As often as possible, I like to quote the Founding Fathers. I don’t quote them to brag about studying History because I’m still learning. I quote them to show that their words ring true just as much in our times as they did when they wrote or said them. One of my favorite founders I’ve been studying lately is Thomas Paine. So many of his words from “The Crisis” are truly timeless, yet prophetic as it seems as though he could be talking to our generation.
There is much I could say about this essay, but my focus is on the following words: “What we obtain, too cheap, we esteem too lightly:–‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.”
People from all over the world have come to America for many different reasons. A better life, better opportunities for themselves and their families, freedom; many have come to escape oppression from tyrannical governments of Communism or Socialism. Millions of people give up so much and come with so little to make it to Freedom’s shores and know the incredible value of what is afforded to all in this country.
Freedom, to me and millions of others, is so much more than an idea or a word. Many people don’t understand just how free they are unless they have lived somewhere else other than in America.
I didn’t come from a tyrannical or dictatorial government, but Canada does have a socialist tone in their government. I didn’t come to escape persecution, or oppression, but I did see in America a chance for a better life, to get out from under an ever expanding government, high taxes and cost of living, and being young I was ready for an adventure.
The process to apply first for a temporary visa, then my “green card” was not an easy one. Over the course of nearly 2 years, I made many trips into Toronto for interviews, physicals from US Consulate doctors, fee payments, paper work, getting letters of sponsorship from my Aunt and Uncle who lived in the States, letters of recommendation, background checks from county, provincial and national police, and more paperwork and fees.
I left my family and friends during a time of unrest as American soldiers were being withdrawn from the Persian Gulf War after a cease fire a couple of weeks before. Once in the States, I had to go to the Immigration and Naturalization office a few more times to finish the process of getting my green card. It wasn’t always easy and convenient to get up in the earliest morning hours and make a 3 hour drive to Dallas, to get in the back of a line which always stretched around the building before the sun was even up, and then finally getting inside, only to have to wait another 3 or 4 hours before my number was called. Having to get more photos, more finger prints, more fees and more documents has been a process taken every time I’ve had that card renewed since living here.
Finally however, this past Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 was a Constitution Day I will never forget. It was the day I took my citizenship test and had my last interview. I made the 3-1/2 hour drive to the nearest Immigration and Naturalization offices, a ball of nerves mixed with excitement and a little bit of fear, wondering on the off chance, what if I failed and wasn’t accepted?
Thankfully my years of a love of America and her history and interest in politics paid off and I was able to answer each question correctly, passing my test and interview. On Friday September 20th, I headed back to the same Immigration office and took my Oath of Citizenship. My journey through the immigration system–the same system many in our government claim is broken–is over and I am now, an American.
I would gladly go through each step of the journey again, as hard and trying it has been at times, because it means being able to be a part of this great nation and that is so very worth it.
What has made me sad over the years that I’ve lived here, however, are the numbers of people who have been born and raised here and have taken every advantage of the freedoms and liberties afforded them for granted. They have taken advantage of this capitalist system and made a life that millions would love to achieve, yet have so little regard for this most incredible country. So many who have so much to be thankful for, who have used the very systems to earn what they have, go to other countries and trash our way of life and it just makes no sense to me. Neither does it make sense to me that millions have also come here from other countries, many of them illegally, claiming to be for a better life, yet refuse to assimilate, to adapt to our laws, our language and culture. They want the lifestyle of America, yet they want to turn America into what they escaped from.
Reading Thomas Paine’s words, it becomes clearer to me why those of us who come to America, no matter the reason, who work to come here the legal way, obey the laws and immigration process, tend to value it that much more. Many have paid dearly to get here, so it’s no wonder why those who sneak through, those who have been given a free pass and those who, if our government keeps on trying to pass a so-called immigration reform bill, will be allowed to stay here without sacrifice esteem too lightly everything good about this country.
I can’t explain to those who have been born and raised here what it is to come and have a new life and love for America. To truly understand, they would have to experience life somewhere else. I would hate to see these people destroy the system of liberty that has given them the very livelihoods they have been able to have, and lose it all because of their refusal to hold dear to and cherish all that has made this the greatest nation.
Those of us who hold dear our nation can’t allow our Constitutional Republic to die a death of a democracy or communist ‘utopia’ which so many want to transform her into. A country where a slim majority of uninformed voters and politicians who have made their life long careers and fortunes in Washington rule those few who understand what the Founding Fathers gave the people, and where we allow millions to cross into our nation while ignoring the laws which others have obeyed.
When I was a new immigrant, I didn’t fully understand the sweat, tears and blood shed for this nation, for the freedoms that we all ought to hold so dear. The real cost has always fallen to those who have and still serve in our armed forces to keep our liberties safe. It is these incredible people who have given me my country, my home and allowed me to live here free, now as a citizen.
Because of my friendship with some Veterans and a few very precious soldiers, I now understand the full cost to all of them who have kept this nation free. How can I ever repay the cost that has been paid for me?
The Oath that I swore today publically, to uphold and protect the Constitution of these United States of America is the oath I swore to myself the day I first arrived here. I have, and always will, keep that oath. It may not be much, but to honor those who paved this path before me, all I can do is honor this country–the home they gave me–and do whatever I can to help preserve our liberties.
It is my hope that people will come to understand what true freedom means. For over 200 years brave men and women have been fighting to keep us free from tyranny. Our men and women in uniform and all of those who have served in the past to keep our freedoms, we must maintain those freedoms for them. They deserve nothing less than a nation of people who are grateful and understand what prices have been paid.
I hope they can know just how much I cherish this country. How much I cherish them and how grateful this new American is to all of them.