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Bittersweet US Naturalization Ceremony at Walt Disney World Resort

4 Jul

Once again, thank goodness for the interweb. Right now I’m watching the naturalization ceremony at Walt Disney World Resort, webcast live.

As I watch, it strikes me that there’s a certain irony to swearing in new citizens in front of Cinderella Castle, the architecture of which draws heavily on Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle. And what sort of beautiful post-modernism is at work if our newest citizens hop on the monorail for Epcot’s World Showcase, and visit the pavilion of their country of origin?

I’ll confess, I’ve never been a big fan of the Fourth of July. I’ve seen some terrible things done in the name of our country, and I am not proud of how our forefathers obtained the land we now live on. And was it perhaps not a coincidence that the skies let loose with a brief, torrential rain after a recorded greeting was played by our current President George Bush? (Maybe the weather gods are as cranky as I am about ScooterGate.)

I almost reached my limit with Lee Greenwood came out to sing “God Bless the USA,” in jeans an a polo shirt no less. (Good Lord man, you couldn’t have put on a suit for such a solemn occasion? Jimmy Rogers would have.) But I’m glad I kept watching, because moments later Meg Crofton announced that our new citizens would participate in a special parade down the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA, a beloved icon perhaps because of its celebration of a place that has never truly existed. And much to my surprise, that’s when I welled up with tears.

Because, despite my anger with my country and its leaders, I still feel lucky to be a US citizen, with my dissent and freedom of expression protected by our First Amendment. And I do know how hard our new citizens have worked to come to our country, and the tremendous obstacles some of them have overcome. I have sat with friends and loved ones when they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to stay in our country, in the homes they had built and loved. I know there are many, many more who’d make great sacrifices to sit with them this morning, becoming new United States citizens. I know there are many who long even for safe haven within our borders, for political asylum. Our country is not perfect, but it is ours, it is my well-loved home, and I welcome our new citizens with my best wishes for a happy Independence Day.

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