After 15 years of living in the States, this Dutchman recently became an American — just in time to vote against a certain loudmouth presidential candidate…
But seriously, why did I adopt American citizenship? Not for the right to vote — I’m a thoroughly apolitical person — but mainly because I’m married to an American and have two American kids. My entire adult life has happened in the States. (Plus if I’m ever held hostage in a foreign country, the American government might actually try to rescue me, whereas I’m not so sure about the Dutch government.)
Do I feel different? Not really. Still, it’s something I’m proud of, to be part of this mad country of dreamers and schemers, snake charmers and witch doctors. I love the wild abundance of this place, the history, the enormous variety of landscapes: the Rockies of Colorado, the plains of Wyoming, the forests of Virginia, and California which has it all.
The last step of my citizenship application was a naturalization ceremony. On a mildly sunny Tuesday morning my wife and I took the subway to Oakland, where 1,500 applicants and their families were gathered at the historic Paramount Theater for a celebration full of cheese and patriotism. We were treated — if “treated” is the right word — to video messages from President Obama and Madeline Albright, speeches from passport and social security officials, and an a capella choir asking the room to sing along to songs whose lyrics no one knew. (“This land is your land, this land is my land… ummm… la-di-da….”)
And that’s what I mean: America is cheesy and ridiculous and it can be frustrating as hell to live here, but every day I feel a certain excitement at what might happen. The Dutch have a saying that used to drive me crazy: “Just be normal already.” Living in the States, even after fifteen years, still feels like the greatest adventure of my life.