Are Americans jealous of Canadians for anything?
Patriotism in the USA - Who can be American?
America is a country where patriotism is a top priority. The flag can be seen everywhere, the oath of the flag is pronounced every day even in elementary schools, the national anthem can be heard before professional NBA games as well as local high school football games.
And every now and then a political discussion is sparked about who is actually a real US-American. Most recently, President Donald Trump did it. He stated in several tweets, Link opens in a new window, that four congressmen - all women of color who are very critical of him - should return to the countries from which they came.
Three of the MPs were born in the United States, one came from Somalia as a child and was naturalized as a teenager. With his short messages, which many read as racist, Trump sparked a new debate in the USA.
With immigrants to a better America
Change of scene. Oakland on a Wednesday morning. "This land is your land, this land is my land". The unofficial national anthem of America, written by Woody Guthrie in 1940, is sung by a local Oakland choir at the Paramount Theater.
The naturalization of over 1100 immigrants from 94 countries is imminent. In the old, huge Art Deco room from 1931, pride, relief, and dismay swing through the rows.
Many of the new citizens are dressed up for this occasion, have family members with them to celebrate their “naturalization”. A truly moving moment.
Arndt Peltner has been a freelance correspondent for SRF and various German channels since 1996.
I saw it myself in 2013 when I - a native German - became an American citizen. Then, as on that day, it was emphasized during the ceremony that America had become better that day thanks to the immigrants who now became citizens of the United States.
A country for people without a home
«Give me your weary ones, your poor ones,
Your enslaved masses who long to breathe freely,
The pitiful rejected ones of your crowded shores;
Send them to me, the homeless, driven by the storm,
I hold up my light at the golden gate!
Send them, the homeless, to me who have been blown by the storm.
I hold up my torch at the golden gate. "
This text is on a plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. America as a country of immigration, a destination for the homeless, displaced, for people in need. In contrast, there is now a president who is closing the borders, who calls refugees criminals who want to curtail the right to asylum. Close the door, the light on the golden gate is switched off.
A united people?
Patriotism was an important pillar of one of the worst recent crises in the United States. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the American flag brought people together, united the nation under the "Stars and Stripes".
The national anthem has always been sung with pride. After September 11th, however, it was hurt pride that resonated.
In Washington, for example, MPs from both parties gathered on the steps of Congress when the nearby Pentagon and New York City were still burning. Together they sang “God Bless America” as a sign that America is united in this moment of crisis. No matter what political and social rifts there were after the election of George W. Bush, on this and the following days it was said: We are all Americans.
Almost 20 years later, this 9/11 patriotic unity no longer exists. Patriotism and “being American” has become a political sword that is threateningly wielded and used primarily by the President himself. Yet the United States is and will remain a land of immigrants.
What does it mean to be american?
Irene Bloemraad is a sociology professor specializing in immigration issues at the University of California at Berkeley. There is no clear and short answer to what it means to be an American.
“You should differentiate between becoming an American or a US citizen. In English they say that if you become a US citizen, then you are an American. " But in their research you make a clear difference.
"Most immigrants believe that anyone can become a US citizen," said Bloemraad. To do this, you have to be able to speak a little English, be law-abiding, know a bit about the government and the history of the country - this is how inclusive a view of America is, "where skin color, national origin or religion play no role."
If you dig into it, so Bloemraad, and ask if you see yourself as an American, then they mostly understand that it's not about the passport, but more about identity - being a member of the club. And some said they'll never become Americans. "I am not treated as an American, not on an equal footing, not as part of the whole, I do not feel the same or welcome."
They feel more like Vietnamese, Mexicans, Nigerians or wherever they come from. President Donald Trump underscored exactly this stance when he called for the four Democratic MPs to be "sent home".
Not a real American
On the one hand, you are solemnly accepted into the nation, on the other hand, the feeling that you are not really becoming an American disappears: This conflict leads to many of the new citizens trying to keep their old citizenship, even if the USA only officially left them as an American realizes that they are only allowed to enter the country with an American passport.
For me, who now has two passports, after 23 years in the USA the feeling is still: I'm somewhere in between. For me, Germany is my origin, my character, my family, friends, mother tongue. America is my home, my new family, my career opportunities, and yes, my future too.
The oath on the constitution, on the flag and on defending the USA armed if necessary, is everything in the naturalization process. Many take this oath half-heartedly, because at heart we new citizens are still Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Somalis or Germans.
“I'm proud to be American” - in these times when the President of the United States is questioning who a “real” American can be, it is more difficult than ever to say what that means. But one thing is certain: You belong. You can and should get involved.
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