What Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death Reminded Me About Being An American.
I will never forget this moment in Washington, DC. Freshly American, enjoying my free afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery. I felt like a kid. I was getting to explore history through art and enjoy the art that represented important figures that fought for equal rights and women like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Her death has defined 2020 as a much darker, uncertain, and profoundly transformative period than it already was. And, as I got much more demoralized and defeated as the time has passed, I have also been thinking about that day that I became an American, specifically when I agreed to the following oath:
“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.”
I am not sure how seriously some people might take this oath, but I certainly take it very seriously. I basically was about to sign a paper that says YOU MUST RENOUNCE TO YOUR ALLEGIANCE AND FIDELITY to your “former” country — something that you have taught to believe since you are a child not to do — and swear your full allegiance to this new country — a country that has so much good waiting for you, but also so much bad. So yes, I think it’s a pretty big deal.
Apart from the feeling of guiltiness and not believing that I fought hard enough for Venezuela, I felt lucky to have a new opportunity to make it right. Then as I confidently, gratefully, and candidly reminded myself that I have studied, worked, and fought hard [with the supports of my loved ones] to CHOOSE to settle here and build my family, life, and future.
I am CHOOSING to accept this commitment and opportunity, and in return, I offer my hardworking skills, education, and experience. That I chose this path, soil, and citizenship over any other. I can become who I want to be for others like me to be able to do so. Because I know it’s not all about me, but also my community.
That I choose to settle here, not only to build a better life for myself but also a better life for those who I love, for my community, and this big-ass, fucking country. To register to vote, to be involved in what is hurting my peers and me. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to belong to this hardworking, diverse, and future-forward society.
That I have a chance to work hard, do what I love, pay my taxes, and build my credit. To make sure my nephew can grow up feeling safe, ride the bus to school, and learn a third language. All feeling while feeling safe and accepted, no matter the choices they make.
Fuck yeah, it is a bit deal.
It’s a big deal to swear my allegiance to this country. It is a big deal I was standing that day, by myself, staring at Nelson Shanks’s The Four Justices, a tribute to the 4 female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court — fascinated by the corner that had Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I guess the point I am trying to make, and the reason I wrote this, is that I have to remind myself that I made a commitment to protect this country, defend the Constitution, and defend my communities against domestic enemies. Domestic enemies that are bluntly and shamelessly determined to hurt my peers and feed their greed.
As I feel fearful and defeated by her death, I want to remind you that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg carved us the path for us to do the groundwork. This is your moment to stay on the right side of history and make good change happen.
To my fellow Naturalized Americans, and the ones that are on the path to or should be (AND WILL BE), I want to remind you that you matter. I want to remind you that you belong here that you have a voice. Make it count. Make a difference. Remind yourself of that commitment you made, remember your rights and your duties, and vote. Vote for positive change.
And finally, for those who were born in this country: demonstrate the patriotism that you brand yourself with. Demonstrate that you care about this country, your fellow Americans, and defend it against all foreign and — in particular — domestic enemies. Hold your politicians accountable, get involved, and please know that this country can be even better. You deserve better, but know that you have to genuinely care about your peers.
I am not your token Latinx, LGBQT+ person in your life. Don’t say that I matter, but vote for those who hurt my community and me. I am legally and emotionally committed American, like many others that deserve a seat on the table and be accepted as equal. I am here to make you feel uncomfortable, make you feel accountable, and challenge your biases. I am committed to building a better future for you and me, I hope you will join me.
Evil will not win. We will not desist.