Young Americans — Every month or so, I guess, the government swears in new citizens at the GMU building next door to the law school in Arlington, and I tend to pass bunches of these newly inducted Americans on my walk to work. It brightens my morning. Here we have Indians, and various sorts of Africans, and Malaysians, and Koreans, very young and very old, standing on the sidewalks waiting for their rides, holding little American flags, wearing little buttons that announce that they too are now Americans, all beaming in the same human way. Their excitement and relief is transparent and palpable. These people, from every corner of the globe, are thrilled to now be Americans. And that makes me thrilled to be American, to be a member of a political community that doesn’t much care where you came from, or what language you speak, or what God you do or don’t worship.
In light of the diverse menagerie of flag-wielding humanity on the sidewalks of Clarendon, the criticism that the U.S. is insular, racist, or intolerant seems, well, just bizarre. Try to become a citizen of Germany, or Japan. This here is a place that cares nothing of “blood,” or of what patch of land from which your ancestors hailed, but only of willing allegience to a set of principles. I wish it was even easier to become a citizen, that there were even fewer hurdles to membership. But even so, there is something very fundamentally right about our official lack of xenophobia, and something pretty incredible about the willingness of people from thoroughly different cultures, with thoroughly different habits of thought and living, to assent to our principles, and to actually live together peacefully and advantageously on their basis. That’s an incredible achievement of civilization.
To all the folks who just joined the American club: Very glad to have ya, and good luck! I’ll see ya around.