Thursday, June 23, 2005

we, the misfits

This week, I got the opportunity to witness a friend become a naturalized American citizen. It is the second time I've experienced a naturalization ceremony.

There is a point where the federal judge asks each person becoming a new citizen to respond when her or his name is called by saying the name of the country she/he are from. As the names are uttered aloud, I got a little choked up -- and other friends present confided that they did, too.

Gathered from all the corners of the world, the new soon-to-be citizens speak up, naming country after country, folk who chose America for political, social, economic, religious and personal reasons, much like many of our families did at some point in time.

America, I think, has always been a place for people who didn't fit in at their land of origin, who rejected the social order, folk who were dreamers, or ambitious, or odd. We are a nation of self-selected, restless misfits (or descendents of such).

There is something quite appealing about that restlessness, as well as something that can be damaging. We're not big on history, ours or anybody else's. Living in an environment where one can change quickly, we have no patience for those who see the world through very sedimentary points of view. Our cities rarely have a past. Buildings have short life spans. We remake the landscape, changing it forever, somethings with a rapidity that is mind-boggling.

But that's us, drawn together by Enlightment abstractions and personal freedom, an ark filled with all kinds, from all over the world.

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