Some Risk Death Seeking What Others “Joke” About

When I first read a few days ago about what she had “joked” about, I knew immediately she would have to walk back the comments. And she did:

Screen capture of the Guardian.
Screen capture of the Guardian.

That Guardian piece also notes:

She joked that British people tend to look down on Americans….

I find it really irritating that she “joked” about that on U.S. national TV’s Jimmy Kimmel, because millions of Americans will take what she says as “lightheartedly” accurate. True, no one ever knows what people say about you behind your back. However, I can say that I have not experienced a sense of being “looked down on” by British people.

I have British relatives, friends and colleagues. Perhaps in Ms. Blunt’s entertainment strata she has heard reflexive disdain for Americans voiced by certain British. But I haven’t experienced anything like that in my presence.

Moreover, even to “joke” as she did about U.S. naturalization – or British, or Canadian, or other European, or Australian, etc. – when tens of millions of others around the world wish they could similarly obtain such and probably never will, is incredibly insensitive and embarrassingly out of touch.

For how many foreign nationals living “under the radar” in the U.S. would LOVE to have her U.S. citizenship? (As a new citizen, has she never turned on the news and heard about, for example, the so-called “DREAMers?”) In Europe, this summer are we not witnessing people drowning to try to reach lands of safety? Are we not seeing desperate people trekking around through central Europe hoping for sanctuary somewhere?

My wife became a U.S. citizen a few years ago. After jumping the same legal hurdles as Ms. Blunt, she went through the same citizenship ceremony Ms. Blunt evidently found so amusing.

A dozen other new U.S. citizens in the courthouse were from war torn lands, and the happiness visible among them was indescribable. Most born-Americans never see the inside of a U.S. citizenship ceremony. It was an honor to be present to witness it all.

Ms. Blunt also informed us on Kimmel:

“I had to renounce my Queen. The thing that’s weird is I do get to keep both my British citizenship and this, but you have to renounce her. But it’s kind of typically American – not to be rude. I had to renounce her in the room but I don’t actually technically renounce her. They were like, ‘just say it, you don’t have to mean it but just say it’.”

I’m sorry, but having attended that citizenship ceremony myself and seen how seriously it was handled, I flat out do NOT believe any official present – a federal judge presides – at Ms. Blunt’s ceremony even inferred to the gathered almost-citizens something like, “Just say it, you don’t have to mean it but just say it.”

Also, joking or not, there she embarrassingly misunderstands so-called “dual citizenship.” Worse is that she shares that ignorance to a large U.S. TV audience mostly unfamiliar with it as well. And yet she elsewhere also assails Republican presidential aspirants for debating like idiots?

The U.S. government merely recognizes the reality of the existence of “another” citizenship(s). That it does has NOTHING to do with the “renouncing” oath the prospective citizen takes at the U.S. naturalization ceremony. Essentially, you can renounce allegiance to whatever country you want, but the U.S. government cannot prevent that country from claiming you anyway even after you take up U.S. citizenship.

Every naturalized U.S. citizen should be aware of that fact, too. However, usually it only becomes an issue if you choose to travel to your “homeland” on that country’s passport. If you do that and run into trouble with authorities there, the U.S. government can do little on your behalf diplomatically because you entered as a national of that country, not as a U.S. tourist or a U.S. visitor.

Yes, using that “other” country’s passport might make visiting or working there easier and/ or possible; but that you have chosen to do so could well prove dangerous. For instance, men who may be required by their “homeland” to do compulsory military service could find themselves tossed into the army and prevented from returning to the U.S. Women could find themselves forced into marriage. The list could go on.

Free Stock Photo: City Gate in York.
Free Stock Photo: City Gate in York.

Presumably the likely Democratic-voting Ms. Blunt will be traveling back here to the U.K. on her U.K. passport for visits and/ or for work, and NOT on her new American one. Her U.S. citizenship gives her no legal right to reside in the U.K., or to work here. So if she “hands back” her U.K. passport to the Home Office, she won’t be staying here for very long ever again or working here ever again.

Naturally, for those from the United Kingdom who are now also U.S. citizens, potential problems visiting or living again in the U.K. as a U.K. citizen are few to none. Yet millions of other new U.S. citizens come from decidedly far less decent and pleasant homelands than Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The U.S. citizenship oath may mean A LOT MORE to them.

“It was just an off-hand joke. I think I’ll probably leave the political jokes to [talk show] Late Night or something.”

Yes, that’s probably an excellent idea.

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.

2 thoughts on “Some Risk Death Seeking What Others “Joke” About

  1. I think it was bad form for her to say that especially as it wasn’t the US’s fault. It allows dual citizenship after all

    But as another actor, Donald Sutherland, found: becoming a US citizen meant he no longer could vote in a Canadian election. Conrad Black had to give up Canadian citizenship as well.
    I suspect it’s the Queen that’s a jealous monarch, “Young Victoria” ought to know that 😉


    1. My big problem is her “joking” like that – and she did it on more than Kimmel – at a time of heightened concerns over immigrants, migration and “loyalties” among new arrivals – most of whom possess far less means than she has. (Don’t like Republicans? Fine. Vote Democratic then for heaven’s sake.) She’s a public figure. Why couldn’t she just be gracious and set a positive tone? Does she never open a bl-ody newspaper?


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