(not) Born in the USA

I took a run through the neighborhood park this morning, and not once did anyone stop and ask me for my papers or why I had milk-soaked Oreos for breakfast.

That is because I live in a place where I can go and do as I damn well please.

Millions of people in this country take it for granted because they were born and reared here. They know nothing of the strife and oppression inherent in other cultures.

But what if that weren’t the case?

An HBO documentary called “Citizen USA” examines what it’s like to be an American from the vantage point of new Americans. Snapshots are chronicled during the naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states.

The stories are illuminating.

Roy Cerrien, from Portugal, works as a water supervision in a small town in Massachusetts.

“This country takes everything for granted because it’s just there,” he said. “If you go to countries like where I’m from, the simplest things aren’t there.”

Walter Dratner, of Poland, said he first felt American when he started dreaming in English.

Arij Hamad, of Jordan, became naturalized in Tennessee.

“I love Memphis. I love everything about it,” she said. “I love the streets, the houses, the people. I see people from many different backgrounds, many different religions.

“This country will accept you no matter where you’re from.

Immigrants such as Czechoslavia-born Marie Jana Korbelova (Madeleine Albright) and German-born Henry Kissinger became U.S. secretaries of state.

“It could happen only in American,” Kissinger said, “that a person who is foreign-born with a foreign accent could rise to U.S. Secretary of State in one of the most complex, and in some ways, tragic periods of American history —  at the end of the Vietnam War and in the middle of the Watergate crisis.”

Chaim Witz, born in Israel, said he became enamored with U.S. pop culture as a child because the imaginations of Americans were limitless.

Witz, a U.S. citizen since 1963, is better known as Gene Simmons, the lizard-tongued frontman of the rock band Kiss.

“…Even nature and gravity couldn’t keep them on the ground,” Simmons said of American heroes such as Superman. “They were invulnerable. They could fly through the air and create worlds, anything that you could ever dream about. The real heroes were all invented here.”

Hazen Taee, who came to the United States from Iraq, said he once saw a person place socks on his dog’s paws to protect them from the hot pavement.

Taee was floored.

“They (Americans) care about dogs, even their feelings, to that degree,” he said. “Humans aren’t treated like that in Iraq. Many people there would wish to be even an animal in the United States.”

Zeenath Larsen, a U.S. citizen from Pakistan, summed up what makes the United States best.

“Is there any country in the world that has enshrined in the constitution that you have a right to be happy,” she said. “Any country?”

Actually, that unalienable right is contained in the Declaration of Independence. But you get her drift.

It doesn’t suck to be an American.

Now pass me some apple pie.



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