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by suskind Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 08:23:40 PM EST

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Fourteen years ago I left the US on a one way ticket.  For fourteen years I have ranted and fumed at the US and its foreign policies.  For the last 20 years I have been "Bush-Bashing."  When I left the US I had no intentions of returning.  It was not the country I had known, and not the country I wanted to know.

As my friend said to me recently, "You never recovered from the Kennedy assassination."  That's right... although I remember a few rousing good times during the Nixon impeachment hearings.  He's right, my friend, but it goes further back from that... I never recovered from Sacco and Vanzetti, Ethel and Julius Rosenburg and the House on Un-American Activities.  I never recovered from Vietnam.  No, I never recovered from a lot of things.

I had an extraordinary interview with a member of the US State Department this morning.  I had made myself a persona non gratis and I was in a difficult position.  My two closest friends and I stayed up till one last night rehearsing what my expected interrogation would be like and how I might answer some strategic questions.

But today turned out to be one of the most wonderful and moving experiences of my life.  I had forms to fill out that said who I was, where I was born and who my parents were.  Three times the official asked me "Did you fill out these forms yourself?"  Three times I said yes I did.  I looked into the steady gaze of a steady young man.  He asked me where my mother was born.  London.  He asked me where my father was born.  Boston.

"What did your father do for a living?" asked the man from the US State Department.

"My father was a Company Commander in the US Army," I said with some great pride.

Again he asked me, "What did your father do for a living?"  "He was a salesman in a company south of Boston."  The man from the State Department seemed to want to move on from there, so I had to speak up for another great person who lived her live in honorable service to her country.  "My mother was a teacher," I said.  "Both my parents have passed away."  "I'm sorry to hear that," said the man from the US State Department.  "No, that's all right," I said.  "They were both really wonderful people."  I said.

The man from the US State Department asked me to raise my right hand and to swear what I had told him was the truth.  But what I swore to him was that I love my country, that I love my parents, and that I am proud to claim that my father served with distinction in the Second World War.

So the interrogation I was prepared for never happened.  What happened was an honorable ritual... a right of passage.  I love my country and look forward to returning to try to give some part of my life in its service.  On Sunday I will land in California, a state I haven't seen for 24 years.  

  1.  The first thing I'm going to do is register to vote.
  2.  I think I'll take a course in American citizenship, like those for immigrants who want to become American citizens.  
  3.  I think I'll introduce myself to Barbara Boxer.
  4.  I think for the next six months I'd like to work on voter registration.  That's what I want to do.

You are all welcome to celebrate with me at my US Passport Party. Champagne's on the house!

If you haven't been here for 24 years, my first suggestion would be to get a car and take a long tour of the country. About two months might be enough.

Lots has changed...

by asdf on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:30:32 PM EST
Quite a story. Please keep us updated.

What prompted the return?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 03:59:53 AM EST
This is a very moving story. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I have the same question as Metatone, if this is not too personal.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 04:10:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

1.  Such will be the days of mourning for Coretta Scott King, who not only stood by her husband but also by her country, by which she meant what it might yet be.


    Come all you young rebels and list while I sing,
    For the love of one's country is a terrible thing.
    It banishes fear with the speed of a flame,
    And it makes us all part of The Patriot Game.

    My name is O'Hanlon and I'm just gone sixteen.
    My home is in Monahan, 'twas there I was weaned.
    I learned all my life cruel England to blame,
    And so I'm a part of The Patriot Game.

    It's nearly two years now since I wandered away
    With a local battalion of the bold I.R.A..
    I'd read of our heroes and I wanted the same;
    To play out my part in The Patriot Game.

    I read how poor Conley was shot in the chair.
    All his wounds from the battle, all bleeding and bare.
    His fine body twisted, all battered and lame;
    They soon made him part of The Patriot Game.

    This Ireland of ours has for long been half free;
    Six counties are under John Bull's tyranny
    And it's always the leaders who are mostly to blame
    For shirkin' their part in The Patriot Game.

    And now as I lie here, my body all holes,
    I think of those traitors who bargained and sold.
    I wish that my rifle had given the same
    To the quislings who sold out The Patriot Game.

Ron Suskind is a great writer. I am not him.
by suskind (m.suskindathotmail) on Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 10:30:29 AM EST

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