Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today I handled several passports. I was part of a temporary work group, and all of us had to have our ID documents copied to go with our tax documents. The supervisor knows me well, so she made me the copy machine monitor.

I was curious about the passports. Where had they been? What stories could their owners tell? But I knew I shouldn't be nosy, so I just made the copies and handed them back.

There is so much about my U.S. citizenship that I take for granted. Handling those passports today got me to thinking about what it would be like to travel to another country and not be from the U.S. I just assume that I can go somewhere else and still come back here. I know that I can go anywhere within the U.S. without anyone else's permission, can live or work or play where I choose.

Last week I read an article about immigration with one of the reading classes at my school. There are so many people who were born somewhere else, and would like to come here. I have rights as an American citizen, but maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have privileges. When I think of them that way, I am less inclined to take them for granted.

Lately I've been enjoying a blog written by Bridget, an American woman living in the United Arab Emirates. I love Bridget's stories about life in another place. She is so international, but she is so American in her international setting.

Where we are from is ingrained in our identities. When we meet someone new, we ask their name, and we ask where they are from. I have a Canadian friend who has lived and worked in the United States for 15+ years. She and her husband own a home, they pay taxes, and they are raising their daughter with feet firmly planted on U.S. soil. My friend is fascinated by U.S. politics, and would love to be able to participate by voting, but she's not a U.S. citizen. She tells me that when she talks with her husband about pursuing U.S. citizenship, he is reluctant to relinquish the citizenship of his birthplace. They live here, they love being here, but they are from someplace else.


Bridget said...

Hmm, I think I would have looked through the passports. Not to be nosy but because some of the countries' stamps are so interesting.

I'm always sad when we have to renew our passports because it's almost like having to give up a diary.

Mark & Susanne Kelley said...

Good stuff, but I would be careful about mixing the terms "rights" and "privileges." Jefferson and others were careful to use the term "rights" - even "inalienable rights" - to stress that no government has the right to take them away. Privileges, on the other hand, can be revoked by those who granted them. (I know that's not how you meant it.)

Kathy Haynie said...

Mark, you're right - to be more precise, I think I meant that the rights I enjoy as a US citizen make me greatly privileged.