Great Hairy Greetings!
This week I find myself pondering my own identity; not so much in a general sense because I'm pretty sure of a few things, but more in the sense of nationality. You see, I've lived almost half of my life, nearly all of my adult life, in the Czech Republic although I was born and remain an American. Recently the law regarding dual nationality has changed.
My children, who were both born in Prague, as minors have been considered to be dual nationals. Now they will no longer be forced to make a choice regarding their nationality when they become adults. I'd been stalling on getting my younger son's US passport renewed because it is a very expensive and overly complicated process that will require my Favorite Female (also known as "my wife"), aforementioned son and myself to visit the US embassy together. Both parents have to give their permission for the child to receive a US passport; even to just renew one. Kidnapping worries I suppose. Just last week we went to our local municipal house and within a half an hour we had applied for a Czech passport for my son. They weren't even particularly concerned whether I approved or not. Nobody even asked me who I was. And the cost? $5.00. Photo included. Makes me wonder if I'll even get around to dragging my kid down to get his photo taken for a new US passport and then meet up with our Favorite Female for a trip to the embassy. A fun, fun day and the total cost would only be as much as taking all four of us out to a nice restaurant for dinner. It's expensive to be an American.
So when I received my copy of the January/February newsleter from the US Embassy in Prague (PDF)
As of January 1st, 2014, the Czech Republic allows dual citizenship for Czech citizens. Applicants do NOT need to renounce any other citizenships, including American, but will be required to pass an exam that demonstrates knowledge of the constitutional system of the Czech Republic, as well as basic knowledge of Czech cultural, social, geographical and historical facts. Applicants will also be required to pass a language exam.I found myself thinking about my own nationality again.
Your American citizenship will NOT be affected if you choose to apply for Czech citizenship as well.
More blithering and spelling errors beneath the ginger hairball...
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When I was in grade school we said the Pledge of Allegiance. I suppose I took it fairly seriously but who really understands making promises like that when they're 10 years old? How many kids are capable of grasping what "allegiance" really means? What about pledging that to a flag? mostly to a flag. To the republic for which it stands is an addendum, an afterthought. Hello, bit of brightly colored cloth-- I'm yours.
I've never been that enthralled by symbols.
Nationalism, patriotism... these were beliefs, ideas that had been particularly important to my father. He grew up during WW II. His babysitter died at Pearl Harbor. He grew up wanting to kill some slant-eyed devils for America. He joined the Army during the war in Korea and despite repeated requests for overseas duty ended up spending his service stateside in the Army Corps of Engineers-- eating big breakfasts and riding around the base in a Jeep, looking for broken wall tiles that needed to be repaired, doing a bit of boxing, building a bridge or two, smoking cigarettes, eating big lunches, playing card games, eating big dinners and getting cavities-- and slowly, eventually the desire to kill people kinda faded away. He grew up. I think an important part of the process might have been learning that the Company Clerk had been tearing up his transfer requests. Turned out that Dad was good at building things. Soldiers who were good at their jobs, at least in that unit, didn't get sent to fight in Korea. The screw-ups, the dimwits-- they were the thorns in the side of the stateside Army. The Company Commanders shipped them out almost as fast as they came in.
My dad wanted blood, what he got was fat.
When my brothers were coming of age it was Vietnam's turn to host an unpopular foreign war. The talk around the dinner table was not what branch of the service they'd be joining but what options they'd have for avoiding service if the war continued long enough for them to be drafted.
That war passed and the draft was reinstated by Ronald Reagan just in time for me to have to sign up for it. Was I going to be slaughtering farmers in Grenada for Ronnie?
I considered learning the lyrics to "Oh, Canada".
I then had opportunities to travel-- I was called an "Amerika-jin" in Japan, in Paris I danced with a woman from Mexico who reminded me that she was also an "American". I saw a bit of the world. I met so many wonderful people and experienced so many unAmerican ways of doing things.
If my belief in American exceptionalism had been weak before it was pretty much buried in a shallow grave in an abandoned lot by the time I got back from my first trip to Europe.
Now, don't get me wrong-- I loved my family, my home, my community. I voted in every election (as a well-informed voter). I was glad to do my part and serve jury duty. I donated blood to the Red Cross, volunteered at the local Civic Center-- I was interested in politics from a very young age and attended political rallies whenever I could. But the concept of national pride, of patriotism was something I was dimly aware of around the Fourth of July. I learned of many of the horrible things that had been done, that were being done, for the love of country. Patriotism seemed as superficial and meaningless as pride in your race. I was born American. How is that a source of pride?
Somewhere along the way I also seem to have lost my ability to care about sports teams.
So now, here I am with an invitation to become a dual national.
And-- I wonder what would change if I did. What does loyalty to two states mean when one is unsure of their loyalty to anything as broad and abstract as a nation?
I think I'd prefer to be the first holder of an Earth passport if I could. I think planetary pride, planetalism is something I could really get excited about...
We're number one!