Are you proud to be an American?

Sophie in Santa Cruz


When I was about eight years old, I was convinced that I would be the first female president of the United States. In fact, whenever my grandmother called from California (on rare and exciting occasions in the days before Skype) I would invariable answer with: ‘The president speaking.’

When my ballot for the United States presidential elections arrived in the mail on Wednesday, I’ll admit to feeling excitement reminiscent of my childhood zeal. This is the first time I can vote in a United States election (since I was under eighteen the last time)! For a couple minutes, I feel oddly at peace: participating in American politics means integrating my two nationalities and, for once, not allowing one side to recede passively into the background.

This feeling of warm, fuzzy, belonging quickly disappears. ‘Are you proud to be an American?’, my aunt, who lives in Berkeley, texts me during the third presidential debate later that day. I am stunned into an angry, disbelieving silence. I have just watched a discussion in which abortion was described as ‘ripping the baby from the womb’, where immigrants already persecuted by the federal government were lumped together as one criminal mass, and two opponents are talking so much at cross-purposes that calling their performance a ‘debate’ does injustice to that word. The blogosphere has been buzzing with the sentiment that the Saturday Night Live skit was more serious than the actual debate.

‘History in the making’, reads another insightful text from my aunt. What would eight-year-old me say? Should she be happy to see the first female nominee of a major American political party come this far in the presidential race? Or should she be abhorred to see textbook definition of bigotry come to life? A lot of Americans are joking (or are they serious?) about moving to Canada. Canada is not so much for me, but maybe I should revamp my Dutch citizenship goals? I know one thing, though. This isn’t a time for political quietism, so I am determined to do justice my politically ambitious childhood self, take up my citizenship rights and vote, even when my choices are less than optimal.

Sophie Silverstein

Are you proud to be an American?