Feb 9th 2023:
I became a US citizen 12 years ago today. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me along our shared road. This part of my identity means the world to me, and is something I will always cherish. The swearing-in ceremony in Brooklyn, with a few hundred of my fellow new Americans was far more moving than I was expecting.
The front few rows were reserved for military personnel, most of them in uniform, and their families, and when we collectively stood to take the Pledge of Allegiance it felt like whatever our differences, whatever our individual stories and why we had ended up there, we had, I believe, the same overriding sense of what it was we were becoming part of.
The letter we all received from then-President Barack Obama – along with a pocket sized edition of the US Constitution – described perfectly the place of this moment in the story of the country.
As we filed out, there were tables set up outside the chamber where we could register to vote and indicate our other allegiance – to one or other political party, or none. To me, that seemed natural and perfectly prioritised. We all want the society we’re part of to progress and succeed and be a better place to live; we may have different priorities on how to realise that aspiration and it’s right that there is a mechanism for articulating those preferences within established and mutually-respected parameters.
Sadly, though, that’s one of the things that some people – who knows, even some who stood alongside me and recited the pledge that day – may have lost sight of, to the detriment of all of us.