Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My father thought himself a stranger in some ways too.

When in the car, particularly by myself, I listen to the radio. Lately I have noticed I am listening far less to NPR than previously. Two reasons suggest themselves:

  • The new car comes equipped with a subscription to XM Radio. And XM has a particularly good classical station. Three of them in fact.

  • The election season is well upon us now and so much of the radio coverage centers on this or that politician, the doings, the reported doings (which may not be the same thing) and the perspectives of so many commentators on how such doings might be impact - or not - the election's outcome.

The reality is a combination of the two. Extraordinary classical music, commercial free, full-length pieces with knowledgeable introductions. Difficult to pass up. Particularly given the dearth of local classical stations.

But also, and this is a singular perspective I know, this is not my election. I live in this country, contribute as a part of its tax base, may be drafted (though certainly unlikely given my age) to defend its borders and interests. But I am not an American citizen. I have no say in the governing of this republic.

Interestingly enough, I have no say in the governing of the republic which holds my allegiance either. Ireland does not, for good reason, permit those not living there and not contributing directly to the life of the society have a say in its governance.

At one time I had thought to seek US citizenship. I live here and am impressed by the country, the people and the governmental structures in place. They, the structures, are subject to imperfect implementation and were designed by imperfect people. But they have an elegant simplicity that remains, however encrusted they have become over the past pair of centuries.

But I am Irish. I can no more cease being Irish than the rain can cease falling on that island on the edge of Europe. 'Tis the land of my birth. The first to hold my allegiance, by accident of birth it is true. But its stamp is on me.

I am Saoránach d'Éirinn - a citizen of Ireland. The root word for citizen in Gaelic is saor - free. How could I surrender that title for the mere word "citizen"? And, while Ireland formally permits the concept and actuality of dual-citizenship, the US does not.

I could not say, as required by the Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens, "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".

I am Irish.

So, here I remain. An alien on this shore. I can, and do, participate in much of the life of this society. But while others prepare themselves to have their say in the governance of this vibrant land that is the United States of America, I will be listening to the music of dead European longhairs.

And some from the New World too.

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