Because I was a British Passport holder I remained on our flight from Tokyo to Honolulu for at least an hour. All U.S. Citizens disembarked and left the airport. Several large Jumbo Jets had arrived at the same time and the customs agents were on strike so there was a major delay with foreign travellers being processed. I was then taken to a warehouse with hundreds of Japanese tourists waiting to get through customs. 8 hours later I finally made it through Customs and Immigration and I resolved right then to apply for US citizenship
.A British Passport had always proved more beneficial in all my travels.
The British State Department has been in the diplomacy business such a long time and I always felt that I would be better protected with registering with them – as was the case in the middle east. I.,e., look at how U.S. Citizens were helped to get out of Iran by the Canadian and British Embassies during the Hostage Crisis. 1979.
The Department of Immigration in Honolulu gave me all the paperwork and guidelines on how to become a citizen of the United States. I had been living in America for quite some time and had become very interested in the political situation and wanted to be able to vote. There was an election in our district in Hawaii where one of the candidates running for office was a Ms. Jane Hellewell. Well, of course I wanted to vote for her.
I read all the material thoroughly and thought that it would not be too difficult for me, since I would not have a problem with the language.
I filled out all the forms and drove back into Honolulu to start the process with Immigration. There are many steps to be taken to become a US citizen, i.e., A 5 years residency and having lived in the same state for 2 years. There is a lot of literature provided about how the judicial system works. Examinations and tests must be passed before any application will be accepted.
The Immigration Officer explained everything to me and I did not see anything that might prevent me from being a good candidate for citizenship ……
until I was told …..
I would have to swear allegiance, take a Solemn Oath, to the US Government forsaking all other governments, powers and potentates.
Think about this dilemma - seriously.
I am glad I was alone as I think my American family and friends might be insulted that I found that I was not ready to change my loyalty. I don’t think many of us know what “Citizenship” really means. Most natural born U.S. Citizens do not, unless like our family, have lived in a foreign country and have a chance to observe the shortcomings in foreign lands.
My own children are more aware of their citizenship because of their time in Iran. Being back in the U.S.A. in Washington DC for the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976 was especially meaningful and important to them.
A very good American friend was shocked when I told her I could not go through with the application for citizenship. She asked me if I did not think America was “The grandest place in the world”. She asked me if I would have the same standard of living in Scotland that I had in America. Perhaps not, and I appreciated all of that more than most of my American friends.
All I said to her was “Could you ever swear allegiance to a foreign power?” and she answered emphatically – “No, never”.
Ask yourself ….could you?
My being, my mettle, my honour, my character was all determined by British Values.
Did I really want to stop being British? What made me British? Did I want to give up my birthright? Who taught me to stand and sing the National Anthem and to revere the King and Queen? There were Brownie leaders who taught me honesty and loyalty and other virtues. I had two Scottish grandmothers who took me to Church and taught me family history and to respect the elderly. Scottish Aunties and cousins who all influenced my life. Scottish Sunday School teachers taught me about my Christian fait that has stayed with me all over the world.
Living through World War II bonded all the British people as no other conflict has. Everyone pulled together to face the hardships and sacrifices. We knew we could all depend on each other because we were all British and we were in it together. The wireless (radio) was a constant companion, in particular The BBC evening news which we all listened to at 9:00 pm ….pip pip pip.
What about all the Scottish food; Haggis, Finnan Haddies, Clootie Dumpling, Marmite, 99s, mealie puddings and Yorkshire pudding, Scottish music (Bagpipes) songs, dances, national dress (tartans and kilts) that instilled the Scottish culture into my being.
Very few countries have such strong national traits as the Scots – or so recognizable.
My Scottish Education
A teacher built a temple
With loving and infinite care,
Planning each arch with patience,
Laying each stone with prayer.
None praised her unceasing efforts,
None knew of her wondrous plan,
For the temple she was building
Was unseen by the eyes of man.
Gone is the builder's temple
Crumpled into the dust;
Low lies each stately pillar,
Food for consuming rust.
But the temple the teacher fashioned
Will last while the ages roll,
For that beautiful, unseen temple
Was a child's immortal soul.
I thought about my years of Scottish education and all those dedicated teachers who taught me everything from reading, writing and arithmetic to French, Shorthand, Typing and business economics. Teachers instilled discipline and hard work.
A teacher recommended that I be part of a choir which sang “I Vow To Thee My Country” to Queen Elizabeth II when she came to Scotland upon her accession to the Throne.
Thinking about the words to that song brings loyalty and patriotism to mind too. I learned ethics, dependability, reliability, punctuality and professionalism from various bosses and many colleagues showed me kindness and how to behave appropriately.
I vow to thee my country
All earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect
The service of my love
The love that asks no question
The love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar
The dearest and the best
The love that never falters
The love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted
The final sacrifice
Words Cecil Spring Rice
Music by Gustav Holst
I had started to cry as I thought about all this and seeing in my mind’s eye Scotland’s beautiful glens and mountains and especially my beloved hometown, Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a city of shifting light,
Of changing skies and of sudden vistas
A city so beautiful it breaks the heart
Again and Again
By Alexander McCall Smith
I know what it means to defend your country against a foreign potentate as Britain did in World War II. The bond with family and country - Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish – all one United Kingdom - was so strong because of what everyone has been through fighting the Nazis.
The words that are spoken and the oath that you swear at the Citizenship swearing-in cannot be taken lightly. I know because a few years later I did become a Citizen of the United States, knowing full well all the responsibility that brings. It is a very serious step.
I studied for all the exams and the ceremony would be conducted at the Richard B. Russell Building in Atlanta. I received a package in the mail to say that I had passed all the tests and was told the date, time and place for the swearing in.
We were told not to bring anyone with us to witness the ceremony, but I felt that there should be a class of High School Seniors in the room to witness this and they should all have to take the same tests too.
The gentleman who sat next to me was Estonian and he and I were amazed at the variety of nationalities represented there that day. There were French, Germans, Italians, Britons (Scots and English), Russians, Spaniards. I wished I could have had a family member there to see me take part in this very important event.
Because there is “The Special Relationship” between Britain and the United States” I will not have to take up arms against that foreign power – the one that matters. I am fortunate because Britain allows me to keep my British Nationality so I have a British Passport and an American Passport.
I asked if anyone had given up their British Passport and was told “Yes, but we just put it in a drawer for we know they will come back for it”
When I left the Richard B. Russell building in downtown Atlanta that day in 1986 I made a stop at the Admistration Offices for Cobb County eager to show them my new Certificate of Citizenship and to register to vote. They took all the forms I filled out, but never asked to see any proof of Citizenship!
Anthem – from the Musical “Chess”
No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born
And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant, we who do not care
And you wonder will I leave her - but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now
How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart