What Did You Do to Earn Your Citizenship?
It's The Fourth of July and I'm sitting in my office in San Antonio, thinking about where we are in America right now. While people are using the flag to festoon the cracks of their asses, swallowing wieners like their bills depend on it, and blowing up any and all expendable household items as a matter of hillbilly science, I can't seem to curb my mixed emotions about this country that I love so much.
There's been a lot of proselytizing about the sanctity of US citizenship lately, largely coming from right wing groups. It's become crystal clear that Trump and his team have found their most consistent and effective marketing campaign on the back of immigration, and it's being devoured by the sterling-silver-spoonful by their constituency. Immigrants, both legal and illegal alike, have found themselves to be the most maligned group in modern America. Somehow millions of people in the US have been convinced that the poorest and most powerless group in the country is the producer of all of their woes, and that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare are going to help the middle class some day.
This leads me to a simple question. What did you do to deserve your citizenship?
Now, I know that that question may initially strike as an accusation or a general attack on people who were born here (like me), but it's not. I think that it's a legitimate point of social and philosophical concern that we all should have addressed years ago.
I'll start with me. I was born in 1986 in the town of Pueblo, Colorado. That's it. That's all I did to become a US citizen, which is a true example for most of us. The city and state may differ, but a lot of us just wound up here on a genetic coin toss. All of this fear mongering built up about the 'Visa Lottery,' and it's largely perpetuated by people who just so happened to win the birthing lottery.
As for adhering to American values after you wind up being born here, that water's quite a bit muddier. Some people insist that serving in the military is how you honor your nation. Others believe that exercising your First Amendment right to protest is the ultimate way to represent true American freedom. Then there are those who wish to participate in a free market economy with minimal government intrusion. The truth is our forefathers designed their vision to encompass all of these answers as true pieces of the American dream. The idea was being free and extending that freedom to the world.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years, and we've chosen to burn that bridge behind us. Someone comes over from Afghanistan to open a shop and send his kids to college, and we say “Not good enough.” A family fleas the cartels in Mexico, making an arduous journey across deserts, mountains, and rivers, and we respond with “Not so fast. We'll need to see that six-year-old in court first thing on Monday. Mom and dad need to report on the Friday before. Good luck!” A two-month-old is brought over from Nigeria by his parents who want something better for him. We answer back with some rules for him to be a part of the Dreamer program, he follows them to a T, and then we yank out the rug, sending him back to a country he's never known. A farmer from Norway comes to the US and... Oops. Never mind.
We allow hyperbole about terrorism and MS-13 to demonize and destroy any paths of rational thought on the subject of immigration that we may otherwise follow. We choose to disregard the words at Lady Liberty's feet about the tired, hungry, and poor of the world. We, instead, put children in kennels and courts, while we beat our chests and proclaim how much more we deserve out of life than them because of the proximity of our mother's womb to US soil when we were born.
I'm not suggesting that terrorism, on every level, shouldn't be a concern and that we just let everybody in. That would be lunacy. But deporting people over minor traffic offenses is also crazy. And pushing legislation that strips naturalized citizens of their rights over what amount to clerical errors is downright anti-American. Obama was no friend of immigrants, and now Trump is ratcheting his predecessor's abominable policies to their fullest extent, and any and all balance on this topic is in the wind.
The men who founded this country were flawed in many ways, but they were men of vision as a collective. There was a number of things that they got wrong off the bat (ie. slavery), but being a bastion for freedom wasn't one of them. It's an idea that we need to remember and defend with veracious tenacity.
So, I really want you to think to yourself “What did I actually do to become an American? Why am I here, and not dodging missiles in a war-torn wasteland? What have I actually done to deserve the freedoms that I'm still afforded?” Then ask yourselves why other people don't deserve that same opportunity. I imagine you'll find any honest answer to that question hard to come by.