Girl, Interrupting

February 13, 2011

On becoming (naturalised, half) British

Filed under: America — sylviamclain @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , ,

I am undertaking ‘a journey to citizenship’ and happily (thankfully) I just passed the test and can apply for citizenship soon.
Fortunately I can be a US/UK citizen; the UK isn’t particularly concerned with dual citizenships and the US wants to keep us:

In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Broadly meaning that unless you actually denounce your U.S. citizenship, or become a citizen of certain (mostly communist) countries – having dual citizenship is ok as was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1952 (Kawakita vs. the US)

My mother, like I assume many Americans, didn’t know this- she sent me an email:

Are you applying for British Citizenship? I am surprised but understand if that is what you want to do.

As if I was telling her I was joining a fascist regime.

I reassured her that if I had to choose I wouldn’t do it – I would stay American. Why?

Ok, I am actually kidding about that (yes, really) but this sure is what you learn growing up in the US- We are great Great GREAT and everyone wants to be like us. As embarrassing as it sounds now, I definitely grew up believing this. If the US is good at nothing else it is damn good at indoctrination. Its like Disney, its easy to make fun of Disney when you are old and wizened but as a child it was magical – the wonderful world of Disney with singing birds and dreams that came true.

I wouldn’t say I am particularly patriotic but I am rather attached to my country – its a visceral thing – and I am proud of the idea and indeed ideals of the USA (even though I think we don’t often live up them) – the Constitution is an amazing document. I am also pretty attached to the UK and in particularly to England – I have lived here for a while and plan to stay. I wouldn’t describe myself as an Anglophile, I don’t have a particular love of all things English but I am fond of England and there is alot I like about it.
For example:

1 – Tolerance – England is an incredibly tolerant society
2 – Gentleness – the Police here are amazingly gentle; the Doctors and Nurses at A&E’s here are wonderful – and they have a certain gentleness about them in a way that just doesn’t happen in the US from either public service (in my experience)
3 – the availability of books – books galore, cheap books, good books… everywhere everywhere –
4 – Newspapers – Newspapers in this country are great, relatively
5 – the BBC – which has REAL documentaries – REAL
6 – Cheap food, in grocery stores here you can get decent veg for a decent price even in places like Tesco’s
7 – Trains
8 – you can have a pint in the pub and read a book and people leave you alone.
9 – Manners and moderation – if you don’t appreciate the scrum queue at a pub, go to the US in a crowded college bar on a weekend

The Quiet Pint

There are so many more things I could list. But what I find curious, from an outsider’s point of view, is that most of the English people I know are quite shy about telling me what is good about England – in fact many of them have nothing good to say at all, its like a negative patriotism and wonder why on earth I would want to move here
My butcher summed it up the best:

“You paid over a £1000 to live HERE?!?!?!”

And I am aware that to any point on my list a negative example can be provided- like ‘Yes but the bloody trains are never on time’ and ‘we aren’t that tolerant, look at the BNP’.

Why does patriotism have to be a bad thing? Just like you can be a patriotic American and not be Sarah Palin, can you not be a patriotic English man or woman and not be a member of the BNP? I think you can. There ARE some exceptional things about England and I think alot to be proud of if you are English. And it doesn’t mean you have to turn into someone who is worried about
“the immigration invasion of our country’ or ‘the threat to our security posed by Islamism”

You really don’t. Being an American, which is hardly the nationality du jour if you live just about anywhere in the rest of the world , I am attached to the idea of ‘take back the patriotism’. Why not? It seems reasonable to me that you can love your country and hate some of the things it does.

I am really excited to (hopefully) be becoming a UK citizen, though I doubt I will ever refer to myself as British (though it might be fun for the irony as I have a definite Southern US accent), or go out waving a flag at the upcoming Royal wedding – I am very proud of becoming a part of this country, a country which, in my opinion, has alot to be proud of.

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