It’s a strange thing to say, but I’m not entirely sure what my nationality is anymore. I mean, I know the answer from a legal perspective: I’m American. As soon as I became a naturalized citizen, I legally became an American and officially renounced my British citizenship. That, at least, is straightforward… kind of. It’s complicated, a little, by the fact that I didn’t actually surrender my United Kingdom passport — in fact, the last time I traveled to the U.K., I actually left the U.S. using my American passport and entered the U.K. using my British one, and vice versa, to make matters worse. My British one has lapsed by now, though.
But beyond the legalities of it, am I British or am I American? I can never quite find a tidy answer for that; I wouldn’t call myself a patriotic person by any stretch of the imagination — indeed, I think patriotism is almost inherently suspicious, to be blunt — but there are, nonetheless, things that get me feeling as if I belong to both countries at different times, for equally ridiculous reasons.
This is on my mind lately because of politics. In terms of British politics, I find myself fascinated and distraught in equal measure, nostalgic for the days when such policies would directly impact me, and also for the days when I had a vote to try and have a say in what was happening. I pay constant attention to the U.K. parliament news and have a strange sense of relief that I’m not there anymore, shamefully.
In the U.S., it’s a very different thing, and not only because I am here. I feel, at once, an outsider to much of what’s happening because I’m made one by a large swath of the electorate and their representatives — I’m an immigrant, and as such, not a “real” American to many. (This, despite being white, which likely legitimizes me in many people’s eyes, sadly.)
But I also feel a great sense of… shame, perhaps…? Disgust…? at what’s happening. I chose this country. I believed in it, despite everything — and everything that’s happening now, at least in terms of those in power, makes me regret that, and makes me feel foolish for ever having bought into the fantasy, or believed that things were getting better, however slowly.
I don’t feel American, entirely, yet I still get to feel the shame that Americans feel. It’s a curious place to be, wherever it is.