I'm pretty sure I was eligible for at least three years. I had been meaning to do it, but we were traveling a lot (we moved from Vegas to the Pacific Northwest to Amish country to Chicago) and the application is $680 -- a deal and a privilege, to be sure. You can't put a price on citizenship. But you can totally keep meaning to do it later because $680 feels like a lot.
And then you have an insane spray-tanned caricature spewing rhetoric so hateful, so inconsistent and bizarre, that you start laughing, and then worrying when half the country takes the joke seriously. And then the joke gets to be the presidential nominee of a major political party. That's when $680 feels like a bargain.
So thank you, Donald J. Trump. You're what it took for me and for (I'm guessing) thousands of others like me to take the not-insignificant leap from permanent resident to citizen.
In the elevator to the courthouse, a man saw a bunch of us in the elevator clutching our appointment letters. He said, "Trump, huh?"
We all nodded.
He said, "You're going to vote? You got to vote."
All of us nodded -- all of us, an elevator stuffed with nervous soon-to-be-citizens all worried we forgot some important document (the green card? the letter? were we supposed to bring our old passports?). But yes, we all said we were going to vote.
We took the oath. The judge welcomed us, told us that the US was lucky to have us, that to swear allegiance to the US did not mean we abandoned the culture and the food and everything we hold dear from our old life. It was all moving, way more moving than I thought it would be.
I've been here for years. I've always enjoyed the privilege of the observer, an embedded outsider. I'd been holding on to that feeling forever, of being in the US and very much loving it but also not quite belonging, or thinking I did not quite belong. That feeling's gone, but it will come back, I'm sure. But still: what has replaced it is just as light, just as freeing, just as wonderful, just as strange. This judge made all of us feel truly welcomed.
The voter registration folk waited right outside the court. I filled out the form. It took all of five minutes.