Today is my first Independence Day as an American.
On the surface, it’s not that different from any other day when I’m not at work: the Husband and I don’t do ceremonies and things, and we don’t have much of a social circle (non-existent isn’t much, after all), so none of the many traditions that my friends (all of whom are online and live far too far away for more than occasional face-to-face visits, alas) follow happen for us. We have a quiet day at home, relaxing.
But we still think about what it all means.
For me, it’s particularly interesting, since the Husband is American born and raised. Well… Texan, which just makes him even more so. I had to become American, and I’m honestly not sure when the scales tipped.
See, I came over here for him. We’re going on 15 years married now, and we’re just as much “old married” as we were within months of getting married. We just fit together, somehow. We’re not demonstrative, or extravagant, but when I ask him what he wants for birthdays or Christmas, he’ll tell me he has everything he wants and smile. And I’m no better.
Somehow, in these last 15 years, I became American in the same undemonstrative but utterly devoted way.
I’m not sure when I started having to stop to remind myself that I wasn’t – technically – American when I started talking or thinking or writing about Americans as a group. Or when I started thinking of myself as one despite not being a citizen. It crept up on me, as it were, as I struggled to match the assumptions built up by growing up in Australia to the new world I’d landed in. The dissociation and culture shock wasn’t as bad as some of my friends who are legal immigrants have faced. I came from a culture that’s possibly as close to American as you can get without actually being American, at least superficially. It’s close enough that the differences, when they hit, are immensely jarring because so much else feels familiar.
Americans and Australians are generous people. Both will give whatever they can to help someone who needs it. Neither will look at the skin color or history or anything else except that someone needs help and they’re there. But Americans are much more open, or were, more trusting in many ways. The depredations of the idiots who want to take America the way of the failing European socialist-in-all-but-name monocultures have had made many people more wary about who they speak to and who they trust, but there’s still an openness to Americans that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Yes, I could live with Americans being less prudish, but I can live with that, particularly when it’s so often coupled with a strong sense that if it’s not their business they don’t want or need to know about it. That’s my issue, not anyone else’s. It’s one of the things I found hardest to acculturate to, at first – I had nightmares about not being able to find the loo in a mall, because the damn signs are always discreetly placed to make sure they’re not in anyone’s face. And for the longest time, I didn’t really know how to ask. I mean, I grew up calling it a toilet when I was being polite. The idea that it would be called a bathroom or a restroom when there’s usually no bath or rest to be found in there really struck me as odd.
I survived. I learned that the assumptions I’d grown up with simply didn’t fit with America and Americans (although I’ll admit to having nearly converted the Husband to agreeing that all politicians are crooks out for whatever they can get and the best you can hope for out of most of them is that they’ll try to enrich themselves as well as the country instead of simply taking the country for everything it has. Honestly, Sir Terry Pratchett had the right idea in The Last Continent. Once you’ve elected them, lock them up, because they’re all unconvicted criminals. Apart from a few exceptionally talented individuals who manage to get re-elected after serving time for some of their misdeeds). I learned that American values of conservative bear no resemblance to any other nation’s value of conservative. And that the same applies to American values of liberal.
Bit by bit American values grew on me and became mine. I couldn’t say when I became more American than Australian. I honestly don’t know. I can say that when I took the oath, it felt like I was affirming something I’d known for a while, that I’d become American some time before then but hadn’t really realized it.
There’ll always be a piece of my soul that belongs to Australia, but I’m not really an Aussie any more. I’m a Usaian, and my bit of flag will be with me even if it’s only in my heart. Somewhere in the last fifteen years or so, I learned to truly value the spirit of this nation’s founding, the dream embodied in the Declaration of Independence and encoded in the Constitution.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
There is no promise that preventing other from infringing our inalienable rights will be easy. No promise that we can achieve the dream of a nation where all our citizens are free to enjoy our inalienable rights in any fashion we choose as long as we do not infringe the rights of others.
That doesn’t make it any less of a noble dream, or any less a goal to strive for.
Personally, I’ll be doing just that.
Thank you, America, for letting me be part of your dream.
43 thoughts on “A Slow Becoming”
That young lady is impressive.
HAPPY 4TH OF JULY
Thank you for your kind words. Happy 4th to you and your family as well.
Well welcome to the US and of course Texas. My niece married an Aussie (he’s city boy very nice guy) they live up in Colorado.
America wasn’t founded so that we could all be better. America was founded so we could all be anything we damn well please. – P.J. O’Rourke
Thank you, fellow American.
I hope we can live up to your belief in us, and in our own professed goals.
But I have to ask… hamburgers. You put pickled beet on them, or what?
That should have been my sign. I never liked beet on anything, and certainly not on hamburgers!
To Husband: She’s definitely a keeper. But then, you knew that.
Even if I was kind of pricey what with the cost of naturalization and everything.
Congratulations and thank you for choosing to be an American. We need all the help we can get.
Thank you. A lot of people don’t see past the “not like us” and try to hammer the different down.
Hopefully there will always be enough Americans who understand just how different we are to keep us from going off the rails.
Welcome home. I’ve lived overseas, and I always found Australian expats to be both ‘like’ and different in somewhat unexpected ways – but always delightful, either way.
Thank you! There are definitely differences, but enough similarities that Aussie and Americans often get on very well.
An English friend once remarked to me long ago that he had come to regard Australians as “British Texans.” I readily agreed. There’s a certain largeness of spirit about Australians. Brits, Canadians and even some Americans are more dialed-back somehow. Perhaps, you also agree? I can’t think of anyone better to render an opinion.
It is always fascinating (and instructive) to get a view of the U.S. from an “outside” source. Your piece is a reminder that none of us can ever take our freedom and liberty for granted — it can easily disappear if not safeguarded.
More of us should read the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution; maybe it will give us a better appreciation of just how special this country is. Obviously, you already have that appreciation, Ms. Paulk, and it is a pleasure to have you as one of us.
It can be difficult for people who grew up here to realize just how different the US is from the rest of the world, much less how much of that difference is encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
Quite literally nowhere else that I know of starts from the proposition that We, the People are the ones in charge.
Some Americans are born here; others get here as fast as they can.
Glad you made it. Welcome home.
Thank you. I’m glad I figured it out, and that y’all are willing to have me.
Thank you for becoming an American. I am 71 and a PROUD American. I believe, honestly, in truth, justice and apthe American Way. You just stated what that is in what you said.
For an immigrant your English seems extremely good.
I say that because I worked with a guy who had moved to Australia for a while, and he had to go before some government official to apply for status. The official looked at his paperwork and asked him if he’d had difficulty learning English. He testily replied, “I’m from Scotland! We speak English there!”
Oh, I love that! I joke that I’m bilingual – Australian and American English.
This should be required reading for all of our young. Thanks for a great insight into being American
I love this post. And just this morning in a discussion I said if I had to share a foxhole with a non-American and I could choose, it would be either a Brit or an Aussie. And as far as Oz, I would even consider emigrating there under the right circumstances, if only they had an equivalent to the 2nd amendment and one or two other things.
If you ever get into an immigration policy discussion with a moonbat lefty, please tell them nobody has a problem with you or anyone else who is LEGAL.
Hope your American experience is as fantastic as mine has been since birth. My problems are my own doing…never found a way or wanted to blame the country or anyone else.
Oh, that whole load of bullshit conflating legal and illegal immigration stinks to high heaven. Sooner or later I’m going to wind up ranting about it because it rankles more each time I see it.
Re illegal vs legal immigration…I have a brother in law who is a naturalized citizen from El Salvador. Possibly one of the best and most honorable mention I ever knew personally. He HATES what he calls “line jumpers”…I have exploded asshat lefty heads with quotes directly from his mouth. And you HAVE to love the guy who taught you to cuss properly in central American Spanish. 😉
Well its been what a year since the Hugo awards it was an honor to take a stand with you then, it is an honor to be able to call you a fellow citizen now,
Thank you, Kate, and welcome! I am grateful for Americans who value the ideals upon which this country was founded. We are lucky to have you here. Bless you. (I have a soft spot in my heart for Australians.)
Thank you! I could wish more Americans recognized those ideals, but we’ll get there.
Both the article and the comments are delightful – a lovely reminder of our political ideals.
Thank you! And thanks to everyone who’s commented, too.
Welcome, fellow Texan. So glad to have you here with us. You are a welcome guest at our house. We would enjoy to see you both.
Glad you are one of US !
You’ve completely neglected the most important question of all. A question that eats at me not only on the 4th of July, but every time I see Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts or Nicole Kidman. Why is it that Aussie actors and actresses completely nail the “American” accent effortlessly, while the opposite is very much not the case? Yes, I do feel somewhat bitter about this.
I’m not a professional in the field, but I suspect it has to do with the vowel sounds. American accents are very open and clear. Australian accents are more closed-off and nasal. It’s much easier to move from closed to open, vocally (this is why good singers tend to have a different accent when they sing as when they speak – while singing they’re opening their mouth and throat for a better sound quality, which changes the vowels), than it is to go the other way (one of the reasons French is damned hard to learn to pronounce properly when you’re coming from English. I found German much easier to work with).
I’ve noticed the American accent just doesn’t do well with closed vowel sounds, or even partly closed ones, and Americans don’t hear the differences between some of the sounds I hear without any problems.
Nice to have you and yours in the good old U.S. of A.