“Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To be, or not to be American. What does it all mean at the end of the day. To be American means to have the right to free speech, to bear arms, to practice religion without fear of persecution, to vote for what we believe in, but to believe in freedom and equality. This country was founded on the ideals of greatness, to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps and create something out of an opportunity. The rhetoric that is being spread throughout this country has been more toxic and more divisive than ever before. As an outspoken person, I usually have a lot to say, and have had a lot to say via Twitter, but never in a formalized format such as this.
Now, it’s personal.
I’m Kenney Tran. A child of two Vietnamese-American (now) citizens. I was born here, in America, with a passport, social security number, and a college education. I’m currently serving in the Peace Corps, another privilege that American citizens have. Yet despite all of this, my own citizenship is under attack. I get it, I’ve traveled a lot. But does that mean I should not be considered a person of my own country?
The concept of birth right citizenship isn’t unique to America, contrary to what our President has been saying, as a matter of fact, there’s a beautiful list.
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
I was brought up as a Vietnamese-American, being taught about both cultures, playing a beautiful game of balance, learning about both and taking parts of each and molding my own individual identity. I meditate and reflect a lot on my days and how my actions impact others, a trait of the Buddhist-Centric culture of Vietnam, but also have a tendency to be wild and spontaneous based off of the Extroverted-favoring nature of the United States. I consider myself to constantly be a person under construction, as a learn more about the world, I learn more about myself as well.
My parents fled warfare, a corrupt regime that refused to let people speak out about things that were happening and how they really felt. They left a country that was not accepting of ideas. So here we are, in America. The golden land, the country that is held to the golden standard of the world. So what did it mean to be American?
To be American meant to be kind, to be welcoming with open arms, to help others, to love for our neighbors and our fellow citizens in our great melting pot. It never had to do with whether or not someone was born here, where they come from or where they are going, the color of their skin, or their religion. Yet here we stand, in a country more divided than other. Watching this country from the outside, I can almost visualize it tearing apart at the seams.
I have people ask, or rather tell me, that I don’t understand the other side of the argument. That I’m biased. That my view is skewed. I’ll acknowledge that truth, but I can also admit that I’m a little bit more of an expert than at first glance, I majored in Political Science and took many classes on Political Theory as well as the Politics of Immigration. I would now like to invite you to read a couple essays I wrote on refugees and immigration for you to better understand a few concepts, most being that immigrants actually IMPROVE the GDP of a host country while also shutting down Trump’s claim on Sanctuary Cities.
I understand that from a different point of view, having an undocumented couple with a child born in the United States creates a situation where more often than not, the couple will get to stay with their American child. This brings up the argument on the right side of the aisle, with opponents saying that this would take jobs away, and it’s a quick and simple path to citizenship. Need we go back down history road to remember that we are ALL immigrants? Needless to say, the people who end up becoming parents of an American child will almost definitely be finding jobs, learning English, and contributing and becoming a part of a beautiful American society as well. It sounds just a tad better than the colonial days of forced westward expansion, slavery, and how manifest destiny created a power complex where we forget our own history and refuse to open up doors that were previously available to us.
As a citizen (for now) , of the most influential country on Earth, I would like to end with a few remarks. We are a country that should be building bridges rather than walls. With the rise of alt-right groups, hate crimes, and overall intolerance of civil discussions, it’s difficult to remember that underneath all of this, every person on Earth has a potential to be an American. To be an American citizen is not about a piece of paper or where we are born. For the longest time, it was about character. The person that we are. The person that we could be and have the potential to be. To use the rights given to use by the government in place to better ourselves, and in my case right now, using my first amendment right to express my mind… at least, while I still can.
“I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.” – Ronald Reagan.