No Birthright Citizenship? EEEeeek!

This birthright-citizenship-ending business is getting personal. Surely Mr. Trump has nothing against me exactly – although one can never be sure. I don’t follow his tweets (until they are reported on real news,) but he may have access to my emails. Still, how does he feel about us birthright outliers? And where will we wind up? Stateless?

Birth Certificate - Portugese

They don’t write ’em like this any more. I mean, who even learns cursive?

Here’s the whole story. When I arrived on the planet my mother (along with my father and three older sisters) happened to be in Porto Alegre, Brazil. They’d actually been there for a little more than a decade, my dad helping start a school and my mother teaching music to preschoolers. A dozen or so of the latter were her bridesmaids in tiny matching dresses she made and oh, how I wish I could put my hands on that photo. But back to the birthright.

Since my mother (a legal, if temporary, immigrant) happened to be in Porto Alegre, I was born in the German hospital there. Brazil, being a friendly sort of country, immediately granted me citizenship.

Birth Certificate - US Parents

Will this do, if we axe the birthright citizenship?

 

Not to be outdone, the USA simultaneously granted me citizenship, under the “American Parents Abroad” act. And that, for a number of years, was that. (But is the APA still OK? Should we trust those babies born in shit-hole countries not to be inherently terrorist?)  My family came back to the States when I was too young to have started learning Portugese – more’s the pity; it is a beautiful language. I grew up hardly even noticing my dual citizenship.

Then I reached voting age. When I registered to vote there appeared a mildly ominous-seeming document stating I must renounce my Brazilian citizenship (no dual citizenship allowed in the scary 1950s.) So with hardly a passing thought to my birthright country I renounced it. This might make me okay with President Trump, I guess, though in hindsight it makes me a little sad. And conflicted. Dual citizenship is now possible, and I might want to relocate if things keep going south (or alt-right) in my chosen country.

Fast forward about a half-century. My irreplaceable Final Husband, learning I had never revisited the country of my birth, suggested we should go back. Five minutes later I was on the phone (this was the 1990s, but pre-email) making arrangements and reservations. My favorite exchange was with a hotel reservations clerk in Rio who said, “Oh, you cannot stay one night in Rio. You must stay two, three nights in Rio.” (Which we did.) The primary plan, though, was to visit Porto Alegre, and the Instituto Porto Alegre where my father had famously served.

Passports

My two 1990s passports

 

Initial plans made, we set out for the Brazilian Consulate to obtain visas. “Oh, you cannot travel on a visa,” the nice lady said to me – after granting my husband a visa. “You were born in Brazil; you will need a Brazilian passport.” Which was a little startling, but as it turns out the passport is cheaper than the visa. Small victories. In time, my new passport arrived – in my birthright name, which is not exactly the name on my US passport or airline tickets, but who’s worrying about details?

Me, actually. I figured I might get into Brazil and never get out. But all was well. We visited Iguacu Falls, surely one of the most beautiful spots on the planet (after spending the requisite few nights in Rio and taking photos ostensibly of me but really of the gorgeous girl(s) from Ipanema in the background.) Mostly, I went around smiling at everyone, displaying my passport to sales clerks and waiters and saying muito obrigada – essentially the full extent of my Portugese. Nobody didn’t smile back.

Brazil - Ipanema

Girl from CA; girls from Ipanema

Safely home, things rested for another decade or two. But now our president is saying – constitution be damned – that he might just delete that birthright citizenship. Does he mean just all those murderers and rapists storming the border, or since every immigrant except Melania is a potential terrorist, is he going for retroactive non-birthers? I.e., yours truly?

A quick call to the Brazilian consulate yesterday informed me I am welcome to reinstate my Brazilian citizenship, even if my passport has expired. But now with Mr. Bolsonaro down there wanting to chop down the rain forest – not to mention his political opponents – my alt-birthright country isn’t looking so great either. Still, hedging my bets, I’m hanging onto all these documents. And praying a lot for the whole planet.

You can go home again — but should you?

Yearning to go back to your childhood? It may or may not work.

For many of us, memories of what seems such a carefree, safer time are linked to a place. And now, thanks to Google Maps and other sites, we can find – and sometimes physically revisit – those houses and territories at the center of a powerful, nostalgic pull. But, like adoptive children searching for birth mothers (and vice versa), the adventure carries risk. That site at the end of the rainbow might be psychological gold – or it can turn out to be a pot of mud.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured a ‘Journal Report’ article and related story about the going-home phenomenon, including one particularly fascinating segment:

When John Beebe, a Jungian analyst in San Francisco, was invited to speak at a conference in China, he decided he would try to find the house he had lived in there as a child. His father had been a military attaché in the 1940s, and Dr. Beebe remembers living in a “rather grand” house before the family was evacuated and before his parents divorced.

But when he finally found the spot, the house was gone. It had been replaced, in his words, by “drab communist housing.” That visit—and watching “Empire of the Sun,” a World War II movie about a boy separated from, and then reunited with, his parents—triggered overwhelming feelings of grief, Dr. Beebe recalls. “Twenty-seven years of Jungian analysis, and I didn’t mourn my childhood until then,” he says.

“A lot of people haven’t fully left home,” Dr. Beebe says. “Some people need to go back [in order] to move on.” Others, while claiming to be “just curious” about seeing their childhood home, may have a deeper motive, he suggests: a desire to reconnect to the way they felt as a child before life—school, careers and families—required so many compromises. “In adapting to the world, we all lose some of our soul,” Dr. Beebe says. “When we make the journey back, we find some of our soul again.”

As the eminent Dr. Beebe happens to be a friend of this space, that sent us to the telephone to ask for free advice to pass along to readers about the pros and cons of returning to childhood in this manner. (Before signing off on the advice, Beebe said he “wanted to put in a plug for the amazingly good writer Kathleen A. Hughes” who authored both stories referenced above, proving out his own reputation as both acclaimed analyst/speaker and genuine nice guy. This space hereby strongly recommends you go out and buy Saturday’s WSJ.)

As far as the potential benefits of revisiting childhood space go, Beebe says that “for all of us, particularly as we get older, withdrawing the projections we make onto things that interfere with right relationships” can be very good. In other words, perhaps “our parents were not as tall as we thought.” Or that room so huge or that shadow so all-encompassing. “We all have a subjective relationship to childhood,” he explains, “and it kind of ties us to unreality. When we see where (our memory) was right, and where it was wrong, it somehow sets the soul at rest.”

As to the potential pitfalls of geographical/psychological returns, Beebe says that “memory is powerful, but so is reality. Certainly I was more upset than I’d imagined in China. In a way, I hadn’t grieved enough. These returns tend to stir things up; it can be shocking to be flooded with emotions and I didn’t expect this. I was taken by surprise, but ready.”

Making the return, and dealing with possible impact, may be something you don’t want to undertake all by yourself. “As they used to say about psychedelic drugs in the 60s,” Beebe comments, “it’s better to have someone around to guide you through the trip. It’s not good to be alone.”

In my 60s I returned to my birthplace in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the tales and photos I’d grown up with showing idyllic hillsides overlooking the bay turned out to be a jumble of rooftops and high walls. In my 40s I returned to the site of my earliest memories, the Nashville, TN house in which I remembered running merrily up and down the length of a giant kitchen. It was, in reality, roughly 6′ x 8′. Today Google Maps tells me it’s gone, replaced by what seems to be an educational facility for the church (same old church) that was two doors down the street. As there are too many metaphors here even to begin considering, if I do any further revisitation I may invite John Beebe to go along.

What about you? Any more going-home-again stories out there?

Thinking about the Bush think tank

Why am I not encouraged by reports of the official launch of the George W. Bush Institute on the campus of Southern Methodist University? According to Dallas Morning News reporter Lori Stahl,

Former President George W. Bush will make his first scheduled Dallas appearance at SMU today when he and wife Laura unveil plans for the Bush Institute before an audience of 1,500 people at McFarlin Auditorium.

The Institute has been described by foundation officials as a scholarly forum that will conduct research and promote dialogue on four core principles identified by the Bushes.

These core principles, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, include education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. Hmm.

My father Earl Moreland, who grew up to be, among other things, president of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA for 28 years, died in 1987 without voting for either of his fellow Texans. He was in the first class ever to enter what would become SMU, and one of my fond memories is of accompanying him to Dallas for his 60th reunion.  I believe it is safe to say he would not be proud to have a Bush think tank on the campus of his alma mater.

For my part, I am just stumbling over those “core principles,” and their connection to our former president. Education? Global health? Embodied by someone who condemned millions throughout Africa and beyond to sickness and death through his ill-advised policies? Economic growth? Hello? Times are surely tough today, ten months into Barack Obama’s presidency, but did he create this mess or inherit it?

Some of my favorite people voted for George W. Bush. All of them are, in my humble opinion, smarter than he is. One of them did graduate work at SMU years ago, but does not support placement of the Institute on campus.

During our trip to Dallas for his reunion (the school opened in 1915, you can do the math) my father remarked that he would come back for his 65th if there were anyone around to reune with. Turned out he never made that return visit. If he were here today I’m not sure he would be making plans for his 100th.

My father had a favorite response to all things he considered outrageous (often applied to his daughters) which sounded like “Poosharisha!” It was from his second language (which I sadly never learned), adopted during a 12-year period in Brazil at the Instituto Porto Alegre. Long after he died I learned it was a Portugese expression that  translates, roughly, “That is beyond anything within the natural order of the universe.”

Somewhere in the ethernet I hear my father contemplating the coming of the George W. Bush think tank, and clearly also hear his voice. Poosharisha.


George W. Bush to unveil Bush Institute programs today at SMU | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News.