaced one of the exhibit signs on the New Americans Museum where Linda is the Executive Director. They wrote this:

      “Too much immigration! Go back to your country. This one is ours!”

      No words can justify such hate.

      • None, absolutely none. I am saddened by this, Monica. This country belongs to all who dare to call it home, including me. I wish I was surprised by this. This person “elected” to be president of the U.S. has given license for this kind of behavior. The perpetrators have the audacity to think that they are more entitled to land they themselves did not toil, to structures they themselves did not build, to rights they themselves did not tirelessly battle for. It is a sad day indeed.

  2. Such an uplifting post, Monica. We needed it, when all around us negativity, racism and bigotry seem to have seeped in, with friendships lost and families divided. I read a book on the broadway Hamilton today, and in it was a line that stuck with me about how we will soon have not a majority nor a minority, but many colors and races making up these United States. That is how I shall move forward, for in the end we are all a part of this most extraordinary human race, filled with immense compassion and love.

    • Yes, MM, I want to believe that. A cornucopia of colors, of ideas, of perspectives, living together with dignity, respect and most of all, with empathy. I thought of you today with what happened at the Hamilton show Friday night. The cast meant well, but it was turned into something ugly. I’m glad I got to see the show in October. I found it powerful and loved the multicultural cast and music. I will continue to celebrate the diversity in all of us, even when others abhor it. I will continue to move forward and hope that the nation catches up with me and with you. The love and kindness we feel for one another, no one, but no one, can take away. So in that spirit, MM, I wish you and your precious family, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. The spirit of this post moves me . . .really. In the words of the great Leonard Cohen, whose passing so many of us are mourning, ‘there is a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in.’ And you do bring light with your words coupled with those of your friend.

    • Did you see SNL last Saturday when Kate McKinnon as Hillary performed Hallelujiah? I was overcome with emotion. What a stellar, moving performance. This little light of mine, I’m gonna make it shine.

    • Thank you, Kim. Sending you hugs because in these times, I feel we can all use them and remind ourselves that we can speak with civility and show empathy for one another. Our humanity is our common link.

  4. Thanks for reminding us how wonderful democracy and citizenship can be. We needed the lift. It also made me recall the campaign on new Americans and all those workshops. Our diversity and equality will become our proud achievement…even if it takes several steps backward before we advance. Thanks!

    • Judy, So HAPPY to hear from you. I hope you both are doing well. When the New Americans Museum first opened I immediately thought of the excellent documentary we worked on and what a fabulous partner the museum would have made. It’s a small, modest museum, but they’re all about capturing the immigrant stories and spirit. Linda’s a real dynamo. She has such passion for her work, and that passion shines through in her words.

  5. Monica, this I love — “After all, it is our innate resilience as humans that will make sure we get through this.” Indeed! I’m all for putting the nastiness behind us (not just for 3 or 4 years until the next election, but for forever, too!). We have MUCH work to do as a nation, as a people … and we can ill afford wasting precious time bickering and nay-saying. If we look, we can find plenty of things to grouse about; perhaps we should instead focus on the positives — like your new American friend Linda. Congrats to her, and boy, she’s expressed her happiness so well!!

    • Yes, I agree, Debbie. Linda’s words filled me with hope and are a great reminder that this indeed is a nation of immigrants. We’re so lucky to be part of patchwork quilt that is the U.S.!

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