Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fidelity and Betrayal

Boston Marathon bombing - April 15, 2013
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and related events, I can't help but feel outrage toward the members of the Tsarnaev family who were directly and indirectly responsible for the bombings. They were naturalized American citizens who chose this country and took an oath to "bear true faith and allegiance" to it, and then they betrayed it. I'm finding no room for understanding or empathy whatsoever.

I posted the piece below a while back but I thought to share it again for obvious reasons. It is by no means a putdown of immigrants' loyalty to the United States. (I dare anyone to take me up on that point.) Rather, it's my story and my way of expressing my anger toward those who pledged their loyalty to this great country and then proved themselves unworthy of the privilege of American citizenship. Unforgivable.

Beirut's Green Line
Living on Beirut's Green Line for 10 years of the 15-year Lebanese civil war was no picnic.  The constant fear, uncertainty and disappointment had worn my parents down, so they finally took advantage of something most Lebanese coveted--the opportunity to legally immigrate to the United States and start a new life.  From learning the language, to finding work and adjusting to a new culture and way of life, our family's early years here were difficult to say the least.

But we were grateful to be in America.  We were grateful for a full night's sleep, safe streets, law and order, open schools and what we felt was a clear path to a real future.  I'm grateful to be alive and here today to write this blog.  I know I speak for each family member when I say we simply fell in love with this country--its ideals, its history and its people.  The kindness of countless Americans helped us through so many challenges, and it didn't take long for us to feel we were home.

A US Naturalization Ceremony
Then on a sunny day in May 1990, nearly six years after we landed on American soil, my father, sister and I raised our hands and took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. (My mother and brother followed a few years later.) We were finally Americans and we couldn't be prouder. To us, becoming American was a privilege and an honor. The oath we recited that day was not casual or optional.  It was a serious commitment to our new home, the one that welcomed us with open arms and held so much promise.

I know our story is essentially the same as that of countless immigrants from every corner of the globe who chose this country and have become (or are in the process of becoming) woven into its glorious fabric. It's probably safe to say that throughout America's history, immigrants have returned every bit of kindness and every ounce of opportunity offered to them by this great country. They have paid back with hard work, ingenuity and fidelity.

Yes, fidelity is really what's on my mind today. As I learn more about two naturalized American citizens--Mansour Arbabsiar, the man at the center of an alleged Iranian plot to kill a Saudi diplomat in Washington, and Mohamad Soueid, who was indicted yesterday for acting as an agent of the Syrian government and spying on Syrian protesters in America, I'm outraged and disgusted. We don't quite know either man's motivation yet, but we do know they were both lured by foreign governments to put American lives in danger and undermine the very basic rights and liberties guaranteed to all in this country.

I am grateful that law enforcement officials found these two individuals and that they're now in the hands of our justice system, but the words of that oath are haunting me. Did they mean anything they said the day they raised their hands and became American citizens? Clearly not.

Below is the actual Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America. Whether you're a naturalized or native American citizen, please read it carefully and renew your commitment. Let's all return every bit of kindness and every ounce of opportunity offered to us by this great country.

"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."


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