Citizen

Last week I became an American citizen. It took me nearly 40 years to make the leap. I’d had a green card allowing me to live and work in the US since 1979 when I was made a hereditary resident alien on the coattails of my father. He was invited to join the club as a “cultural asset”.

What finally convinced me to file my papers in early 2016 was the possibility that Donald Trump might be the Republican nominee for president. My hope that I would be able to vote that year proved beyond optimistic. It took more than two years from the date I applied until I was called for the interview at which they ask you what the First Amendment is and which ocean lies off the east coast and then make you take an oath that you have never committed genocide or been a member of the Nazi party.

The delay at least gave me to opportunity to give disapproving English friends a different excuse for forswearing allegiance to the Crown. “Boris made me do it,” I would say, referring to the boorish Johnson, now Foreign Secretary, who helped con my now former country out of Europe where it firmly belonged.

I was sworn in on World Refugee Day, June 20,  at a ceremony in Baltimore with 48 others, most of whom really were refugees. They were from various corners of Africa, Latin America and Asia (or as Trump calls them, “shitholes”), neither pampered heirs of cultural assets nor faux escapees from Brexit. The venue was a grand Presbyterian church that had be repurposed by the University of Maryland as an assembly hall. In the graveyard outside lay the bones of the poet and writer of horror stories Edgar Allen Poe.

We were shown a stirring film celebrating America’s proud history as refuge for “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, with archival footage of same getting their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty before passing through Ellis Island to become part of the great American experiment. The high point, though, was the keynote by the university’s president, Jay Perlman, whose parents, born in Ukrainian shtetls, fled pogroms to find new lives and each other in Chicago.

Regrettably, the rules required that we also sit through a video welcome from Trump. He stumbled through his script with the enthusiasm of a ill-tempered man about to undergo root canal surgery. Decorum obliged us to applaud. There was a smatter of hands colliding limply. It was hard to forget that this was the guy who was talking about Latin American asylum seekers as an “infestation” and who had ordered infants to be dragged from their mothers’ breasts to deter further attempts at asylum-seeking and to blackmail Democrats into giving him his wall along the Mexican border.

With half an hour to kill before the ceremony got underway, I had a choice between letting the Twitter feed on my iPhone work me into a righteous but futile fury or reading the pocket Constitution contained in the packet they gave us when we checked in. I chose the Constitution, a warty document in some respects given its original concessions to slavery, but at its core still a work of collective genius, the DNA of what we were all here to become a part of. It put me in a good frame of mind for the oath.

It has only been 10 days, and in every one of them Trump and his claque has given me reason to rue my decision and I expect they will continue doing so until the day he is voted out of office. That day will come. Of that there can be no question. One of those votes will be mine. Which is why I have no regrets.
 

Advertisements

Teaching the dog to eat carpets

Perhaps you’ve heard of the banqueting king who spots his favorite mastiff chewing a priceless rug and tosses the animal a rib to get it to stop. “Your majesty,” his chancellor whispers, “you have just taught that dog to eat carpets.”

This week in Singapore, Donald Trump did his best to teach North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un the same lesson. To persuade Kim to scrap his nuclear weapons, Trump, ever promiscuous in his choice of words, slathered the world’s most brutal dictator with over-the-top accolades for his integrity and statesmanship.

Remember Ronald Reagan’s constructive engagement with the PW Botha regime? Well, if you’ll excuse a salty epithet, this was constructive gatkruip. How constructive remains to be seen.

Greta Van Susteren, formerly of Fox News, who now reports for another state broadcaster, Voice of America, asked the president if he had a message for the people of North Korea. He replied, as if on the stump for his counterpart: “Well, I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.”

Presumably Kim will let his people (other than the 120 000 in his gulag) hear that, along with Trump’s description of him as “very talented” — as anyone would have to be “who takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough…Very few people at that age, you can take one out of 10 000, probably (could) do it.”

Kim did a little counter-flattering of his own, which Trump proudly relayed as entirely sincere and meaningful: “He said openly that no other president could have done this.”

When FW De Klerk surrendered South Africa’s nuclear arsenal, some in the ANC chafed. They would have liked to keep the apartheid bomb for the clout. Trump’s fawning over Kim tempts one to say they had a point.

The summit was “a dream come true for Kim,” said Senator Chris Coons (the Democrat who gave SA such hell over chicken), “something his grandfather and father long hoped for — legitimacy on the world stage, an invitation to the White House, without concessions on human rights or a timeline for a process of denuclearisation.”

Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and “senior advisor to Donald J. Trump for President Inc.”, channeled Pyongyang’s style of spin with her statement on behalf of his 2020 reelection campaign: “History will demonstrate that the historic summit..and the initial agreement to denuclearise the Korean peninsula was an end product of President Trump’s bold and vigilant leadership on behalf of the American people.”

It is to be hoped that the agreement Trump and Kim signed is not an “end product” but the start of something genuinely constructive for parties other than Kim, his dynasty and its protector China. The omens are not good.

The ink was scarcely dry on their piece of paper when Trump unilaterally yielded to Kim’s demand that the US cease “provocative” training exercises with South Korea. In the same breath he expressed his desire to withdraw the US troops that act as a tripwire to deter a replay of the North’s invasion in 1950. The agreement itself commits Pyongyang to even less with regard to scrapping of nukes than accords signed with previous US administrations. The strongest concession Trump extracted was a pledge to return some bones.

I doubt Kim was much impressed by the propaganda film Trump showed him touting North Korea’s potential as the next south Florida complete with Trumpian beachfront condos. If Kim is as sharp as Trump says, he surely worries that rising living standards, and the economic opening required to achieve them, will be the death of his dictatorship. He has every incentive to eat keep eating the carpet.