15 September 2005

Ten Years as an American

Ten years ago today, I interrupted my studies in New York, flew back to Los Angeles, and attended a ceremony at Los Angeles Convention Center, which officially turned me into a United States citizen. After swearing loyalty to the new country, I gladly turned in my Resident Alien card and picked up my naturalization certificate.

If my relationships with different nations can be compared to human relationships, Korea would be a mean father I am about to estrange, China would be a mother I never got to know well, and the United States would be a spouse with whom I had a wonderful honeymoon. The "honeymoon" lasted for years, as I traversed the country on Amtrak trains, and later, in my own car; by 2000, I covered 32 states, in all regions of the country, adding Alaska as the 33rd in 2002. Ten years into the "marriage" though, with a different regime in power, this relationship isn't working out too well, showing many signs of strain. This "spouse," as is, couldn't care less if I died from lack of adequate health coverage, for example.

Following the pre-programmed route under which my family was allowed into the United States in the first place, as soon as I naturalized, I ended up at the Republican voter registration desk, and registered there. The program called for me becoming a Young Republican; I had already been working with the elements of the Religious Right already, back in New York. But by the time I was voting for the first time, the Republicans had already failed me, thanks to Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, and my own coming out. As I cast my first-ever vote by absentee ballot from New York (I remained registered in Los Angeles), I voted to re-elect Bill Clinton. Shortly thereafter, I left the program, and re-registered as a Democrat. Today I remain a Democrat, even though the party is in disarray, and I disagree with the party on a few issues. And I've become estranged from the Korean-American community, which should be siblings (at least half-siblings) under my analogy, but in reality have become adversaries, in my search for the American Dream, which for me is more about the freedom to live as my true self than about tax evasions, the resulting riches, and a Lexus to show it off in.

Extending my analogy, Canada and UK would be potential suitors I have very briefly dated, and Australia and New Zealand would be potentials I haven't even met. Of course, thanks to Tony Blair and his policies, I decided that the UK will not do. For now, I am more concerned about working on the marriage, at least until it works out - or until I conclude that it is beyond hope. Going to the massive protests in DC next week will be my way of laying out my positions on how to work this marriage out. After all, fixing a broken marriage is usually easier than divorce and its accompanying mess.