An Oath of Allegiance

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
-The Declaration of Independence

Yesterday I had an experience that is so rare, even for most people who have lived here in the US all their lives. It opened my eyes in many ways to how our government handles immigration, and treats immigrants. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that our country was founded on immigration, and yet, we’ve come a long way to desensitize the meaning of what it means to truly become an American to help continue to build and diversify this country. What I witnessed yesterday had me questioning a lot of things we promise to immigrants. It had me also questioning what immigrants are expected to promise in return for their own sacrifices.

El Senor ended the long journey to becoming a US Citizen with a solemn pledge: the Oath of Allegiance. In a ceremony that housed almost 1000 immigrants in the grandiose Memorial Auditorium, I watched from the upper balcony as he raised his right hand and pledged. If you’ve never heard the Oath of Allegiance, here it is:

“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 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 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.”

As I scanned the neat rows of people below me, I noticed many faces that were very somber. It wasn’t what I had expected to see. Experiencing the months of paperwork and questioning my Senor had to endure, even while he was in essence already a citizen with a permanent residency card, I thought he, among others would have expressions of happiness that day. But they didn’t. It seemed as if many of them did not really understand what they were getting themselves into. And el Senor said he saw the same thing while in the middle of it all.

El Senor and I talked about this after the ceremony in-depth and he put into question the whole damn ceremony.

Not only what was being said, but what the organizers did was inhumane. The participants were driven in like cattle, were expected to sit for four hours and were driven out like cattle in less of a personable way than you’d handle a cactus.

This all led me to listen carefully to the words coming from the Judge who reigned over the ceremony. And I found the words chosen to be both directly dictating, and often ambiguous. In his speech of what was supposed to provide great inspiration I assumed, his undertones said something completely different as he pointed directly at the crowd. Congratulations, you are now part of a nation of freedom! And by the way, you are also property of the government and have to leave behind everything you knew to participate in the American Dream of working your life away to help us get out of an insurmountable debt. 

Knowing the truths about our government and how “freedom” doesn’t really equal “freedom”, I saw another population of people who were blindly listening to the government without questioning it.

Written right there in their Oath is the requirement to “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity” to any nation they have come from. How could one possibly leave behind all allegiance to their home, to their country? For el Senor, love for Mexico will always be with him and I think that it’s important for him to hold on to his culture. I don’t understand why our government imposes on people that they have to leave behind all they came from.

Why, to be a citizen of our nation, does one have to renounce citizenship of any other nation. Is our nation jealous…or controlling maybe? If you’re with us, you can’t be with anybody else!

And I believe the fact that we have to pledge strict allegiance to any country, is the wrong foundation to build the connection between people all over the world. If we have to align ourselves with certain groups of people, whether by region or religion for that matter, that makes everyone else “aliens”, how is that living in the truth that we are all the same people? We all come from the same building blocks of life. We all share a home on this one planet.

And why do we need a government to tell us we have the “unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”

Why do we need anyone or anything to tell us, as a country, or as a human race, that we have the right to be happy? We have that right on our own. I believe every single person on this planet has that right because they are a person of this Earth and were born from it.

Also, by pledging the Oath, these new US Citizens are required to “bear arms…when required by law.” Had I had a choice in my life to pledge to this, I may have thought twice because of this requirement. I don’t believe in killing another human being for the reason of war and I wouldn’t want to kill another person simple because my government says I have to. And the fact that I would have to abide by this “without any mental reservation” just pushes it over the top. Our government explicitly says right there, that we have to follow these rules without question. Without thinking about it for ourselves.

Most of us have never experienced our country like this.

We were born here and have never seen it from an outsider’s point of view. We have followed the rules, because that was what we were taught to do by our parents, never making the choice to believe in these things or not. But from the beginning, even as an immigrant, we are taught to follow the rules without reservation and become “good little citizens” as the Judge told the thousand hopeful people in the auditorium that day.

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