Reflections On Citizenship Day

More than 20 years ago, my late step-mom, Tippy raised her hand and took the solemn oath of United States citizenship. All of us were very proud of her on that day in Omaha. She later had her citizenship certificate placed in an attractive frame and displayed on a wall in dad’s den.

Tippy’s citizenship was the culmination of her childhood dream. As a young girl working in her family’s rice paddy in northern Thailand she yearned for ways to improve her life. After Tippy reached adulthood and graduated from university, she married an American. The couple returned to the U.S. and Tippy obtained a “green card”. She suffered through an abusive marriage due her husband’s threats to have her deported back to Thailand if she did not obey him.

Eventually, Tippy found a way to divorce her husband yet remain in the U.S. She moved to Nebraska to find gainful employment. Meanwhile, she had been refining her English speaking skills and studied American History. Tippy eventually became an assistant manager at a Pizza Hut in Wayne, Nebraska where she met my widower father. Dad enthusiastically helped Tippy work on her civics studies and further her English language skills.

Finally, Tippy passed her naturalization interview and test with flying colors. Then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officer conducted a citizenship ceremony for Tippy and several other individuals seeking naturalized citizenship. All of them swore the sacred oath and were presented with their official certificates.

Tippy was at least as happy as she was on that day as she was when dad married her a year later. Tippy was more informed and insightful than most native born Americans. She loved to engage in political discussions with dad. She often disagreed with his conservative opinions, yet they always found a way to compromise and agree to disagree on certain matters. Tippy never took her voting rights for granted. She sometimes engaged in specific “town hall” meetings about topics that worried her. One could say that Tippy had become a model citizen.

Today, on Citizenship Day, I ponder Tippy’s pathway to becoming an official citizen. I also consider my father’s family who arrived by ship from northern Sweden and my mother’s family who arrived from the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany to America. They all had to pass muster to earn citizenship in this nation. I look back with familial pride of my Swedish and German roots because they form the foundation of my own upbringing. They taught me to never take my own American citizenship for granted.

The United States has long been a grail country for many freedom seeking people from around the world. Many immigrants like my step-mom have understood the need to balance their love of individual liberty with the necessity to respect the freedom of everybody else. A well-rounded civics education helps citizens understand the importance of democracy in our democratic republic. They know that participating in a democratic manner will help ensure everyone’s freedom and the continuation of the republic.

Ever since the times of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, the status of “citizen” has been a title of great honor. Citizenship is more than entitlement to rights and privileges. Citizenship implies responsibilities as well. American citizenship should be equally valued by all legal American citizens. When we break down and require different conditions for various “classes’ of citizens we devalue the overall sacredness of citizenship for all.

For millions of people like Tippy, the decision to learn a new language, move to a new nation, and work towards citizenship is a serious matter. To leave the place where you grew up, attended school, and have family and friends to love is a courageous action. The same can be said when people feel compelled to leave their native countries due to oppressive tyrants and terroristic conditions in their lands. To begin life all over in a new country is a a major decision. To achieve citizenship in the new country is a milestone event in their lives.

There should be no such thing as implied second class citizenship. All citizens should be treated equally under the law. Ideally, society will honor individual freedoms and rights. Compassion and diversity strengthen everyone’s citizenship. The promise to everyone for the chance to build the best life for ourselves and our fellow citizens should be valued and exercised. Even in these divisive times, it behooves us to respect the citizenship of each and every U.S. citizen.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Czech–American former professional tennis player, Martina Navratilova. “I really couldn’t come out until after I got my citizenship, because it was a disclaim–back then, it could have been a disqualifier. I could have been denied my U.S. citizenship because I was gay. So I didn’t–I stayed quiet.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Hometown, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Reflections On Citizenship Day

  1. Pingback: Reflections On Citizenship Day | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  2. Good essay. And amen to this: “All citizens should be treated equally under the law. Ideally, society will honor individual freedoms and rights. Compassion and diversity strengthen everyone’s citizenship.”

  3. Richard, Monkey’s Tale photographer, says he’s a better Canadian than me because he chose to be a Canadian, having grown up in Poland. Your stepmom sound like a courageous and wonderful woman. Maggie

  4. tiostib says:

    An inspiring post. Thank you.

  5. Your step mom was a wonderful person. Her story is inspiring. It might be good if citizenship was like a driver’s license and people had to get refresher courses in government and the responsibilities that go along with citizenship periodically. But those courses would soon be politicized I’m sure.

  6. bloom|time says:

    I notice that your dad first empowered her by helping her gain citizenship… then married her. Wish civics refreshers were required.

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