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The day I became an Iranian-American
I laugh. I now have two homelands, two governments, that are enemies of each other

Massoud Noghrekar
February 28, 2005

She is dancing. The wind makes an umbrella out of her short skirt. Her tiny underwear, like her skirt, is an American flag. Her long white legs entice those of us standing in line. Her big breasts bounce beneath her t-shirt, which is also an American flag. Even her earrings are shaped like the American flag and flow when she moves.

She looks about 40-years old.

A man, looking the same age, dances with her. He wears a white shirt with a tie and black pants. His tie is an American flag.

Their long blond hair wave in the wind.

The people in the line with me -- more than 500 people from 73 different countries -- watch the dance. Today is July 3, 2001. We have come for an oath ceremony. We want to become an American citizen.

She is still dancing. She distracts me from my thoughts for a few seconds, but my anxiety returns. I have been anxious for two days especially since last night. My nights have been confusing and my sleep full of nightmares and dreams -- like my different and contradictory experiences. Eight years earlier, I had immigrated to America, seeking political asylum.

Finally I decided to become an American citizen. This was not an easy decision. Since age 18 I had been taught, and led to believe, that America caused all the difficulties and problems in the world. For more than 25 years, I had attended demonstrations and shouted "Down with the America". Becoming an American citizen was difficult for me, because my thoughts and actions had been anti-America for more than 25 years.

* * *

The lady dances on, but my thoughts return to my country. My friends Ali and Mohammad come and tell me: "America, France, Germany and England are all the same, the same shit. They don't give citizenships to any foreigner unless the foreigner spies for them. You sell yourself Massoud, you sell yourself very cheap."

"No, no... that's not true. You are making a mistake, you are wrong. Nobody asked me to become an American citizen. I am doing so because I want to. Nobody asked me to spy for the U.S., nobody, you are wrong."

A young American man interrupts my thoughts. He is an immigration employee and gives me a small American flag. He gives a flag to all the people in line.

The man and woman are still dancing. I yawn because I had trouble sleeping last night. I think of Ali and Mohammad again.

Ali says: "Come on, we must go to the U.S. embassy, you know, this embassy is occupied by pro-Khomeini people."

Mohammad also says: "Don't call it an embassy, it used to be a place for espionage, not an embassy."

I go with them to the embassy where a large crowd has gathered. Some people are burning an American flag. They trample on the flag and take the burned remains into a corner where there are no women, and urinate on it. Someone on a loudspeaker asks people to shout "Down with America". The crowd shouts. Ali, Mohammad and I do the same. We are happy. Everybody looks cheerful. Over time the area in front of the embassy becomes a place where people gather. People set up carts and stands and sell foods, drinks, books and newspapers. Meanwhile crowds gather and shout slogans against America, the Great Satan.

I see the American hostages on TV. I see the burned bodies of American soldiers in the Iranian desert, the bodies of soldiers that had come to rescue the hostages.

The dancing stops. The woman's sweat makes a wet line between her beautiful breasts. The man loosens his tie. The line moves. The I.N.S employee checks documents and directs people to sit in numbered seats.

We are at the American Gardens Theater at EPCOT Center in Disney World. It is a beautiful theater on the edge of a lake where clear water sparkles under sunshine. The shores of the lake have been divided into different areas representing different countries. Each section has restaurants, architecture, and crafts from a particular country.

* * *

A beautiful, tall lady wearing a red coat, skirt and shoes tells us to let her know if anyone is sick. She says she will move them to a cooler spot and help them. The weather is hot even though it is only 8:30 in the morning. The weather has been hot and humid since I left my house earlier. The birds had woken me up, before the time I had set on my clock radio. Every day the birds sing. When I take my morning shower, I remember my slogans and smile:

"America is hollow
Vietnam is evidence
Down with America
Down with America"

The beautiful lady in red shows me my seat. She smiles, and her smile reminds me of budding flowers. Her teeth are white like ivory. Those of us who want to become American citizens sit in the front rows. Their guests sit in the back. Four American officers, each carrying an American flag, march slowly from the back and up to the stage. My thought wanders back to my country.

Ali and Mohammad are with me: "I have heard guerrillas killed three American army generals."

Mohammad agrees with Ali. Ali says: "The guerrillas did a good thing because Americans have destroyed the world. They shit on the world and they have to be punished."

And then Mullah Hassan, who teaches the Koran, gathers us to talk about corrupt Western and American culture and morality. He shows his joy over the killings of the army generals by handing out cake. Later we go to Ali's home and play cards and backgammon.

And Hossein, a friend of Mulla Hassan, talks about his sexual desires, even his attraction to kids. Meanwhile Hossein blames corrupt Western and American morality.

A man who is in charge of the I.N.S. welcomes us. He has handed each of us a sheet of paper with an oath written on it. He asks us to stand and take the oath before the American flag. He reads the oath, and we repeat it:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; SO HELP ME GOD."

I laugh. I now have two homelands, two governments, that are enemies of each other.

An old Columbian lady, who has tears in her eyes, looks and asks me: "Why are you laughing?"

"I don't know, I don't know. I'm sorry... sorry."

An I.N.S. officer stands behind the microphone. She says: "I am very glad you became American citizens. We don't want you to forget your homeland and your culture. We want you to love your country and also America. We want you to share your culture with us. We have to learn and enjoy our different cultures. We... "

And again my mind wanders back to my country. Ali and Mohammad come to my mind. We drink Vodka and eat supper in a nice restaurant. We leave the restaurant and walk back to where we live on Islamic Drive.

Mohammad sings a revolutionary song:

"My comrades it is war time,
My comrades it is war time,
Americans are immoral,
American are immoral,
My comrades it is war time."

We sing along with him.

* * *

An African-American I.N.S. officer calls our names and countries one by one. The lady, who gave the speech, shakes our hands and gives us our citizenship documents. She has a big smile that covers her face and eyes. She smiles broadly. A Russian lady, whose name has been called, walks up onto the stage. A lot of people clap and cheer. She is the lady who was dancing. She starts dancing on the stage. The man who was dancing with her films her with a video camera and someone else takes pictures of her. She kisses her citizenship papers and waves them before the crowd. Then she dances with her documents. Most of us again notice her tiny red-white-and-blue underwear. More people clap and cheer for her.

The next one is Reza from Iran. His relatives and friends clap and cheer for him too. He comes up on the stage and receives his citizenship documents as well. He shows them to the crowed. An old woman with a white handkerchief is among his guests. She looks happy and smiles. Maybe she is his mother.

The African-American officer calls me. Before I go onto the stage, Ali and Mohammad appears in front of me and say: "Finally you sell yourself, finally you sell yourself..."

The lady shakes my hand and smiles. She gives me my citizenship documents and says: "Congratulation Massoud."

Ali and Mohammad repeat: "Finally you sell yourself..."

I want to say something to Ali and Mohammad but I decide to be quite. Outside of the theater, the Russian lady starts dancing with two other ladies. A crowd forms a circle around them to watch.

Ali and Mohammad won't leave me alone: "Finally you sell yourself, America doesn't give Green Cards and passports to anybody unless they get them to do espionage in return."

* * *

The warm damp wind blows on my face. The lady in red smiles and waves to everyone. She says: "Congratulations everyone, congratulations."

The Russian lady is still dancing and the wind again turns her short skirt into an umbrella.

On my way to my house, Ali and Mohammad still won't leave me alone. They keep repeating: "You sell yourself to America very cheap, you sell yourself..."

My birds hear me coming through the door. They start singing. They sing more beautifully than before. I feel very good and throw them seeds.

* *

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