Today my husband became a U.S. citizen. Along with 1,144 other immigrants from 94 countries, Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. The San Francisco Masonic Center auditorium must have been the most diverse place on the planet for those two hours we shared. While cheesy videos played and voter registration was explained in four languages, families from all over the world stirred in the upper balcony. Babies screamed and cameras flashed as the loved ones on the lower level took an oath to renounce allegiance to their home countries and swore to support and defend this one. We all cheered at never having to stand in line at the INS again, at being able to vote and travel with a U.S. passport, at not having to prove we belong here with proper documentation. From now on, simply saying “I am a U.S. citizen” will be enough.
I’ve never been overly patriotic, but since I seem to have a thing for men not from around these parts, I don’t take citizenship lightly. Also having traveled a good deal, I know how unique America is in its openness and acceptance of others and I value the variety these cultures bring to the American experience. I can walk down my street and have a burrito, pad thai, bruschetta or unagi. If I lived in Italy or China, it would be Italian or Chinese every night. Beyond food, the benefits of this blending of cultures has affected my life in beautiful ways. My son will be raised in a city where people are people no matter where they’re from. We are all in this together and no one will look at him sideways for being mixed.
Yes, this country has major issues and an ugly history in which the only way my husband would’ve been allowed here was as slave labor to build the railroads. And it wasn’t that long ago we couldn’t have been legally married. But we have come a long way, and we continue to move forward in ensuring freedom and opportunity for all people as equals and that’s why the huddled masses are still coming, why they came into that auditorium today from 94 countries and left belonging to one.