"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove"
Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Lately, I have been thinking about taking the American nationality. This is not an easy decision and it is not born of pragmatism. I think of it as a marriage; not engaged in for practical reasons, but with many real, practical consequences.
I love living in the U.S. The fact that I married into it - that other momentous choice - only makes me delight more in it. I love the grandness of it, a grand design of a country full of grand spaces and grand thoughts. Coming from a little country as I do I appreciate it all the more. I love the aspirations this country has and its optimism. It has taught me to appreciate some things that looked unlikely - the military, long drives, even, at times, American football. So when I contemplate becoming a citizen, that's why; it is because I love it here. It is because this is where I am, not just geographically, but emotionally. This is home. I want it to be my home, well, maybe forever.
I am a commitment phobe, and that does not apply any less here. I am scared of throwing my lot in with America's. It does so many things I disagree with. It scares me, here in this country, to speak my mind. I am scared of what is being done with those drones, and when it will come home to roost; I am scared of what goes on Guantanamo, I am scared of what torture happened, of what rights of privacy are being quietly filched from American citizens, never mind dem furriners.
It is not that I believe that Belgium is better. It is only smaller, with a smaller capacity for both good and evil. Witness Congo and the long bloody struggle there; with more territory Belgium committed atrocities worthy of a larger country. In a short while, with a little power, Belgium did so much damage. The United States is so much bigger, so much more powerful, and I only one small foreign person. Like Piglet, I stand here trembling, a little worried that I will get blown away.
What to do?
Hitchens says, in his Letters to a Young Contrarian, "The more fallible the mammal, the truer the example." What he means by that, is that, not only are all heroes flawed, the fact that they are flawed shows all of us (who are flawed) that people with their shortcomings can do their small, good thing in this hurricane. America is both heroic and flawed. It's strange that I should get my news from the BBC because I find so many of the American news outlets too partisan, yet buy into a partisan concept of the United States in my fear of committing. I will correct myself. Any country is a conversation (albeit a little one-sided in some countries), this one more so than most. The conversation changes as different people speak up; it is a dialogue, even at its most strident. This cannot be taken for granted. Country of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Allen Ginsberg*, Hitchens**, Greenwald, and they are not alone, not silenced or forgotten. I will do my best to join that great America, that long dialogue.
The papers are in the mail. Wish me luck.
* "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again."
**After I wrote this, I played a game of What Would Hitchens Say, expecting to find some well-reasoned essay on why he became an American. I am touched by what I found instead; it is closer, in the end, to my own motivation than I had expected.