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No longer ashamed

Published: November 7, 2008
Section: Opinions


For years my American passport has remained hidden at the bottom of a drawer. “Sure I was American,” I told my French friends, “but that’s just a nationality. Not an identity.” American citizenship was associated only with embarrassment and unpopularity: President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, freedom fries…

At 2am Wednesday morning, my friend Marion called me from France. It was 7am her time and Paris was in an uproar. French people woke up to breaking news: America had elected a black president. Marion was in tears. I could hear the streets of Paris in the background; “Obama, Obama” and “Oui on peux!” She told me she envied me for being American. This morning, President-elect Barack Hussein Obama was on the front page of every single French newspaper; “Obama is the incarnation of the American Dream”, “Obama President; an American revolution?” and “Obamania stronger in France than in the USA.”

Tuesday night, just before Obama’s acceptance speech, I recited the pledge of allegiance for the first time in my entire life. During high school, on Fridays at 11am when our class senator announced the pledge of allegiance over the speakerphones, I always remained firmly seated. Although I could sense the disapproving looks from my peers and professors, I refused to be loyal to a country whose politics were fundamentally in opposition to my values and ideals. But yesterday this country was mine at last. Yesterday I stood up with Americans around the world, and pledged loyalty to my country, tears streaming down my face. Yesterday I was proud to be an American.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow I will bear this message with me back to Europe, and be living proof that the real America is no longer the conservative white Christian nation supporting John McCain, but rather a buoyant, youthful, colorful country that chose change. Tomorrow I will carry my passport with a smile in the corner of my mouth and a skip in my stride and I will not be ashamed again.