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Citizen By Choice

I chose to become a citizen of the United States. I did not flee persecution, poverty or oppression. I was part of the so called ‘brain-drain” from Great Britain when getting a green card was easy and the USA was welcoming. It took me close to 40 years of feeling at home here, raising children, building a business to make the move to apply for citizenship. I was prompted to do so out of two strikingly different emotions. The first being a realization that this was ‘home’ and the second being fear.

I arrived in London, Heathrow the late afternoon of 9/10/01. For the first time in over 10 years I had been routed via NY rather than Chicago and I remember very distinctly looking at that New York skyline and thinking how beautiful it was. I took a commuter flight over to the Isle of Man where we did some of our manufacturing. When I went into my office the morning of 9/11/01 the world had changed.

It took me 5 days to get back to the US and it was not an easy journey. American Airlines were superb. I finally managed to get off the Isle of Man and over to London. Heathrow was mayhem; lines everywhere, passengers alternately screaming at airline agents or sobbing. For whatever reason I was one of the lucky ones and on an assigned flight to Newark. I wanted to go home. It was an overriding emotion. Home, Arizona, was foremost in my mind.

Weeks after that dreadful event the subtle signs of xenophobia were emerging and I realized that I did not want to be considered a foreigner…albeit one with a “darling accent”. I wanted to throw in my lot with this country that had sheltered me, given me my livelihood, and introduced me to its geographic and racial diversity. I wanted to be able to vote, to stand with my fellow citizens and to make clear my allegiance. I did not want to fear my business being discriminated against because a non-citizen owned it; I did not want to fear changes in policy that might, for perverse reasons of bureaucracy declare me unwelcome in my home.

Freedom is indeed precious and it is on all our shoulders to protect the rights that we have; not through political slogans or radical actions but by exercising our right to vote responsibly; by keeping ourselves informed on issues; by being stewards of the land.

I read of turmoil in the world; of elections ‘stolen’ by dictators; of horrendous abuse of civil basic human rights; of the crippling poverty that engulfs the third world and our own shores and I know that I have the freedom to vote, to have my vote counted, to be part of the process. That’s what freedom means to me as a woman, as a citizen.

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