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One of them
The thing I traded my national pride for

By G. Alam
October 18, 2001
The Iranian

I do ... was what I said to the Immigration and Naturalization Service officer as I was holding up my right hand.

She had been reading something to me for a while, rapidly and carelessly, not looking at me. I was looking at her but paying attention. Among her words, phrases like "renouncing my fidelity to other countries", "defending America", "allegiance to the constitution" forced their ways into my ears.

As I was standing there, with my right hand up, taking the oath of allegiance, I couldn't help but remembering the Iran-Iraq war, my friends who died in that war, my training period during military service and my grandma's face when she was moving out of her missile-stricken home.

The officer finished with "... so help me God", raised her head and looked at me. That was my cue to say "I do" and I did. I kept my right hand up in the air, still staring at her, trying to imagine what would happen if I continued with a "not".

The officer, who had been calling me "Sir" persistantly -- as if she wanted to make a point -- told me I may lower my hand. I sheepishly obliged and she handed me a piece of paper and congratulated me for becoming one of them.

I stepped out of the room cleared my way through a crowd, a crowd which was not yet part of them. I got into my car and drove for a few minutes, aimlessly. Then I pulled over and asked for the nearest post office to apply for my U.S. passport, the thing I traded my national pride for.

Life is by far less complicated if one takes the easiest path. Some choose not to, and, if they are lucky, they become part of the elite. I, a citizen of the U.S., declare myself stripped from that privilege.

This piece was sent to on August 1, 2001

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