I’m a naturalized American citizen, born in Weisbaden, Germany, on an American Air Force base. My great grandparents arrived almost a century earlier, docking at Ellis Island, having left their homes in (then) Austria / Hungary, Romania, Russia, and Poland. They too became Americans.
My husband, Sasha, like me, is a naturalized American citizen, born in Kiev, Ukraine. At 7, he left his Soviet, Russian speaking home and came, via a short mandatory stop in Italy, to America, the grandson of a decorated member of the Red Army. His dedushka was at Stalingrad (not in Stalingrad, an important distinction), and fought at Kursk – and the 1st and 2nd battles of Kiev, helping to liberate Kiev in November 1943 from the Nazis, surviving four 8mm rifle rounds from a German machine gun. He chose to immigrate to America with his wife, and they too became American.
Both immigrants, Sasha and I have devoted our adult lives to trying to make life better and more secure for Americans, my husband as a research scientist with GTRI, contracting for the Department of Defense, and me, by being a part of our judicial system, serving as a family lawyer and child advocate. (I never really thought of myself as an immigrant, being the daughter of Americans, born on a US military base, to a US Air Force Captain, and yet I had to be naturalized.)
However modest my work, I have used my voice, words, time, energy – and vote – to support our democratic nation. Sasha and I both have – for a Country that now sees immigrants as “other” and recognizes the blessings of liberty when it doesn’t interfere with racist, xenophobic, ethnocentric, antisemitic leanings and private agendas.
How fortunate we are. America is linguistic nirvana, a home to the most romantic, intricate, and melodious of accents, a nation adorned with the color of peoples from every corner of the earth – skin porcelain white and brown like warm, rich earth. Our cities are overflowing with intoxicating aromas of international cuisine and the richness of ethnic diversity. Our press is free, if no longer neutral. Our judiciary is independent, albeit imperfect. Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed. Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden. Your body is your own, not the property of the government. You can live and work in whatever city and state you choose and no state or federal authority can dictate what university you’ll attend or in what profession you will work.
All in all, not such a terrible place to be. But we are horribly spoiled – and terrible hypocrites, a nation of immigrants who make the path to citizenship almost impossible…. a nation that embraces free speech while excoriating those who opinions differ from our own…a nation of democratic elections molded by geopolitical games on both sides of the proverbial isle… a home for those huddled masses yearning to be free – but who can expect their families to be separated at the boarder.
We have forgotten who we are and how we came to be. We have siphoned our empathy. We have hardened our hearts toward those who only want a better life for their children, those who now stand in the shoes in which our ancestors once stood, those who came here searching for the rights we now enjoy.
RAE; 10-7-19; Modified 11-23-19
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