Personal Narrative Essay - Application for US Naturalization
Form N-400 is otherwise known as the application for US Naturalization. I have started and stopped filling out form N-400 half a dozen times in the past few years. Most recently, I used the excuse that I couldn’t read all of the dates in my passport. Thus I could not give the relevant dates for when I had left and reentered the country over the necessary time period. The other day I downloaded the form again but now I can’t find my passport.
I have lived in the United States for 25 of my 36 years and I am still not naturalized. I have voted but not for a politician. In high school, I voted in school elections and was elected as Student Council President for my senior year. My main duty was to read daily announcements (soccer scores, late buses, children with lice who needed to report to the nurse immediately) and recite, over the loud speaker, the Pledge of Allegiance.
As a foreigner, I understood the irony of reciting this oath to a bunch of Americans, but I had to do it. I was elected into office, and this was my duty. And getting on the loudspeaker every day was the reason why I wanted to do it in the first place.
I was the president. I would lead the student body in their daily fix of nationalistic pride.
I could just as easily have recited the Lord’s Prayer, which I also knew by heart, though my church attendance was sporadic. Or I could have led them through “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night,” but it never seemed to fit the day’s events. So every day, I pledged allegiance to the flag. Their flag. Amen.
When I call myself a foreigner, I do so with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I am Canadian. Laugh as you will and say that that is the same as being an American, but I can tell you with conviction that it is not.
I was born in 1967 and lived in Montreal until I was 11 years old. If you are Canadian you will understand that the years in which I lived in the province of Quebec were filled with great turmoil; if you are American, you probably will not understand. At the center of this turmoil was the question of language and, more specifically, culture—French culture and what it means, versus English culture and what it does not mean. Essentially, people were split up into groups: English in one, French in another, and everyone else in one final lump.
Here’s what I knew during my time of Canadian residence: To be French was to be lesser than. I was most certainly not a frog. I was not a Pepsi; I was a Coke. As well as I can decipher, the derogatory term, “Pepsi,” came from the patate frite stands, lining the many back roads of rural Quebec. Invariably, these stands owned by French people would feature a Pepsi sign.
So there you have it.
I was English-speaking and proud of it, but the problem is that my grandmother spoke French. Fluently. And she lived in a French community.
Though my mother swore there was no French in our precious blood,...