On July 4th of this year, Paul Karl Lukacs, a lawyer, blogger and author of nothing you’ve ever heard of, wrote about his bewilderment that Simon Winchester, author of bestsellers including “The Professor and The Madman,” “The Map That Changed The World,” “The Meaning of Everything” and “A Crack At The Edge of the World,” would voluntarily decide to become a U.S citizen:
“In the past 50 years an American passport has morphed from the most coveted international document into a mark of Cain that most expats would love to return by post. It’s a mystery why Winchester would want to move permanently into that house.”
Although it would apparently befuddle Mr. Lukacs, I’ve decided, like Simon Winchester, to become an American citizen. I was born Canadian, but I choose to be American and by doing so now, I hope I can contribute in a more meaningfully way towards protecting our way of life. I love this country and I think it’s exceptional. I think its Constitution is a wonder of the world and it always will be. I believe we will weather this current crisis and be better and stronger for it. It may be unfathomable to Paul Karl Lukacs, but I have a number of reasons why I want to embrace American citizenship.
I want to be American because I want to prosper.
If we define prosperity as a state of flourishing and thriving, as a condition of optimism, happiness and health, we must certainly designate the United States as the most prosperous country in the world. In 2010, the U.S was ranked 10th out of 110 nations, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index. Leaving aside the fact that 10th out of 110 nations is still an excellent ranking, this position, behind Canada and the Netherlands, hardly tells the whole story. Using such ambiguous criteria as “social capital” and “governance,” and giving those equal weight against more verifiable data like education or levels of innovation, skews the overall picture. The fact remains that only the United States offers that ideal climate for prosperity; competition, modern science, modern medicine, a consumer society, work ethic and the rule of law and private property rights. American ingenuity is responsible for GPS, DNA computing, the Internet, the Mars Rover, the microwave anisotropy probe and countless other innovations that have literally changed the course of mankind. Number one ranked Demark, did, however, bring us Lego. Thanks, Denmark, but although I am EU eligible, I’m going to continue down the path of U.S citizenship. As long as we can push back against over regulation and interference by all levels of government, this country will continue to lead the world like that “shining city on the hill.”
I want to be American because I believe in unalienable rights, that “all men are by nature equally free and independent.”
America is genuinely free, without monarchs, without castes, without a strict, sclerotic social stratification. It may be an imperfect equality, but it is the best the world has to offer. We could look at religious tolerance, accessibility, race relations, freedom of expression, freedom of association and a myriad of other personal liberties that are honored and dignified in U.S culture, and denigrated and disregarded in many parts of the world, but let’s take, just as one example, the treatment of women. Despite the Left’s hysterical exaggerations to the contrary, there is no better place on Earth to be a woman than the United States. We can vote, are represented in government, can own a business, inherit property, marry for love and not survival and raise children in freedom and prosperity. The U.S offers an example that promotes the status of women in a world where 70% percent of women live in poverty and suffer disproportionately in areas of conflict and post conflict. The notion of “justice” is about as entrenched as a plume of smoke for most women in the world and they are subject to laws and customs (often state sanctioned) that leave them vulnerable to domestic violence, rape, genital mutilation, slavery, trafficking, forced prostitution and other atrocities. As women in the U.S., we are offered protection under the law, equality and dignity that is taken for granted. While terrible things can and do happen in the U.S., they are met with reactions of horror and are widely condemned. If you enjoy feeling depressed and bleak, I’d suggest contrasting that with the many horrible stories in Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, India and other countries where atrocities against women are treated with depraved indifference.
Beyond these basic human rights and protection from barbarity, as a woman in America I’m offered the best shot at true financial security and professional fulfillment. In America, in six short years, I’ve reached a level in my field that remained tantalizingly out of reach in Canada, where women hold 28% of senior management positions. (Ref: Raymond Chabot Grant Thorton, “Women Hold 28% of Senior Management Positions” March 8, 2011). In the U.S., women now hold 51% of high paying management, professional and related occupations. (Ref: TLNT The Business of HR “Here’s Why A Wise Workforce Strategy Needs to Actively Focus On Women” April 26, 2011). In Germany, women hold a lean 14% of senior management positions. Only 7.8% of German board directors are women, compared to 15.2 % in America. Further, Germany’s numbers are the highest in Europe, despite the Left’s stubborn insistence that Western Europe offers such a superior quality of life and is a paradise of gender equality. (New York Times “Goal At Deutsche Telekom: More Women as Managers” March 15, 2010).
The treatment of women is just one example of the American ideals of freedom and dignity of human life in action. Choosing to be an American is my symbolic way of saying that I endorse individual freedom for all people and abhor the shocking lack of basic human rights in many parts of the world today. Again and again, we fail to recognize that things like personal security, private property, low tolerance for corruption, accountability of our elected officials, the right to a fair trial and the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty are all concepts that much of world does not share.
I want to be an American because I can.
It’s not that I don’t love Canada. I do. I love its clean streets, quiet subways, polite, apologetic people, commitment to international peacekeeping and its inherent compassion. I’m very fond of the current conservative majority government and the direction that country seems to be moving. But perhaps I was born to be American. I cannot remember a time when the stars and stripes didn’t represent for me a powerful, successful, confident entity, something I wanted to be a part of. It’s a visceral feeling; this is a place where people are free, where you don’t apologize for success, where excellence matters. You can feel it. This is a place where you are encouraged to pursue personal happiness, not just exist in a dreary grey world of sameness. After spending much time here, I have finally realized that I have an obligation to become a citizen, one that goes beyond the civic responsibilities of voting and jury duty. I have been hemming and hawing, contemplating the pros and cons of retaining my Canadian citizenship, when all the while I have the unheard of luxury of choosing to be American. There are millions of people all over the world who dream of a better life, who would leave everything and everyone they have ever known for the opportunity to be here. Some literally risk (and some even lose) their lives in this quest. The very idea of America gives them hope. Brave men and women have volunteered, over and over, to take risks and make sacrifices that we cannot even comprehend, just to keep this nation safe. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, like the 31 warriors we lost this weekend in Afghanistan, so that I can live this life. I’m deeply grateful to the U.S., not just for the wonderful opportunities it has provided me over the past six years, but for the unspoken security and stability it provided me growing up in Canada and continues to provide Canada and the world today.
We may be teetering on the brink of another recession. While we don’t know yet what the S&P downgrade might mean in concrete economic terms, it most certainly brings with it a palpable sense of weariness and decline. We may be a nation divided along ideological lines more than ever before, with those who believe in “redistributive politics” comparing those of us who believe in “equal opportunity” and “meritocracy” to trolls, terrorists, vampires and worse. We may appear to be at risk of losing that innovative, resilient, exceptional quality that has historically defined America, now that the ever-increasing clamor for entitlements and other disincentives seems to drown out common sense, commitment and personal responsibility. We may very well be engaged in the greatest struggle of our generation. But I have no doubt that America will prevail and this is why I am “voting with my feet.” It’s not enough to say I believe in American exceptionalism, protecting the Constitution and individual liberty and justice for all: I need to live it and legally declare it. I’m confident in the future of America, despite where we are today, mostly because I’m so encouraged by the new activism of other ordinary citizens just like me. I want to play my part. I’m ready to go all in, ready to be a part of this awakening and a bright American future.
If I might better use the words uttered in dismay by Mr. Lukacs, I’m ready to “move permanently in to that house.” As Simon Winchester has said, I’m poised to join this “extraordinary experiment in improving the human condition – an imperfect experiment at times, of course.” (The Daily Beast “Why I’m Becoming an American” June 26, 2011).
But I’m perhaps most motivated by the words of a personal friend. Also on July 4th of this year, he posted on Facebook this “status” comment:
“I think I’ve wanted it since I was 4, but today more than ever i wish I was an American citizen. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes, God bless you all and God bless the US of A.”
I recognize I am privileged to be eligible to be an American citizen. Thank you for welcoming me, America. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14).