I have an ambivalent relation to the notion of patriotism
because all too often those who most loudly proclaim themselves to be patriots
are the worst sort of jingoistic, know-nothing, blowhards—be they Trump supporters, Brexiters, or Irish nationalists.
And yet, for all the flaws and failures of the American Experiment,
there are still things to celebrate.
America's optimism and can-do spirit,
although much abraded in recent years, is still exemplary.
Millions continue to flock here, drawn to the land of opportunity.
The Founding Fathers created a great and lasting democracy,
albeit with a franchise and a set of rights that had to be widened several times.
The world can't get …continue.
Today is Martin Luther King Day,
a day that honors the legacy of a great American.
It's a Federal Holiday, but only 37% of employers give off Martin Luther King Day.
Apparently, 37% is an all-time high for MLK Day
and it's also higher than the other three holidays
that most Americans don't get,
Presidents' Day, Columbus Day [sic], and Veterans' Day.
I've worked in America for a quarter century,
but it was only at the first job,
when I was a Brown University employee,
that I got those secondary Federal holidays off.
Not only is America one of the least-generous countries for vacation days,
it's also one of the least generous …continue.
Of all the major American holidays,
Memorial Day and Labor Day are the most divorced from their ostensible meanings.
To most people—myself included—they are little more than the brackets of summer,
three-day weekends of barbecues and sun.
Memorial Day commemorates U.S. men and women who died in military service.
I don't think I know anyone who actually observes that,
including Emma, a USAF veteran.
If I knew some military families, I might think otherwise.
Veterans Day (November 11th) honors all veterans,
peacetime or wartime, living or dead.
Few adults get Veterans Day off, so it's poorly observed.
Labor Day originated as a parade to exhibit to the public
“the strength and esprit …continue.
On the 9th or 10th of January 1989, I flew from Dublin to New York.
That was the last day that I ever lived in Ireland.
I came to the U.S. on a tourist visa.
It was no lie.
I had a round-the-world ticket and I would go on to Australia in early March.
In June, I left Australia and traveled to Bangkok and Hong Kong.
Sometime in July, I landed back in Ireland to settle up my affairs.
I fit in a trip to the South of France with some old friends.
In August, I would return to America to attend graduate school.
I have lived in the …continue.
Twenty years ago tomorrow, I attended Bush Senior's Inauguration.
I was on my first solo trip to the United States,
having arrived in New York the previous week.
There I had purchased a 30-day unlimited standby ticket with Delta.
It cost me only $400, as I could produce my round-the-world ticket.
For no particularly good reason, I decided to start
the 30 days with a trip to Washington DC.
There were museums there and it was nearby.
I hadn't been paying close attention to the news, and
it was only when I got to Washington that I realized that
George H.W. Bush's inauguration was to be be held the …continue.
My first Thanksgiving took place nineteen years ago.
I was a 24-year-old graduate student,
recently arrived at Brown.
One of my officemates and her husband insisted
that I and a Swedish grad student
accompany them to her parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner.
It snowed that day, the first snow of the winter.
We set off in what seemed like a blizzard,
up I-95 into Massachusetts.
The day was cold, but the reception was warm.
A houseful of Patrice's relatives made us most welcome.
Ever since, I've always sat down to
a large, convivial dinner at Thanksgiving.
At first, others welcomed me into their homes.
For the last decade, Emma and I have played host
I just sent the following letter to my senators,
Patty Murray and
as well as to the
Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Letter Page:
How has America come to this? Is the United States of America truly
about to repudiate the Geneva Convention? Is the Senate about to let
the President decide when and whom to torture?
This is foul. This is wholly un-American. This is deeply immoral.
Every civilized society abhors torture.
How can we claim to be spreading Democracy in the Middle East at the
same time that we commit torture? Are we to lose all of our moral
standing in the eyes of the world under this wretched Administration?
Tell me …continue.
I just listened to This American Life
on the radio. I am continually amazed at just how good this show is.
They find so many compelling stories.
This week, Ira Glass interviewed Gene Cheek, who wrote a memoir,
The Color of Love: A Mother's Choice in the Jim Crow South.
In the early 1960s, Cheek's divorced mother fell in love with Tuck,
a black man. They lived in a small town in North Carolina, and the
miscegenation laws were still on the books. They dated clandestinely, but
eventually their relationship become known. The police would stop by
regularly to harass them. After she had a baby by Tuck, her …continue.
(Originally posted to Home at
Fri, 25 Jul 2003 06:50:20 GMT)
As I mentioned in my Toastmasters' speech about naturalization, I decided
on September 11th, 2002 to become a U.S. citizen.
This morning, I had my interview with the Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services (BCIS, formerly known as the INS).
This afternoon, I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen at the Seattle INS Office.
Eighty-three other new citizens were sworn in at the same time. Many were
Filipino, Vietnamese, Mexican, or Eastern European. Only three others, all
Brits, were from Western Europe. We were gathered into a stuffy room with
an overflow crowd of relatives and friends. …continue.
(Originally posted to Toastmasters at
Fri, 16 May 2003 06:06:39 GMT)
I gave the following speech to Toastmasters on January 29th, 2003, as Speech #2, "Sincerity".
Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, last September, on the first
anniversary of 9/11, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life: I
decided to apply for American citizenship, to become naturalized.
Like many of you, I am an immigrant. I have spent most of my adult life
in this country. Fourteen years ago, I came to the US from Ireland to
earn a Masters degree. I moved to Seattle in 1992, the same year that I
became a permanent resident. I …continue.