This is my first Independence Day as an American citizen. I have lived half my life in Switzerland and the other half in the US, or more precisely in New York, which by all accounts is not like the rest of the country. At my swearing-in ceremony a few months back quite a few people asked me how I felt as an American: I feel like a New Yorker and always have. Being an American is something I have to get used to.
New York was love at first sight. As any true love we’ve had quarrels, made up and deepened our relationship. 9/11 wounded New York deeply but also sealed my commitment to this city as a place to thrive, live, learn and love. I love New York for its energy, its grit, its people. New York passes no judgment. All nations, colors, levels of madness, cultures, religions, fads and neuroses live here in an unbelievable hodge-podge. Everybody is ‘other’. Every ‘other’ is the ‘normal’. What is there not to love?
Now that I’ve officially upgraded from New Yorker to American I can vote, I moved from “you” to “we”. I’m not an outsider looking in, commenting, I’m now on the inside and I can say “we” when I have an opinion. I can also apply for grants I previously did not qualify for… Most likely I will be called for jury duty the moment I register to vote.
Happy Birthday, America. My wish for you is to leave your teenage years behind and grow up to be a fiscally and politically responsible country, one that values educating future generations and goes out into the world to be a nurturer and not an oppressor. I’ll be watching closely and participating in my civic duties.