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Conceived in Liberty

On a day in 1998 1988, [Typo -- Ed.] I went to the courthouse with my husband and a few friends.  I have a picture.  I was wearing a pink skirt suit and looked very young, even though I was then 26.

I said the words that made me forever an American, one of you:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

I had been eligible to apply for citizenship for – I think, the laws have changed and I don’t remember clearly – two years before I did so.  I wanted to make sure.

Elsewhere I’ve written about “Fit in or f*ck off.”  Elsewhere I’ve written about acculturation.  Acculturation is the process of — consciously or not — changing cultures.  Children do it the most easily, but often the most incompletely.  If your parents are still from the originating culture, you’ll learn a bit of that at home, even as you learn the new culture at school and the neighborhood.  You’ll be caught in the middle.  This is, by the way, the reason second-generation immigrants often hate the new country and provide the largest pool of terrorists.

Acculturation for adults, if it’s to happen at all, must be a conscious process.  You must learn to see your old culture and your new culture and choose to change.  You have to be aware of the old thought processes and replace them.  You have to consciously learn to think in the language and will yourself not to fall back on the old patterns.

It’s work.  Depending on how much work you put into it, it can be very complete.  It is much the same as any other work of profound internal change.

I did mine before I applied for citizenship.  I wanted to be sure. Because if I did go through with it, if I did swear that oath, I was going to be an American.  I was not only going to bleed red, but white and blue too. If you cut me in half, you’d find the stars and stripes emblazoned on my heart.