November 28, 2017

I've been pondering what it means to be a citizen. Here's a couple of reasons why:

* My mother, after living in the States for 70 years, finally became an American citizen last fall. I always thought of it as a technicality: she has lived here since she was 20, she was American in all but the papers. The way people who've lived together for 30 years are—but aren't!—married. But a meaningful distinction.

* I remember a joke-but-not-really about a Jew in Nazi Europe staring at a globe for somewhere to emigrate to, after being told there was nowhere that would issue a visa to a Jew. At last he said, "Don't you have another globe?"

* The 2016 election & all the cruel "go back to" shouts. I'm white, so mostly those people don't feel so strongly about it for me, I think. I've never been called an anchor baby. But I'm just as much first-generation as all the people whose parents wriggled across the Rio Grande.

* At my sister's instigation, she & I applied for German citizenship through a program that "restores" German citizenship to "victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants." We qualify in spades & were able to provide all the necessary documentation. It's kind of the opposite of my mother's situation: we can be citizens of a country where we don't live, where my sister has never even visited. We applied in June of 2016. Thanks to Brexit, they have had three times as many applications as usual, so the "about a year" actually took till November 7, 2017. We will get our certificate of naturalization in February 2018 at a ceremony at the German embassy here in New York.

* I visit England and Wales fairly often. More to the point, I visit family there, so I "feel" English. I have no relatives (note "relatives" vs. the cozier "family") in Germany & have to remind myself that it's exactly as much of my background as the English side. But it doesn't feel that way, not without family. Will I become more German now that I have German citizenship?