Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflecting on My Naturalization...in a Time of Another "National Crisis" in China

To this day, the idea that I am in a foreign country while in China
has not really sank into my mind. While I understand that (as I will
rant on about in the following paragraphs) citizenship, more often
than not, is a display of pure opportunism rather than some
deep-hearted and sincerely nationalistic loyalty, a mental change,
after all, does need to accompany a sudden change in national status.
Recently in China, a fishing boat colliding with a Japanese patrol
vessel in disputed territory has been subject of nationalistic
outbursts.

Especially considering the elections in Japan that marks another shit
back toward pro-American stance and September 18th being the
anniversary of start of Sino-Japanese War, tensions run high here. As
much as I stay neutral on these issues, I wonder that, if similar
situation were to occur in the States on July 4th, would there be as
big of a reaction? Some priest threatening to burn Korans on September
11th and the popular support for such an act shows that, in terms of
managing popular nationalism and its violent consequences, the Chinese
government may even be more careful and cautious, therefore more
likely to prevent international crises due to popular acts of
ignorance.

The question is perhaps more of perceived "national duty" rather than
emotional sentiments. The priest in the States obviously knew that
his proposition is a deeply confrontational one that directly assaults
the basic principles of all Muslims, and attacks the very existence of
Islamic fate. He believes that Islam vs. America (or Christianity) is
a zero-sum game, one with death of Islam just as communism. On the
Chinese side, the protest is an ethnic one rather than a historical
one, one in which neither Japan or China can win because neither
fundamentally be changed as a nation.

Now, the question is, where do we, the newly accepted Americans, stand
(or better yet, should stand) on these issues? As a recently
naturalized US citizen, my first July 4th as a true American has
significant symbolic values. But as I celebrate American and all its
ideals on this particular day, I cannot help but worry about the
meaning of the "American Dream" as understood by my fellow naturalized
Americans, especially those of Chinese descent, after witnessing the
obvious insincerities both the immigrants and the naturalization
officers displayed during the supposedly sacred naturalization
process.

I fear the continuation of the frivolous attitudes can greatly
undermine the very values we are celebrating on this day. This lack
of seriousness was best displayed during a rather minor segment of the
Oath Ceremony I undertook in San Diego, CA. To kill some time before
the judges were ready to officially announce us as US citizens, the
naturalization officer presiding over the ceremony decided to call up
some of the immigrants being naturalized for a short "interview." To
my greatest shock, no less than half of the dozen people called up had
trouble simply introducing themselves in English, not to mention
answer the officer's questions.

The officer simply laughed off the incomprehensible mumblings, without
a slight sense of worry. Sure, the officer's nonchalant attitude can
easily justified by the elementary school-level difficulty of the
reading and writing "tests" we were required to pass during
naturalization interviews, and perhaps more by the fact that the
descendents of the people gathered at the Ceremony will not be any
different from anyone else born and bred in America. However, behind
the laughs of the officers amidst patriotic music blaring in the
background illustrates the hypocrisy with which we are treating the
naturalization process.

It is always important to note that America was built on ethnic and
cultural diversity, an aspect fully on display at the Oath Ceremony.
Yet, America is also built on certain ideological principles shared by
most of her constituents, and even today, I fail to see how those
principles can ever be instilled among most of these new citizens.
After all, democratic processes can only be successful when ideas are
freely and fully exchanged and be available to the entire populace.
Such "unity within diversity" is simply impossible when that diverse
group of people cannot even transmit the most basic information to
each other verbally.

I question the wisdom of our political leaders even to mention any
"common values shared by all Americans." As the Ceremony concludes
and the participants revert back to using their native languages, the
thoughts going through their minds are of possible increased incomes,
greater freedom to travel, and sudden appearance of new economic
opportunities. Notably absent are "freedom," "democracy," and many
other ideological buzzwords that are now such an integral part of our
political language. I wonder, when these new citizens cast their
first votes and perform their first jury duties, will they really be
utilizing their "American principles" to preserve our ideological
American-ness?

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