Soy Americano

This has been a long time coming. Both in terms of finding a way to adequately articulate this and the final Swearing in Ceremony.

I will start with the easy bits...

To the many American's I've met over the years... remember this, it is cringe-inducing to ask one.

`So which do you prefer? The US or {insert old country here}?

Yes you mean well but one thing about my swearing in ceremony that moved me to tears was the African American (emphases and more on this below) judge who poignantly said and I paraphrase badly ...we are not asking you to forget your old country or lose your traditions, we are asking you to strengthen the fabric of ours...

To me it truly is that simple. Disavow all political affiliation with your old country and love and respect the people around you who will likely have different interpretations of the American experience.

This is harder to do and in many cases this is the primary attraction to me of the American experience. Try as one may, no one can really claim ownership of it. All litmus tests generally fail under rigorous examination leaving only the aspirations one can gleam from re-reading that living breathing Constitution that governs the land.

In order to achieve these goals though the need to constantly re-evaluate the common norms requires, nay my interpretation of this is demands an educated populace that is actively engaged... Again a tough goal this but for the most part it is a ride I jump into with eyes wide open.

The process itself for me was a lengthy one which with hindsight seems predictably inevitable but when you combine youth, wanderlust came at a time when I am perhaps settling (dare I say growing up?) As one who was born in a different country from his parents ancestral home I've always felt like an outsider looking in. (Ironically I still feel that way about my parents home, I never adequately knew it to feel any strong bonds to it) So in many ways Kenya {insert birth certificate joke here that delayed my citizenship to the US} will always be my home. I've always instinctively said that I hold a Ugandan passport but never really lived there. I think my total amount of time in Uganda was less than my time in Europe.... Wait?, where was I?... Kenya as a kid also always reminded me that I didn't really belong. I will grant these were the pains any kid would be subjected to of not belonging, but it was always that way. You don't belong to any of the identifiable Kenyan tribes. I coped. Despite all this and perhaps because I lived in Nairobi during my formative years, the isolation was infrequent but it stayed with you. (I was not surprised when things blew up in 2008)...

Fast track to the US and again allowing for growing up there alienation was of a different sort. Here however not belonging didn't have the permanency I felt before (youth perhaps?) It is still difficult to adequately explain because perhaps it is best experienced. It is for this reason the Judge words hit me hard. I've perhaps been going about this wrong. I can't say I ever deliberately embarked to change myself, if anything it is easiest for me to be true to myself as an American than I was living any place else. The homophobia in East Africa jumps to mind as one of the many things that would have me in a world of trouble (not suggesting it is non-existent in the US mind). The power of religion (not diminishing the power of the Church) would be another. I feel certain I am glossing over them but in these two cases it is relatively easier when not couple with It is not our tradition to {insert archaic unchallenged tradition passed down as edict}

Glad you'll have me!

**Originally posted April 2011

Soy Americano
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