A few months ago, I had a conversation with my aunt. One of my cousins, who had been living in the US for almost 20 years, had taken up US citizenship and she did not seem too thrilled about it. She felt that it was ungrateful to give up one's citizenship to her/his birth country and take up citizenship elsewhere. I did not agree with her, but at the time I couldn't coherently put forth my reasons. I have been thinking about it for quite some time now. I have been living in the US for more than 6 years now. I am not at a stage where the option of taking up US citizenship is available to me. But, I have often wondered if I would take it up, if and when, the option became available. Is it morally wrong for you to give up the country you were born in? Side note, I haven't yet processed the events of the past month or so properly, so my opinions may change significantly.
I don't yet have an answer to that question. I do like India. After all, a lot of who I am, is because of where and how I grew up. But, for quite some years now I have felt out of place in India. And this started way before I ever stepped foot out of India. And I don't think it was because I was too posh or sophisticated to live there. It has pretty much nothing to do with the physicality or the everyday challenges of life in India. But I always felt like I am not being my true self. Even now when I visit, I am not completely vocal about my opinions and I fear that if I do express myself truly, people will either be hurt or outraged about what I have to say. Judging by the rhetoric that is spouted these days, I fear that by expressing my opinions I might even put myself in danger of physical harm. What with people getting beaten up just for not standing in theaters for the national anthem and all that. There is this sense of hyper-nationalism that's been floating around for a few years in India now. In fact, it was a huge factor in BJP winning so comprehensively and Modi getting elected in 2014. And since then things have only gotten worse. Actors have been called traitors for expressing concerns about the state of the republic. Writers have been assassinated for expressing secular views. Any skepticism about or criticism of the govt. is considered treason. This comic by Zach Weinersmith sums it up pretty well. Why is it that expressing concerns about the atmosphere in the country make me a traitor?
All this led me to this question, what is a country if not for its citizens?
Aren't the citizens who make the country? And if so, how is a minority citizen's concern any less important than a majority citizen's? JFK famously said,
Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
But there is something that a country must do for a citizen. At the least, the country must provide safety. The least it can do, is guarantee the fundamental rights of a citizen. That is the definition of being a democracy. And if a country cannot do that, then, it must not expect a citizen to do much for the country. A citizen cannot be forced to feel pride, loyalty or respect for the country. All of those things need to be earned. Forcing me to stand up for the national anthem is not making me respect it. All it is doing is making my legs stretch. Giving me the freedom to express myself, giving me the safety of being free from persecution, giving me the guarantee of justice, that is earning my respect. And when that happens, you won't have to force me to stand up, I will do so with pride, with my head held high.
Coming back to my first point, because of all these things, I became a fan of the US. At the time I did not know as much about the US and its history as I do now. And I do understand that it is a lot grayer than it is made out to be. In spite of all that, I still feel that as a country it has had its citizens' backs. Or at least it did till about 10 days ago. To a large extent, it does take its citizens' rights seriously. Or at least it did, till about 10 days ago. And that's why I feel that it's not morally wrong to give up your birth country. I still am not sure if I would take up citizenship here, but one thing I am sure about is that I wouldn't reject it outright on moral grounds.
This past week has been, to put it very, very mildly, eventful. There have been too many things happening and I need more time to process all the outrage and the anger inside me and be able to coherently write about them.
So I don't wish to write about the events of this past week, excepting to say, the immigration crisis is real and is scary. People had built their lives here in the US, have families here and now suddenly their lives and families and livelihoods have been snatched from them. So please donate to the ACLU. Help fight the oppression. To my fellow Indians here on visas, please for a second, do not think that this cannot happen to us. If the events of the past week are any indication, I wouldn't be surprised if we're next. This fight is not for someone else, this is as much our fight as it is for the immigrants from other countries. We need to be together in this.
You cannot arrest the mayor.