Changing Nationality

Over the years I’ve read some posts on a list from a woman who was born, raised and went to college in the US. Her entire family of origin was from, and stayed, here, while she moved to Canada as a young woman. She is passionate and vehement about how she IS NOT AMERICAN, SHE IS CANADIAN. She likes to use “our” in contrast to “your [American]” ways frequently.

It has always made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like natural and organic pride in her country, but like a mantra “I’mCanadianI’mCanadianI’mCanadianI’mreallytrulyCanadianandNOTONEOFYOUPEOPLE!!”

But whatever floats her boat, really. It jars me when I read it, like when I read egregious grammar errors, but it’s not offensive. Just seems defensive.

This is a corollary to something that makes me sad. Because, for me, I could move to the  UK or France (or Canada, whence came my great-grandparents), and become a citizen thereof. And to me, I’d still be American deep down (regardless whether I wanted to be). I will never not be an American, even if I didn’t hold US citizenship any longer. I realize that if I’d moved at 24, rather than 44, I’d have been more malleable and better able to assimilate into another culture, although I still think I could do a fairly seamless job in an Anglophone country.

But on Veteran’s Day, “our” veterans would not be the British, French, Canadians to me. I don’t have any connection to, relatives in, the armed forces of any other country. (Well, I might have, unfortunately, distant German cousins or, more fortunately, distant British cousins, but no one I know of.)  I would never have had the experience of growing up, going to school, having family, in my new country. And while I might be “French” in terms of my passport and, eventually, my language, and I’d be proud of my adopted home, I’d only be French the same way Americans (save Native Americans) are Americans. Being American is a citizenship, not an ethnicity. I’d be British/French/Canadian in the same way. (Although Canadians already have the same citizenship, not ethnicity, thing going.) And I still would have been formed deeply by being born on the West Coast of the United States, speaking West Coast American English from toddlerhood, attending American schools, working in American settings. I’m a “bad” American in many ways and am much more in tune with the attitudes of many Europeans, but in day-to-day life, I’m still an American.

So I guess in a way, since neither of the northernmost North American countries has a national ethnicity, the aforementioned woman can be just as Canadian as she was American. But I can’t see an adult moving to another country and giving up their entire identity to date. It doesn’t ring true to me, and it doesn’t ring true in her emphatic declarations of non-American-ness.

On a trivial note, I feel the same way about “hometown” on Facebook. To me, your hometown was the town you were born in, unless you left it very young, certainly before school. My nephews were born in one city but never lived there, so I don’t mind if they call the city they grew up in their hometown. My niece was also born in the first city, and left around ten or so. She lists the city she left for as her hometown, and to me, it’s not.  She lived ten years in her birth city, and to me, that’s her hometown. When people ask me where I’m from, it depends on context. If I’m traveling I figure the question means “In what city are you living at home/from what city did you come to us?” and I answer accordingly. If I’m in the area and people ask me where I’m from, I tell them the city I was born and raised in.

I have some very strong feelings about some really off-the-wall stuff. Adults moving to foreign countries: not suddenly transformed completely from their original identity in their country of origin.  People’s hometowns = their birthplaces unless they have no connections thereto. Damnit! 😉


Making Up My Mind

This last week I’ve kept coming across, or having occur to me, things I can’t make a decision on. It’s frustrating. I’m middle-aged! Why don’t I have a handle on these things yet?

Thing the first: Homeless folks/panhandlers

I think I’ve mentioned this one before. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and I like people in the abstract and in the very particular, but I have a hard time with the in-between. As in, I am pro-humanity, and I think policies and philosophies and procedures should be kind and generous. (Which is why I believe in universal health care and a social safety net.) And I like my friends, obviously. But everyone in between sort of stresses me out.

After work the other day as I was on my way to my car in the BART parking lot, a guy was roaming around and came up to me and just thrust his upturned baseball cap in my face. I shook my head and he went on. And I debated with myself the whole way home. On the one hand, do I know his story? Maybe he didn’t speak because he can’t. Maybe he’s so mentally ill he couldn’t hold down a job if he wanted to. Maybe he is simply really unintelligent and isn’t hireable. On the other hand, maybe he’s just a jerk. And I thought about the horrible, awful jobs I’ve had since 1990 when I graduated from college — jobs that made me ill, exacerbated my anxiety, contributed to my being a total bitch sometimes, made me twitch in a Pavlovian way when I see the words “friendly reminder,” because in my last job that meant “here’s a reminder to adhere to the draconian rules, you stupid peons!” I kept those jobs because I had to. I had no choice. They were crushing me both mentally and physically but for some reason no medical professionals seemed to care, and I had no options but to get up and go back and let them slap me around again. So I did. Most recently for eleven years until  I got this job, for which I am grateful on a daily basis.

Which makes me sound like such a right-winger: “Hey, I suffered; you should suffer too; no one helped me, so why should I help you?”

Except I believe no one should have to suffer like that.

I also struggle with my belief that the government should be responsible for taking care of the less fortunate, and not leaving it to the whims of people’s charity (although Ido give to charity and would continue to do so if I lived in a country with a decent social safety net). Part of me thinks, “You just want this so you don’t have to have the discomfort of stepping over people sleeping on the sidewalk when you’ve just gotten out of your nice warm bed, and you don’t have to have the discomfort of saying no to the same homeless people every day.” Another part of me thinks, “Well, yes, but wouldn’t it be better for them too if they weren’t sleeping on the sidewalk and reduced to begging?”

Thing the second: Immigration & Imports

I got a chain email the other day from someone I actually do like, about how people should buy goods and services from American companies and providers this Christmas. I agree in principle (to a point). I am very much in favor of  patronizing independent artisans; I don’t do all my shopping at big chain stores although sometimes for budget’s sake it’s unavoidable (and I have to confess to a passionate love of Target that I have to work to rein in); I make a modest effort to buy things made in the United States. On the other hand, I am a sucker for anything made in Europe — for instance, I buy Maille mustard not only because I like it but so I can feel some French person is having the same thing right now.

And this email was not only pro-American, but anti-China. Now, I am no fan of Chinese politics or of the quality of a lot of their exports, but I would have felt better about the email if it had been “This Christmas, support your local service providers, your local independent stores; go on etsy and find independent craftspeople who make cool stuff; do a Google search for artisans in your area. Support your community, give a unique gift, keep money in the local [or at least American] economy,” rather than “STOP GIVING MONEY TO CHINA SO THEY CAN BUILD ANOTHER CITY.” They’re people too….sheesh.

Then there’s immigration. On the one hand (my eternal refrain), I can see why one might find illegal immigration to be bad. Of course, if they’re employed other than under the table, they are paying taxes, so the fact that they then receive services related to those taxes doesn’t bother me. And as a comic I heard once said, “What? You want to pick your own lettuce?” I’ve read about how the farmers in Alabama can’t find American citizens who want to do, or can do as well, the work that Mexican migrants did. So I think a serious revamp of our immigration policies and guest worker programs is in order.

Also: the only reason I didn’t move to England in my twenties was that I didn’t have the chutzpah to marry a British citizen for his citizenship. I had the offer; England was like the Promised Land to me, one of my ancestral homelands (Dad’s side) that I longed to return to. I just wasn’t brave enough — I’m a bad liar and I knew I’d get caught, or if I didn’t get caught I’d live for years on edge. So on a personal level I have to hand it to people who are brave enough to do what it takes to live where they will be happy, and I would be a hypocrite if I condemned them. That isn’t something that can make policy and so it’s a good thing I’m not a politician, but on a personal level, I’d be living in Europe now if I’d had their courage, so I should shut up.

(Now I’d like to find a legitimate British or French husband…but at my age that ain’t likely. I digress.)

Thing the third: Religion

I’m finding I’m too Anglican to be a good Roman Catholic and too Catholic to be a good Anglican. Which I guess means I need to stay with the Anglicanism, since it’s much broader a tent. But I find that I go back and forth on what I think and how I feel. I can’t abide  mushy loosey-goosey “everyone is going to heaven” sorts of “theology,” like one hears bandied about by “spiritual but not religious” people (I’m not really thinking of Anglicans here); I find things like allowing unbaptized people to take Communion simply wrong (we didn’t even do that in the non-liturgical and non-sacramental Baptist church of my childhood);  and I like the straightforwardness and discipline of much of traditional Catholic doctrine. But I also find some of that doctrine completely unpalatable (see here).

Of course, I also find it difficult to get up and go to church, any church, on Sundays because of my pathological hatred of mornings and my introversion. I really miss Saturday evening vigil Masses. No getting up early, fewer people!

I find all this and more quite frustrating because I know people with convictions and the courage of those convictions, and sometimes they’re 25 years younger than I am. You’d think at my age I’d have figured out where I stand on things. I suppose on some things I have, but these issues among others make my thoughts swing wildly from “yes, this, but on the other hand, that!”


74 Degrees on November 2

That’s just wrong.

The cats enjoy the sunbeams to sleep in, but I am really looking forward to some cool, crisp fall days. I know they say places like this don’t get seasons, but we do — and I’m ready for fall, thanks. I’d like to listen to some rain at night, actually be able to wear a sweater for more than six minutes before I’m overheated, you know.

My new stove is here and I’m looking forward to things to try out on it/in it. Tonight I will do some oven fries; this weekend I might roast a chicken or bake a cake or both. I rarely cook meat at home anymore, but there’s something cozy about roasting a chicken. And then I can make stock with it and maybe have risotto the next day. I also almost never bake cakes, since I prefer pies and my cakes are never level, even with these things. Of course, maybe the brand-new oven will make a difference.

I do, however, have a couple of sets of cake pans (8′ and 9′) from marital-days baking attempts. I do wonder what one person is going to do with an entire cake, especially since I no longer live in a place where I could just leave a platter out in the front hall for people to partake of. I could take it to work but that would be something of a balancing act, with two separate train systems involved. Hmmm. I suppose I could just have a slice of cake every day!