It’s official. I have become 100% American, blue passport and all. I stood in line with another 2,700 fellow applicants on a perfect, sunny and warm day, entering the Los Angeles Convention Center, in awe of the perfect organization that was able to process that amount of people, stamp their papers, make them sit through an elaborately choreographed ceremony, deliver them their naturalization certificates in under 2 hours. Definitely America at its best.
For all my cynicism, even I was a teensy bit moved, and felt slightly different afterward. Let’s see – from now on, I will be afforded more rights in case of arrest; should I lose my passport in any country with an American Consulate, I will be re-issued one in a matter of hours; I can finally vote, one of the main reasons I agreed to be questioned, examined, investigated and to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops that lead to citizenship. I agreed to bear arms to defend my new country if ever asked and I pledged allegiance to a flag.
I am prepared to bet hard-earned money no other country in the world makes their new citizens feel so welcome, nor do they offer a sobering speech from the judge administering the oath nor a video message from our President. Even the cheesy song “God Bless America” by country singer Lee Greenwood had a place in all the pageantry.
We raised our right hand, repeated the judge’s words and tears were flowing, reminding me that where you are born is a luck of the draw, and that some of those 2,700 people standing around me fought hard and sacrificed more than I ever will to earn the privilege of being called an American citizen.
Upon delivering my naturalization certificate, the immigration officer at line 22 asked me where I was originally from.
“Italy”, I replied
“Why on earth do you want to become a citizen of this country?”
I thought it was the oddest question coming from an immigration officer.
“I was in Italy last year and it’s very beautiful” he added, as a way of explaining
“Well, this is my home now” I stumbled.
Indeed, it is.