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November 3, 2009

Technically American
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:04 PM * 129 comments

I almost hate to distress our commentariat with the latest piece of stupidity to sully the aether. But I think there’s some value in discussing these matters, if only to discourage, with the prospect of mockery, journalists who are not motivated by more conventional goads such as professionalism, or truth.

Exhibit A: Marathon’s Headline Win Is Empty by Darren Rovell, a CNBC Sports Business Reporter.

The meat of the article is that the Men’s New York City Marathon winner may be the first American to take the prize since 1982, but it’s “not as good as it sounds.” Take it away1, Darren.

Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.

The article goes on to explain how Keflizighi was born in Eritrea, and African runners are so poor that the measly money that one can make as a runner is “a lifetime full of riches”. But how is that relevant to Keflizighi?

He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country.

That’s the usual way, yes. There’s an oath, too; some people do care about that. I’m guessing that Rovell isn’t Native American, so I bet he’s descended from similarly technical Americans.

Let’s do a trivial bit of research on the web and clear up a few facts. According to both Wikipedia and Sports Illustrated, Keflezighi came to the United States at the age of 12, and started running in seventh grade (about a year later, I guess). He was naturalized as a US citizen in 1998, when he will have been about 23. So he’s not a product of the African distance-running culture, and as a college graduate (UCLA, 1998), he’s not dependent on his running to fund his third-world life of poverty. Implying otherwise is—to put it mildly—completely incorrect.

Furthermore, the 1982 finisher whom Rovell cites as the previous American winner was Alberto Salazar, who was born in…Cuba.

(We won’t even go into whether Keflezighi got his citizenship as easily as “a ringer who (sic) you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league” gets work. That level of ignorance about the difficulties of the American immigration process is a whole different field of fail.)

Exhibit B: What I got Wrong About Keflezighi, also by Darren Rovell, CNBC Sports Business Reporter.

The non-apology apology.

I said that Keflezighi’s win, the first by an American since 1982, wasn’t as big as it was being made out to be because there was a difference between being an American-born product and being an American citizen. Frankly I didn’t account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi’s running experience came as a US citizen. I never said he didn’t deserve to be called American.

Oh. That phrase “technically American” really doesn’t mean “doesn’t deserve to be called American.” I see.

And I’m a Dutchman.

Rovell is on a bit of a cleft stick. He can either say that the use of “technically American” in his original article was correct, and that American citizenship by adoption is second-class citizenship, or he can say that he did no research whatsoever on Meb Keflezighi, and conflated two unrelated English terms to boot.

He declined the racist2 option and went for incompetence:

It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon.

<Jon Stewart voice>It turns out? What, was it just revealed, just today, November 3, 2009? Then that Sports Illustrated article that tells the whole story of his childhood was, like, backdated to October of 2005?</Jon Stewart voice>

And then there’s the fact that, to make sense of Rovell’s argument, you have to read “American-trained” for “American-born”, the phrase he uses to differentiate Keflezighi from runners for whom he would “break out [his] red, white and blue.” For a professional writer, conflating two such terms is like a carpenter picking up a screwdriver to pound nails.

The irony is, there is actually a core discussion to be had about American runner training. But it’s covered in the muck of so many assumptions and errors that it’s not worth addressing. That would dignify said muck with too much legitimacy, and its the kind of stuff that damages actual human beings.

The point of all this

It’s useful and necessary to discuss these things, if only to discourage that level of stupidity. But there’s a deeper point than just the question of why this particular man, who has epitomized the American narrative, is being accorded second-class citizen status. Seriously. A man goes from being a refugee from a war-torn country to a college-educated world-class athlete. He demonstrates pride in his American citizenship; most other runners did not wear shirts with USA emblazoned on them. And yet he can’t shake the perception that he’s only “technically American.”

What does that make my children, who are natural born American citizens, but have never lived in the US? What about my cousin, born in El Salvador and adopted at 12 by my uncle when he married her mother? What will it make my niece, when my brother and his wife bring her back from China in three weeks? What does that make the members of our community who have chosen their citizenships, taken tests and oaths?

I get it all the time, as an expat; people want to lessen and belittle my Americanness when they disagree with my opinions. Leaving the US is apparently very unpatriotic; learning about other cultures is suspect, and moving abroad all but treason3. (And taking a second citizenship? Dear Lord, the reactions.) I recall one conversation where I only salvaged my right to an opinion on matters American by mentioning that I am required to file tax returns.

There are similar discussions in pretty much every nation on earth, of course. This deep question of identity is not specific to the United States. Europeans have been wrestling with it since the Moorish Conquest. The rise of the British National Party in the UK is symptomatic of England’s ongoing struggle to see even the Scots as fellow countrymen.

But the matter at hand is the American identity, and I’m relieved to report that the majority of the comments on both of those posts agree that Rovell failed this impromptu civics test. That, at least, restores some of my faith in my fellow Americans, technical and otherwise.

  1. Intentional, yes
  2. I’d have gone for nativist if he hadn’t made the race-specific argument about the value of runners’ cash prizes in Africa.
  3. And yet nothing cured me of my adolescent disassociation with American culture like moving abroad did. That proved to me that I am immutably American.
Comments on Technically American:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:21 PM:

This reminds me of the person who was ranting on about "those people" stealing "American jobs" in her heavy German accent -- who when it was pointed out that she was ranting to an audience that wasn't, in fact, US citizens, made it clear that what she really meant was "those brown people" -- asians and whites from other countries apparently get a pass.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:24 PM:

I was briefly unable to find the comments, mentioned by Abi, posted to Darren Rovell's two posts on the CNBC site. Then I realized that the geniuses who run have...wait for it...rendered the entire comment section in Flash.

Thus making it invisible to me by default, since like kajillions of other sensible people I run Flashblock.

If this happens to you, just click the two little Flash logos in the upper-left-hand corner of the page and the comments will appear. You'll have to do it again for each page of comments. It's worth the trouble, though, because the overwhelming majority of them consist of people schooling Rovell from a great height.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:25 PM:

He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country. That’s the usual way, yes. There’s an oath, too; some people do care about that.

Damned right we do.

#4 ::: Marko Kloos ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:26 PM:

As another "technical" American, I feel compelled to point out that naturalized citizens are American-by-choice, and that we had to make a conscious decision to embrace and adopt American culture and values.

One could make the case that if any U.S. citizenship status is "technical", it's the one that's bestowed on someone by virtue of place of birth. Natural-born citizens are under no obligation to jump through all the hoops the naturalized citizens do to claim that passport.

(Not that I would want to claim any sort of superiority over my natural-born fellow citizens, but that kind of soft bias against naturalized Americans as second-class citizens kind of ruffles my feathers.)

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:36 PM:

Flash also renders the comments invisible to search engines.

#6 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:42 PM:

I wonder if the author is an authentic or a technical dumbass.

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:51 PM:

He's an (expletive deleted). At least one, and possibly more than one, of my grandparents were not born here. They were only "technically" American? Does that include the one who was elected to the New York State Supreme Court? (Not as highfalutin' as it sounds: the NY State Supreme Court is a civil trial court, equivalent to "district court" or "superior court" in other states. Pretty good for a Jewish labor lawyer in the 1930s, though.) I guess his not having been born here diminishes that achievement -- not! Screw you, Mr. Rovell, and the horse you rode in on.


#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 06:54 PM:

Rovell might not be able to pass a naturalization civics test.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 07:12 PM:

Now I feel like again posting a link to the Muppets version of "Stars & Stripes". I think I shall. Here it is.

#10 ::: truth is life ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 07:31 PM:

My grandmother wasn't born in the US either, but Canada, to immigrants. Suffice it to say that I don't understand why certain people think that being an unnatural citizen is...unnatural.

#11 ::: Miriam ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 07:31 PM:

My father is a "technical American," born in Egypt, citizen of the USA by choice. He knew that America was a land of opportunity, that he would be able to succeed far beyond his peers if he came to this country. He chose to be American. Why is he somehow less than the people who happened to be born of American parents rather than of, say, German or Chinese parents?

Given that so many of our forebears were immigrants themselves, I wonder why it is that Mr. Rovell suddenly feels that immigrants are not truly American?

When we lived in Saudi Arabia, my father was involved in a minor (single-car) accident. When the Saudi police saw his passport identification, they noted that he was American, but also fluent in Arabic and obviously NOT a natural-born American. Rather than take care of the issue at hand (my dad's car accident), they chose to chastise my father for "abandoning" his home and his culture to become an American citizen.

My father, in turn, gave the police a thorough brow-beating for disapproving of his decisions, and further noted that he was very proud of his citizenship, thank you, and there would be no further discussion about the country that had given him the education he needed to come to this backwater desert and set up the oil refineries that were transforming this camel-infested wasteland into something resembling a proper first-world country, and he'd appreciate it if they could get on with getting his car taken care of. (My dad isn't the type to take crap from people who talk smack to him.)

#12 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 07:43 PM:

Who put all the Know Nothings in charge of our culture? I know, I know, no one will say. Bah.

#13 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 07:53 PM:

The "Department of Homeland Security" institutionalized this kind of thinking. To 28% of Californians, 12% of New Yorkers, and 33 million people nationwide, America is their (our) home of choice, but not their "homeland". I saw it as a rearguard action of white nativists trying to lay claim to the definition of "American".

Thing is, I think America is a lot of highly contradictory things. But I like that. I think NASCAR is American and I think Chinatown is American. I think white evangelical Christianity is American and I think Ethiopian-born runners with USA plastered across their chest are American. What I resent is the attempt to claim that America is exclusively those things which (some) white native-born Americans say that it is.

#14 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 08:06 PM:

So, what about my friend's "American-trained" daughter? I bet there weren't many Americans cheering her on in Beijing; not unreasonable, given the Large Maple Leaf on her back.

We have this "Canadian-by-convenience" argument happening, especially after the last Lebanon War (when we evacuated at public expense all Canadian citizens back to Canada. Many of whom, as soon as the shooting died down, went back to live where their life was, in Beirut, "secure in the knowledge that if it becomes dangerous, they can retreat back to Canada, but not actually doing anything *for* Canada" (besides pay taxes, one assumes)). Funny how we don't complain of the huge numbers of Canadian citizens who spent the first two months of their lives in Vancouver, and the rest (so far) in Hong Kong...

This is stupid. I really appreciate the work my colleagues and the people I interact with do for our country, especially the ones who *weren't* born here (because they frankly usually do more, or harder, work for Canada). I certainly "follow the motions" probably more than I should, and I get away with it because I was born here. I'm proud of my heritage, and I'm proud to be Canadian, but I'm sure not as much as the people who now know where they're going to eat and sleep tonight, and don't have to carry a gun anymore (whether or not they choose to). And if they long for the country of their birth occasionally (especially in the middle of November when it's -30 before the wind chill), so be it. They know why they're here and not there, and they know that for them, it's still right.

For those who are dual-citizens, or who are Canadian citizens but live permanently abroad, I'm sure their life is better for it as well. Good for them. And one of the reasons I am proud of my country is that We Can Afford to have a few Canadians-of-convenience who come here only when they need the health care or the military evacuation.

A lot of bad things have been said about our Multicultural Mosaic policy (and a lot of bad things can be said about it), but that *is* in fact who we are. And Canada is actually better for that. In its own way, so is the U.S. for their immigrants, despite the many, major differences between the two situations.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 08:24 PM:

I have just had a brisk exchange of correspondence with CNBC about the infelicities of their site, their registration process, and their corporate policies. I may or may not post it on Making Light.

#16 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 08:48 PM:

I strongly suspect that Mr. Revell's ancestors were undocumented immigrants to the United States, who took no tests or oaths of citizenship at all when they got here.

Technically, their children were American citizens, and thus technically, so is he.

Half of my ancestors were here to greet the other half upon arrival on these shores, some time before there was a United States to be a citizen of. And I say, along with the lady in the harbor:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

It doesn't say anything about what color your skin might be.

#17 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Another American expat speaking here, and an athlete - nowhere near Mr. Keflezighi's level, but I did just return from competing in the World Masters Games in Sydney.

First of all, I am an American by birth *and* choice - though I still don't think that maks me any more genuinely American than my grandparents / greatgrandparents who immigrated there. Second, I think that the years I'm spending living abroad actually make me a better citizen than someone who's never left the country. (Take the current health-care debates, for instance - now I can speak as someone who's directly experienced national health systems in two other countries, not to mention a casual visit or two when I got mildly sick during a holiday somewhere.)

And third, the idea of a marathoner getting citizenship in the US more easily as a "ringer" is really hilarious. That had to be written by someone whose only experience of sport is sitting on his couch watching overpaid "athletes" who get to work out as a full-time job compete in one of only four sports. I mentioned the World Masters Games: of the 28 sports included there, only 7 or 8 even have any professional athletes, in the US, and being a pro in a sport like volleyball or cycling is a tenuous living at best for all but a few. If you're an athlete who is not a professional football, baseball, basketball or hockey player, or at the vey top in sports like tennis or golf, you are in it for the love of the sport and you're struggling to balance training with making a living. No one is coming to you with offers of citizenship - no matter how rewarding you find your sport, it's probably something that makes your life harder, not easier.

We mostly see pro football players as a different species from ordinary people. In a sport like my own rowing, that's not the case: I've been coached by three different Olympians, for example. My coworker across the office who's completed two marathons so far trains six days a week, which is probably fewer hours per day but the same number of training sessions as Mr. Keflizighi. The flip side of that is that even people at the highest levels of their sport have the same struggles we do in finding time and funding for training while stlil managing the rest of their lives.

Mr. Keflizighi's prowess would not have made citizenship any easier even if he'd come to the US when already an elite athlete, and I think that claim is an insult because it so totally ignores all the sacrifices and struggles he's had to make in a sport whose rewards are in honor rather than cash.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 08:59 PM:

Teresa @ 15... I have just had a brisk exchange of correspondence with CNBC

Brisk, eh?

#19 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 09:21 PM:

I recall there being similar treatment of Martina Navratilova and (to a lesser extent, since he technically only became a citizen after his heyday was over) Ivan Lendl during their careers (although, since I was in middle/high school at the time, I can't be sure that the xenophobia went beyond local idiots). Because, of course, Evert and Conners were clearly "more" American than their rivals.

Regarding Flash comments: I've seen a lot of small newspapers -- local town papers and college papers -- do this, and I've always assumed it was because there are one or two large companies managing these websites, using some pre-built widget. I'm more than a little surprised to hear that CNBC -- which surely has its own IT folks -- is resorting to that.

#20 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 09:23 PM:

Unfortunately, the Canadian debate Mycroft refers to did result in the creation of second-class Canadian citizens of a sort, in changes to Canadian citizenship law that took effect this year.

In particular, our kids, born in the US, now cannot pass along their Canadian citizenship by birth, even if they move back to Canada and live there for decades. (Those hypothetical grandchildren of ours would be Canadian if they were born in Canada, but that would because of where they were born, not because of our kids' citizenship. If our kids spent a year abroad, and gave birth there, their children would not be Canadian, unless the other parent was native-born Canadian.)

If our next door American neighbors move to Canada for long enough to become a citizen, they can pass on Canadian citizenship by birth after they naturalize. But our kids, who are already Canadian citizens by birth, cannot (re)gain the ability to pass on citizenship by birth.)

#21 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 09:25 PM:

I kind of wish my parents had had a little more trouble getting me into the US the first time just so I'd have a good story to contrast with a few ancestors who were here before 'here' was the United States (no Native Americans, just some early Germans). As it stands, I used to get into lots of arguments over whether or not I could be President someday.

This Rovell guy had better regret his idiot words. No one presumes I'm less than perfectly American, and I have dual citizenship. Sigh.

#22 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 09:36 PM:

I guess I'm a "technical Canadian" by this twit's definitions, being born in South Africa to a Canadian mother. Anyone attempting to imply that makes me some sort of second-class Canuck will be invited to jump in front of a zamboni.

That said, a trip back to South Africa two years ago (my first as an adult, the last trip there was in junior high) revealed rather more South Africanisms in my personality than I'd been aware of. A couple of friends even commented on it when I got back from RSA.

Can we chalk this one up to some sort of dogwhistle (or perhaps unconscious?) racism on the column author's part? If the African ancestry of Mr. Keflizighi had happened to be largely Cape Boer (ie, white) as mine is, would he still have been a "technical American"?

(and can we please add "Unconscious" to the very useful Spelling Reference, please? Damn word never looks right...)

#23 ::: Billegible ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 10:16 PM:

Reminds me of the birthers' claim that only a child born to American citizens can be an American citizen. Wouldn't that mean that there are no American citizens and never could be?

#24 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 10:49 PM:

Dichroic @17:

And third, the idea of a marathoner getting citizenship in the US more easily as a "ringer" is really hilarious. That had to be written by someone whose only experience of sport is sitting on his couch watching overpaid "athletes" who get to work out as a full-time job compete in one of only four sports.
He's a sports business reporter, which indicates to me that he mostly charts sponsorships and owner shenanigans. (Disclaimer: I do not in fact know his field of expertise.)

I've always muttered that faced with the naturalization test, many Americans (in particular, "conservatives") could not pass it.

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:02 PM:

Miriam, #11: Hi! Fancy meeting you here!

I'd like to see Rovell sat down and forced to take the citizenship test. I'd even grant him a week or two to cram for it -- he might learn something.

#26 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:34 PM:

"descended from similarly technical Americans" - While I may be a very technical boy, and a number of my ancestors were also similarly technical, I don't think any of my ancestors who immigrated to North America had to take a citizenship test, and probably none of them had to swear an oath either, though it's possible that the Irishman who showed up in 1805 was forced to, and a few of them signed the Mayflower Compact or joined other ships' companies to pay for their trips across. Most of them got to here by the pre-governmental-interference method of just going somewhere and trying to get along with their neighbors. It's a shame that most places don't let people do that any more, insisting that they be subjects of some organization instead.

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:47 PM:

The non-British probably had to take an oath of allegiance, likely right after they got off the boat. Also, during and after the revolution, there was a lot of taking of oaths of allegiance, regardless of where people were born, as not everyone here was in favor of independence.

#28 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:48 PM:

There is an upside to that story: the essay may be depressing, but the comments thread on the original article is really the best I've ever seen on a national media website. The majority even manage to say "Sir, you are an idiot" politely.

#29 ::: Miriam ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:49 PM:

Lee, #25: Fancy that, indeed! I only rarely feel I have something of worth to contribute to the comments here. Normally, I just read along.

In general, it's my experience that the people claiming that a naturalized citizen isn't "American enough," generally are not themselves "American enough" to pass a citizenship test. I'd be curious to know whether Mr. Rovell is capable of proving otherwise.

#30 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:53 PM:

Me@26 Of course, when I was ranting, I was focusing too far back - my mom didn't have to take any citizenship tests or oaths, since her parents were both American citizens, but she was born in France where they were studying, so she's also technically an immigrant as well as technically a citizen. Since she was still a baby when she moved here, she'd have had to do paperwork to document being a French citizen if she'd wanted to move back there and vote, and she decided not to; apparently that means my siblings and I don't get to become Europeans because of it.

One of my wife's uncles moved to Italy because the family in New York was too crazy. His kids were dual citizens, because the US was ok with that by then, though they moved back here when the boy was approaching Italian draft age and he gave up his Italian citizenship at the time.

#31 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2009, 11:58 PM:

this canard also reared its ugly head when Meb won his Olympic medal. has a discussion forum with an number of ignorant jingos, many of whom believe that Meb is not a 'real' American. They were beaten down eventually, I'm happy to say.

I'm a technical American from Africa too. I ran the Boston marathon in 1991 with some qualms, as I was still a South African citizen and as such not eligible to compete anywhere in the civilized world. Luckily there was never any danger of me winning so I just hid in the crowd..

#32 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 12:26 AM:

Gah. This sort of reminds me of Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic figure skater from 20ish years back; and Michelle Kwan, from 10ish years back, whom the media decided weren't real Americans. (They are from Fremont and Torrance, respectively.)

One of them--Kristi Yamaguchi, I think--was being interviewed in one of those morning shows, and at the very end was asked to repeat something the anchor had just said, but "in your own language". So she just repeated it in English.

#33 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 12:38 AM:


#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:16 AM:

The old joke just never gets stale: "All the problems of the United States can be traced back to really bad immigration policies on the part of the Native Americans."

All four of my grandparents came here from Ukraine early in the 20th Century. Does this mean that they were not real Americans? Does it mean their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren (including one Kentucky Colonel, a couple of corporate CEOs [before that position became criminalized], several well-known artists, and a whole slew of people who fought in various US military services in wars from WWII on) are not Americans in some sense? Where do you want to draw the line, "nativists"? Think carefully; you want to make sure you don't preclude yourself and your friends from being "true" Americans!

Bill Stewart @ 26:

Nicely said. Why on earth is membership in some overinflated granfalloon more important than willingness to be a good neighbor?

Now that I look back over this comment, sorry for all the rhetorical questions; reading the outpourings of these nativist idiots makes me want to get Socratic on their asses.

#35 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 02:29 AM:

In a year or so I expect to apply for my second citizenship. I will have to jump a few hoops for that, but even if I were refused, I would not become in any sense but the legal one less of a Londoner.

Even so, both my citizenships would be equally valid. Reducing your citizenship to what's written on your passport is useful, but it does not take into account all the things that go into being a citizen, from materially living somewhere to contributing your taxes from it (something a lot of true-blue patriots seem to be in a hurry not to do), to voting for its institutions (something I can do here for many offices), to contributing to the cultural and social life of the place you live in, and sometimes the place you have left.

I shall also say, as an aspiring long-distance runner myself, that a triumph in the Marathon is much more a victory for the individual than for the country he or she comes from.

#36 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 04:18 AM:

This article was jaw-dropingly horrifying. The "apology" was, if anything, worse. I was glad to see that the vast majority of commentators had the same reaction.

Just to add my tuppence worth to the points made by Dichroic @ 17 and Anna Feruglio Dal Dan @ 35: training for long-distance running is hard work and time consuming (says she, having trained for and completed her first half-marathon recently). One of the reasons I'm not (yet) intending to try for a full marathon is because I recognise the level of training involved and I don't think I can fit it into my life at the moment - and that's without trying to get to competition level.

#37 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 06:35 AM:

What does that make my children, who are natural born American citizens, but have never lived in the US? What about my cousin, born in El Salvador and adopted at 12 by my uncle when he married her mother? What will it make my niece, when my brother and his wife bring her back from China in three weeks? What does that make the members of our community who have chosen their citizenships, taken tests and oaths?

It makes them Americans, that's what. Screw the morons like Rovell.

#38 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 06:50 AM:

As a long-term expat, I've seen the way people in other countries treat naturalized citizens -- basically, as only 'technically' a citizen, but not really. As abi mentioned above, there's nothing like being an expat to bring one's own feeling of nationality into focus (for good and ill, with very mixed feelings). Immutably American, you bet. Of the sort that applauds Mr. Keflezighi.

(Weird side note: for a long time, the US did not allow dual citizenship, but now it does. But the country I'm living in, Germany, does not. For various personal and familial reasons, I'm not willing to renounce my US citizenship, but I have inquired a couple of times if there was any hope of an exception being made. One lovely bureaucrat here asked me to my face if I was an accomplished athlete, implying but not quite saying that that might make a difference. Um, no.)

#39 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 08:08 AM:

This brings to mind a certain Connecticut-born, Technically Texan politician who has done more than any other person in the past few decades to damage the reputation of the Lone Star state....

#40 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 08:12 AM:

Debbie @38: [..] for a long time, the US did not allow dual citizenship, but now it does. But the country I'm living in, Germany, does not. For various personal and familial reasons, I'm not willing to renounce my US citizenship [..]

What you describe is pretty much why I have kept my Canadian citizenship despite 40+ years living in the US. I am interested to hear that the US is now more liberal with regards to dual citizenships; regretfully, I have never been able to afford any hobby that involves hiring lawyers.

#41 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 08:13 AM:

In fairness to Mr. Rovell, I think he put his foot in it more by a combination of specialist thinking (what Language Log calls nerdview) and factual error, rather than any great nativist instinct on his part.

In reading his original column, I think it's clear that what Mr. Rovell meant to say that Meb Keflezighi was only technically an American runner which, if he had gotten his facts straight, would have been a defensible argument. He thought that Mr. Keflezighi was a product of African running training, competition and culture, and that his victory had little to say about the strength of American running.

I think that would be a defensible point, in the same way that if James Joyce had renounced his Irish citizenship, he would have suddenly stopped being an Irish writer and become a French or Swiss one.

Of course we wouldn't be talking about this if it weren't that Mr. Rovell got his facts completely and utterly wrong. But I'm more inclined to criticize Mr. Rovell for not doing even as much as a close reading Mr. Keflezighi's Wikipedia page (which says he ran for a high school in California), rather than reaching for the overbroad term "American citizen" rather than "American runner."

#42 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 08:18 AM:

I think that would be a defensible point, in the same way that if James Joyce had renounced his Irish citizenship, he would have suddenly stopped being an Irish writer and become a French or Swiss one.

I meant, of course, that Joyce wouldn't have stopped being Irish.

#43 ::: Nickp ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 09:02 AM:

It's pretty clear to me how it works. I moved to the US at age 15 and, like Keflezighi, became a US citizen in my early 20s. No one has ever suggested I am only "technically American." I am, however, a WASP, and Keflezighi is not. Coincidence?

#44 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:24 AM:

Around here--here being the borough of Queens, the most ethnically diverse place in NYC (and possibly in the country)--it's unusual to be anything other than a first or second generation American. There's an assumption that you or your parents (or both you and your parents) were born elsewhere . . . .

No one makes any big deal of this; it's just what is. It does sometimes lead to amusing moments, as when recently, in social studies class, the teacher was asking students "where they came from." They've been studying immigration for a couple of weeks, and not just Ellis Island, either, which is refreshing. My dd and her bff are the only students in the class who are neither immigrants nor the children of one or more immigrants. And yet both are the products of (assimilated) immigrant culture, mostly eastern European Jewish.

#45 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:30 AM:

@44 Melissa Singer


Dunkin Donuts? Dungeons and Dragons? Who is their best friend?

My google-fu is failing me. Please help.

#46 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:37 AM:

Stevey-Boy @45: I read that as "dear daughter" (see also: DH)

#47 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:52 AM:

Pendrift @45 Thanks. The myriad abbreviations and acronyms for texting always leave me puzzled.

#48 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 11:25 AM:

I don't suppose it's occurred to Rovell that it's damned hard work being "technically American?" My grandmother wound up here at 14, learned English while she worked, didn't learn to read English (although she was fluent in Russian and Yiddish) until she was married and had kids. Had to assimilate in a very different world, a much larger world than she'd grown up in in Ukraine. Similarly, Keflezighi arrived here as a young teen, plonked into a culture very different from the one he was used to; language, education, all that, different. So what does he do? Assimilates. Picks up a sport. Goes to college. Keeps running (in America). Then gets treated like Spearchucker Jones in M*A*S*H.

Rovell is a class A dolt.

#49 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Chris W. @ 41: Fair point, but I don't know if we can let Mr. Rovell off the charge of nativism/racism--at least, the unconscious variety of same--quite that easily. I don't know his work, but do you (or anyone here who does read him regularly) think he would have made the same sort of mistake about a runner who had immigrated from, say, Finland as a 12-year-old? Or some other European nation with a fairly strong athlete-training tradition?

#50 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 11:51 AM:

What this really reminds me of is that there are people out there who don't really believe in the American Dream. (Yes, I know it's something you do have to believe in, but I still want to.)

I am absolutely delighted to see literate comments on his posts taking him to task for what he said.

Chris W. @ 41/42:

Perhaps he didn't mean to show some sort of nativist agenda, but that's what he did. I also don't think that saying that he's technically an American runner is much of an improvement. It brings along a lot of the same baggage, whether it's more defensible or not.

#51 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 12:01 PM:

This is why most sports writers annoy me in general. They tend to just shoot off opinions based on, well, their own whatever they come up with. It's really the assumptions he made that get me. He did not even bother to check just assumed "oh he has a funny sounding name, he must be a ringer" or something along those lines.

It's pretty insulting to be called a "technical american." It implies that one is not really a citizen, it's only because of a loophole they are. At least that is how it comes across. In my adoptive family I am the 1st or 2nd generation (depending on the side of the family) born in the US. Going by my biological it gets murkier (half were here from the 1700s). But in the end that doesn't matter, this guy doesn't seem to get that. It's not like tenure, it's not "I was here first so I am more American."

@Abi: It's important to remember that most Americans are not asses, and do recall where their roots are and what it means to become, and be, an American. If you think about all the parades and how people call themselves "X-American" you can see that.

#52 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Stevey-Boy #45:
dd? Dunkin Donuts? Dungeons and Dragons? Who is their best friend? My google-fu is failing me. Please help.

Depending on context, it would be either "dear daughter", "deployment descriptor", "Doctor of Divinity" or "dataset definition".

#53 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 12:51 PM:

Bruce Cohen @34, The old joke just never gets stale: "All the problems of the United States can be traced back to really bad immigration policies on the part of the Native Americans."

Be careful with that joke. Unfortunately, some parts of the European extreme right are not joking when they bring that up.

#54 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:05 PM:

Abi, I've had to deal with a lot of the same shocked sentiments since coming to Canada -- from both sides. Americans want to know why I would consider staying, and after years steeped in bizarre identity politics, so do Canadians. (After Obama's election, an American friend asked if I would be returning. My reply was, "I already have what he's promised you.") And you're right, the "technical" philosophy doesn't end at the border; during one of the summer wars I heard chatter that the rules about returning to Canada shouldn't apply to dual citizens who spend the majority of their time in, say, Lebanon. Aside from the prejudice that philosophy indicates, the problem is that it undermines the law and the whole system of immigration as a whole. Citizenship is citizenship is citizenship. The end. If you think it should look differently, then codify it into law. Until then, limit the Baskin-Robbins approach to ice cream.

#55 ::: SKapusniak ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:08 PM:

'Technical American' is surely the phrase of choice to describe any American, whose is currently employed in firing the anti-aircraft gun they've welded to the back of their (monster) pick-up truck, in works of post-apocalyptic Infernokrusher diesalpunk?

#56 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Larry @ 51 - It's important to remember that most Americans are not asses, and do recall where their roots are and what it means to become, and be, an American. If you think about all the parades and how people call themselves "X-American" you can see that.

I hope that's still true. I'm not naive, and I've seen how newcomers from, frex, Vietnam or Latin America have been treated, with suspicion or worse. And yet there was always the opposite, the welcoming and acceptance. I've always held fast to the belief that the US was one of the few countries where you could come from anywhere and still be viewed as a "real American", regardless of things like accent. America(n) as a state of mind, as it were. So many things have changed for the worse since I left, and it would be depressing to have to add this to the list.

#57 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:42 PM:

good article on this by Gina Kolata at the NYT

#58 ::: jsgbs ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 01:50 PM:

There are many more nativist knownothings where this guy came from.

Give the elite media any opportunity to explicitly define who "Real Americans" are and they'll quickly work towards a definition that counts only white, Republican, rednecks living in the Confederate states.

Give the elite media any opportunity to implicitly define who "Real Americans" are and they'll slyly argue that only Republicans wealthy enough to have retirement-sized 401Ks count as real citizens.

Why, oh why, do we have to have a press corpse rather than a press corps?

#59 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 02:25 PM:

Debbie @56: There are always that group that think that way, they tend to be rather vocal. I hope I am not naive, but I do live in the NYC area so my view might be skewed. I don't think it is.

#60 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @15:

...brisk exchange...with CNBC... I may or may not post it on Making Light.

Oh, please please do! I'll get my popcorn ready!

#61 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 03:36 PM:

beth meacham #16:
That's a wonderful poem you quoted. Parts of it should be inscribed for eternity in some notable public place for the world to see. Perhaps on a big statue in New York harbor, or some place like that.

#62 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 03:41 PM:

John Houghton--perhaps a petition? Maybe schoolchildren could collect spare change?

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 03:44 PM:

I put a link up, and a bit of a ranty comment on my facebook.

One my more Conservative friends (we won't even go into where he stands on health care) was the first to chime in calling Rovell a dolt.

There is a fair bit of hope in the world.

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 03:48 PM:

I really like the end of that NYT piece, where Salazar (the last American to win the NY Marathon) was the tag.

In Salazar’s view, Keflezighi’s victory is another indication that American distance running is coming back. Keflezighi never ran competitively before he came to the United States, and he did all his training here.

“Can American-born guys and gals compete?” Salazar said. “I think we are starting to see that.

“Does Meb resolve that argument? No. He wasn’t born here.

“And neither was I.”

#65 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 04:43 PM:

I knew I remembered something about this...

[Michelle] Kwan and [Tara] Lipinski were the co-favorites to win the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. [Kwan] placed first in the Short Program portion of the competition, winning eight first place votes out of nine judges. In the Free Skate, Kwan skated a 7 triple performance but placed behind Lipinski who also did a 7 triple performance that included a triple loop/triple loop combination and a triple toe-loop/half-loop/Triple Salchow. Kwan ended up winning the silver medal, with the gold medal being won by rival Tara Lipinski and the bronze medal by Chen Lu.[24] Lipinski and Chen both retired from competitive skating shortly after the Olympics, while Kwan went on to win the 1998 World Championships in Minneapolis.

A controversy was sparked when MSNBC used the headline "American Beats Kwan" to report the result of the Nagano competition. The headline, according to Joann Lee, Associate Professor and Director of Journalism at Queens College in New York City, implied that Kwan is not American. MSNBC subsequently issued an apology.

(from Wikipedia, but straightforward reporting of facts)

#66 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 04:46 PM:

Debbie @56:

I don't know...we have stories of how my great-great grandfather was treated when he came to America during the Potato Famine. They're not nice stories of warm acceptance, either. The Irish may be a respectable mainstream community now, but it was not always the case.

We only have a trace or two left in current language: "get one's Irish up", meaning to lose one's temper; "blarney" as charming lies. But if you go back to the mid-to-late 1800's, an "Irish beauty" was a woman with a black eye, and "Irish confetti" was bricks. Shops would post Help Wanted signs with the annotation N.I.N.A. : No Irish Need Apply.

And when I grew up, we still told Polak jokes.

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 05:33 PM:

Lee @ 65:

ISTR that the network coverage of any competition in which Michelle Kwan and Kristy Yamaguchi were entered spun it as a grudge match, with the clear, if unstated, idea that since they were both Asian, they must be in head-to-head competition. This always pissed me off; aside from the fact that they're both native-born US citizens, their styles and talents are very different: Kwan is one of the finest artistic skaters/ice dancers¹ alive, whereas Yamaguchi's strengths are technical jumping and precision skating.

1. Not necessarily in the formal sense in which ice-dancing is defined by the international skating organizations. But I'll save that rant for another time.

abi @ 66:

That sort of ethnic bigotry still exists in the US; it's just mostly underground because going public with it usually results in being dog-piled. For instance, Eva's closest friend, a Catholic who grew up in what was then rural Oregon, whom she's known for almost 30 years, still can't understand how we can have financial problems since of course all Jews are rich.

#68 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 07:40 PM:

The DC hockey favorite, Ovechkin, plans to play for his own country, Russia, in the Winter Games. But around here, nobody really considers him a Russian.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 07:46 PM:

abi @ 66... N.I.N.A. : No Irish Need Apply

That remind me of a line from Blazing Saddles that I shall not repeat because it manages to insult three ethnic groups in one short sentence.

#70 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:41 PM:

Perhaps we can ship Rovell off to some nation that relies only on 'ancestry' and doesn't permit citizenship through merely being born there, or through naturalization? He clearly doesn't get that part of the point of America is that if you were born here, or you really wanna be here and jump through some hoops, you're just as American as any one of us.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2009, 10:55 PM:

Serge, is it the one that ends with "...but we don't want the Irish!"?

#72 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 06:07 AM:

abi @ 66. I know, and I agree. New waves of immigrants have often been treated badly. But at least the other, positive mindset is also there (multiple personality disorder?). In some countries newcomers are never truly accepted, no matter how long they live there, and despite attempts to integrate.

#73 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 06:41 AM:

abi @ 66: don't forget the paddywagon. On the other hand, "How the Irish invented Slang" suggests that there may be even more traces of Irish in current language.

WRT to immigration, sometimes it doesn't have to be cross-border to mark you as different. A family may be regarded as "blow-ins" because they've only been in the village for 3 generations. The micro- as opposed to the macro-, I guess.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 07:36 AM:

Xopher @ 71... Yup. That's the one.

#75 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 10:35 AM:

You could see signs in Britain saying "No dogs, blacks or Irish" until the late 1960s.

Now they say "No travellers". Plus ça change.

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 11:38 AM:

chris y, do they mean tourists, or the Travelers/Tinkers/sort-of-Gypsies-but-not-Rom people?

#77 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 11:56 AM:

Xopher, they usually mean the latter (see also "Pavee"), but can sometimes mean crusties (New Age Travellers, stereotypically white, dreadlocked, and dragging a dog on a string).

#78 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 02:32 PM:

#40 Rob Rusick
What you describe is pretty much why I have kept my Canadian citizenship despite 40+ years living in the US. I am interested to hear that the US is now more liberal with regards to dual citizenships; regretfully, I have never been able to afford any hobby that involves hiring lawyers.

I'm a Canadian who's always been vaguely irritated with the US's idea that it's allowed to tell Canada who's allowed to be Canadian and who's not.

About 20 years ago, a Canadian friend of mine (at the time married to an American and living in the US) considered getting her US citizenship. She phoned the US Immigration department for information, and was told that she would have to renounce her Canadian citizenship. When she phoned the Canadian embassy, she was told she could if she wanted to, but Canada would always consider her Canadian.

I mean, I get it if it's the other way around. If, say, Abi gets her Dutch citizenship, and the US gov't sends her a registered letter that she's no longer considered American, well, that sucks, but it's the American gov't deciding who its own citizens are. If Abi's husband decided to get his American citizenship, would the Americans be allowed to tell the Dutch gov't that they are not allowed to consider him Dutch anymore?

#79 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 02:37 PM:

Debbie: The Irish, Poles, Czechs, Italians, etc. had a huge advantage over the Mexicans, Central/S Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sub Saharan/East/West/North African immigrants.

Lose the accent and they can blend in.

I have friends, whose families have been here since the 1700s, who get asked for green cards.

#80 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 02:45 PM:

Cheryl @78-- thankfully, things have changed:

#81 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 07:23 PM:

Further to Debbie's #80, Rich Wales has a very good overview of dual nationality in US law.

I've had both US and Irish citizenship for over a decade now; both passports have been renewed since then. For the US passport, I simply included a signed statement affirming that I did not intend to renounce my US citizenship and that I had continued to reside, vote, and pay taxes in the US since that date. (The process I went through didn't require a renunciatory oath, though even if it had the US wouldn't recognize that alone as a renunciation.)

Looking back to Debbie's #38: are there any other EU countries you could more easily get citizenship in? Many of them, including Ireland, allow dual nationality.

#82 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2009, 09:08 PM:

Terry @79 – Flash-fantasy image: folded stack of little laminated cut-down enlargements of relevant portions of birth records of [great-*]grand-(mothers/fathers), to be flipped open in long string in lieu of green card.  Getting birth, death, or marriage records may be problematic.

Quick recommendation, Friday, 6th November ABC Local Radio Conversations program.  Talk with ?Alan? ?Mckay?, not on site yet.  Vietnam War veteran turned author, historian.  Much is experience of some 'contacts', but there's other good.  Some what happened after.  Others might find Australian viewpoint new.

Gasp!  Shocking story about shootings at Fort Hood just in News.  My sympathy to all involved.  Bad in so many ways.  Gunna cause all kinds of repercussions …

#83 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 08:41 AM:

Terry Karney #79: The nature of American racism means that a Nigerian or a Jamaican has an advantage over someone born in, say, Taos or Española or El Centro who is brown of skin.

Back when I was in grad school in the city of Gritty Waffle a friend of mine, a native of a Caribbean island, with a clear and distinctive accent and very dark skin, had gone shopping in the adjacent Mexican metropolis. On returning to the border, he discovered that he'd left his identifying documentation back home. He marched up to the immigration checkpoint. The immigration officer asked him "You US?" He squared his shoulders, shook his dreadlocks and in his best imitation American accent answered "Yup." He was waved through with no further check.

#84 ::: ppint. ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 09:37 AM:

miriam, #11:
is the collective noun for camels then, "an infestation" *g* ?

more generally, i'm ashamed of my own country's governments choosing to pander to racist right & left's prejudices, and not only discriminate against would-be immigrants by their implicit colour*, but further - by lumping in everyone attempting to claim sanctuary from political or religious persecution, unless they can prove they are not seeking economic advantage, and declare their status as seekers of sanctuary immediately they disembark. to some immigration official ominously in uniform with the power to turn them away more-or-less upon personal whim, who has chosen a career that pretty well inevitably will put them into such a position at least some of their time.

* - their skin colour being generally presumed from their country of origin

#85 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 10:16 AM:

"The rise of the British National Party in the UK is symptomatic of England’s ongoing struggle to see even the Scots as fellow countrymen."

Abi, it really isn't. The rise of the BNP is symptomatic of a lot of things - successive governments' failure to heed the interests of the dwindling white working class, mostly - but it isn't aimed at the Scots. The BNP, as far as I can work out, would like the Scots to _remain_ their fellow countrymen at a time when many Scots would rather not.

Inasmuch as there has been a rise in English Nationalism (which the BNP, as its name suggests, isn't, quite) it's been fuelled by a feeling that the Scots (and to some extent Welsh and Irish) are getting an unfairly good deal out of the Union (over-representation in the UK Parliament, overallocation of resources) while loudly insisting the opposite. [I am studiously neither endorsing nor constradicting this position.] But the BNP is something else entirely, and the two shouldn't be confused.

#86 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 12:20 PM:

Terry Karney @79
I have friends, whose families have been here since the 1700s, who get asked for green cards.

I have a Latina colleague from New Mexico whose family has lived there since the late 1700s. She says her grandmother says, "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."

#87 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 08:47 PM:

@78, 80, and 81: As I understand it, the US now recognizes dual citizenship (which it didn't fairly recently; i.e. as far as the US was concerned, our kids' Canadian citizenship didn't exist). But it still requires people who are *acquiring* US citizenship to renounce other citizenships, so if my wife wanted to become a US citizen, she'd have to renounce her Canadian citizenship as part of the naturalization oath.

Now, at the moment, the US does not formally inform Canada when a Canadian becomes a US citizen, nor (as I understand) does Canada currently recognize the renunciation involved in that process; that is, they'll still consider you Canadian unless you renounce it to them more directly. But if you do naturalize as a US citizen, with the required renunciation clause, my understanding is that the US will *not* consider you a dual citizen thereafter.

(And I can fully understand that many folks would not want to take an oath renouncing their original citizenship, if they want to keep it, even if their original country considers the oath non-binding.)

If I'm wrong about any of the facts above, though, I'd love to know.

#88 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2009, 09:09 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @87: And I can fully understand that many folks would not want to take an oath renouncing their original citizenship, if they want to keep it, even if their original country considers the oath non-binding.

That is exactly me. As has been said here on occasion, the words you use are important (words mean something).

#89 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2009, 05:45 AM:

Further to David at #85 - The BNP are trying to expand into Scotland, in my experience into such ex-labour strongholds as North Lanarkshire. Some of the people they appeal to are unionist protestants, who don't seem to find any anti-scottishness to complain about. Their basic appeal is down to the way the major parties are out of touch and seen to be doing nothing for the local community, whether in hospital closures or leading the country into a highly damaging recession. People who feel comparatively powerless and vulnerable are interested in those who claim they will help them take control of things and do stuff for them.

#90 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 10:27 PM:

Follow up to mine @82. Gary McKay's interview page

Gary McKay commanded a rifle platoon that patrolled the jungles and grasslands of Vietnam in silence for days on end. He was wounded in the fighting and evenutally awarded the Miliatry Cross for valour.
Gary went on to serve in the army for 30 years.
His autobiography In Good Company was published back in the 1980s, but it's still in print. His most recent book, written with co-author Elizabeth Stewart, is about the Australian surgical team that treated Vietnamese civilians as the war raged around them. It's called With Healing Hands
Gary McKay interview MP3 (about 50 min).

#91 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2009, 10:33 PM:

*sigh* That's "evenutally [sic]" and "Miliatry [sic] Cross"

#92 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:34 AM:

Hmm. I had not thought that a group that so fetishised the Cross of St George would do well up in Saltire territory.

But, thinking about it, I can think of a set who would not mind that.

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:57 AM:

When I went thru the final formalities before the Oath, I was given the choice of also keeping my Canadian citizenship. I chose not to. I either go all the way or I don't go.

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 01:58 AM:

"I love you like the Pilgrim loves the Holy Land, like the wayfarer loves his wayward ways, like the immigrant that I am loves America, and the blind man the memory of his sighted days."

#95 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2009, 03:33 PM:

abi @92, I had the impression that most BNP types these days are a lot more into Union Jacks than English flags, but that's just based on some bigoted videos I ran across on youtube, so it's not exactly scientifically rigouros.

#96 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2009, 11:00 PM:

@#75 chris y:

a bit late, I guess, but FWIW... I saw a sign at a nightclub in the '80's that said "No desert people." Since I live in L.A. I still haven't figured that one out.

#97 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 06:38 PM:

Tehanu @ 96:

It was a simple misspelling: that should have been a double 's', and to be picky they also left off a comma. Probably the pastry chef was sick that day.

#98 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 09:27 PM:

Bruce @ 97, like this? Not good at Italian geography, don't know where it is.

Tehanu @96, can you remember where nightclub was? Assuming USA, place with access from 'desert' or not? Or were you already in LA? (Was Burning Man around at that time?)

#99 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 10:53 PM:

I can imagine that an upscale establishment might prefer to exclude Sandpeople and Jawas, if there's been a history of trouble. "We don't serve their kind in here."

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2009, 11:55 PM:

When we lived in Toronto, my wife and I liked going to a place called Dessert Dessert. No mud pie though.

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2009, 10:13 AM:

Tehanu, could they have intended to keep out Arab immigrants? Hard to believe they could get away with being so blatant in the 80s, but that level of prejudice isn't surprising.

#102 ::: Paul the ex-poet ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 04:52 AM:

I've always suspected that people who are so concerned about who is American forget what it is to be American. The more anti-immigration a person is, the more anti-freedom their other policies usually turn out to be as well, no matter how much they brag about our freedoms.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 09:32 AM:

Paul the ex-poet @ 102... people who are so concerned about who is American forget what it is to be American

...and they also forget that one of America's mot famous and most iconic characters is a illegal refugee from an alien world.

#104 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 05:25 PM:

Serge #103: That they most certainly do, especially when he stands for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 05:37 PM:

Fragano @ 104... Even worse. According to 1948's Superman serial, he stood not for the above but for Truth, Tolerance, and Justice.

#106 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 07:11 PM:

If you were wondering about the current crime rate, and why we haven't been rescued from major disasters, Superman is in indefinite detention by the UCIS (INS) as a deportable illegal alien with no place to be repatriated to. While the facility cannot hold him, Superman yields to the law.

Batman, being a citizen and not as law-abiding as Superman tries to keep up, but he is, after all, only human.

#107 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 07:21 PM:

While heading down the staircase I realized that another reason why Batman isn't as effective against American* crime as we would hope, is that while Gotham looks like Manhattan, it's really Vancouver. Or maybe Toronto.

*For certain parochial values of American.

#108 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2009, 08:20 PM:

I think that Superman was made an honorary citizen of either The World or the United States by decree during the Silver Age. The Metal Men were citizens of the United Nations, if I remember correctly.

#109 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:09 PM:

I was under the impression that Metropolis = NYC and Gotham City = Chicago?

#110 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:09 PM:

I was under the impression that Metropolis = NYC and Gotham City = Chicago?

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:35 PM:

I'm pretty sure Gotham City was supposed to be Philadelphia. I remember Batman driving to Metropolis in a comic book and it didn't take that long. Also they had an iconic historical figure called "Father Knickerbocker" who looked exactly like Ben Franklin.

#112 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:37 PM:

But "Knickerbocker" is what "Knicks" is short for. Gotham is NYC, Metropolis is Boston. (Daily Planet = Boston Globe.)

#113 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:39 PM:

Serge #105: That would be the serial in which he attacked the Klan's headquarters in East Point, Georgia?

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:43 PM:

No, TexAnne, the Daily Planet is the Daily News, which has the planet out front. Also in early issues of Superman they actually called it New York.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 01:49 PM:

Fragano @ 113... I didn't see the whole serial, but it wouldn't surprise me if that had happened. By the way, I think someone once pointed out that, in one of the comic's earliest issues, he stops a wife-beater.

#116 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 02:07 PM:

My understanding is that originally, Gotham was New York and Metropolis was also New York. Not that they're the same place; the world in which they exist has two New Yorks. At least.

#117 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 02:14 PM:

Gotham is indeed another name for New York. But later on they gave Gotham City a strong feel of Philadelphia.

#118 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 02:16 PM:

I think of Gotham and Metropolis as different boroughs of New York City, each with its own character, as the others boroughs have.

#119 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 02:57 PM:

The recent Batman films have had Gotham being Chicago, pretty clearly, but I have no idea how that fits into comic continuity. I've always thought of Gotham as Boston, but Philly would work too.

#120 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 03:47 PM:

Huh. I guess I could see Metropolis being shiny happy Uptown, at that.

#121 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 07:56 PM:

I lived in Philly for many years during some of which I read Batman comics regularly, and I don't buy Gotham City as Philadelphia. A different borough of NYC from Metropolis makes sense to me.

Watching the first few seasons of "Smallville", it looked to me like they were saying Metropolis was Chicago; people from Smallville, Kansas were driving there on day trips. Of course it's possible that one of Zod's little pranks left a wormhole to Kansas at the distal end of the Holland Tunnel.

#122 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 08:37 PM:

Smallville DOES NOT COUNT. Honestly. Kid doesn't even FLY. Doesn't where the butt-hugging red-and-blues either! Come ON. Hell with frakking Smallville!

More seriously, a different borough of New York City doesn't make ANY sense. There's a city center in both. They each have a mayor! They each have a chief of police. They are both major cities. It's not like Metropolis could be Manhattan and Gotham could be Brooklyn. Not possible.

#123 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 08:50 PM:

Xopher, in that case I'd go with an alternate reality scenario in which Jersey City grew into a proper twin city to New York, the Minneapolis-St. Paul of the east coast. (Which would mean that in The Dark Knight all those Gothamites were evacuating to Metropolis. Hmmmm.)

#124 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 09:07 PM:

Most of Kansas is a bit too far from Chicago for day trips, and even from KC I'd think it was a long day. Only happens in an alternate universe, I suspect ....

#125 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2009, 10:41 PM:

Frank Miller used to say that Metropolis was NYC during the day, and Gotham was NYC at night.

Years ago, when I was running an RPG that combined the Marvel, DC, and various other fictional universes, I decided that Metropolis and Gotham were neighborhoods in NYC. The former was in midtown Manhattan, the latter somewhere in Brooklyn.

At King Con Brooklyn the other week, there was a panel discussing the early days of Batman. One of the panelists pointed out that Superman started out as a hero of the proletariat, who fought against slumlords, corrupt politicians, and other forms of systematized injustice. Later on he became a defender of normal society against super-villains, and thereby a supporter of the ruling class. Batman, similarly, started out as a vigilante, and later became an ally of the police.

#126 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2009, 08:00 AM:


How about simply an alternate reality scenario where the boroughs became two cities instead of one?

#127 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2009, 02:50 PM:

Avram @ 125:

Yeah, American capitalist society has become very good at co-opting almost any reform personality or movement. Example: Amazon makes money off this classic bit of Yippie anarchism.

Metropolis in New Jersey. That would explain so much.

#128 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2009, 08:30 PM:

Michael @ 126:

That doesn't even need to be very alternate: Brooklyn absorbs Queens, and someone sells Staten Island to New Jersey (for one dollar and other good and valuable considerations).

#129 ::: Cadbury Moose sights German gambling spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2010, 04:51 AM:

I think the odds are against this one.

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