After years and years of neglect, today was the day I actually felt like using this website I almost forgot I had.
In the May of 2017, I finally became a US citizen after living in the US for 18 years. Until 2017, I was a permanent US resident with a green card who didn’t have the right to vote but what happened in 2016 made me realize my permanent resident status in the US may not be so safe anymore. I applied for citizenship right after 2016 election results. Becoming a US citizen was enlightening. I had to study the US Constitution and the political system and got to admire the brilliance of the forefathers. If you are born here, you don’t have to know any of this but if you are not born here, you have to take an oral exam on civics and pass it, to deserve being a US citizen. I had to answer all the questions about how the government works, how many Senators we have, how often do we elect them, how does the Congress work, etc. I passed and now, I was to take an oath to defend this constitution and I was happy to do so. My citizenship ceremony was a more emotional experience than I thought it would be. Our judge spoke so beautifully that ‘the greatness of America comes from its diversity, that we, all these different colors and cultures, are what makes America strong and beautiful’ and I felt truly welcomed. I couldn’t stop thinking about how a similar ceremony would go in my home Turkey. Would it be this welcoming and emotional? I realized we don’t even have a ceremony for new citizens there.
My citizenship test made it clear that voting was one of the duties of every US citizen. As someone coming from a country where we have 85% voter turnout in every election, I was shocked to find out voter turnout was less than 50% in the US. Maybe if everyone had to go through civics tests and citizenship ceremonies, they would take their voter duties more seriously. Nevertheless, I took my voting rights seriously and began following US politics a lot more than I ever did after 2017.
A couple of years ago, Joe Biden came to Youngstown and spoke on my campus. Him becoming a presidential candidate was just a rumor back then. I volunteered at that event and got a chance to listen to him from the front rows. I didn’t know much about him until that day to be honest but after listening to him, I remember thinking “this guy is way too nice for a politician. He will never get elected.” He was a human being with real emotions. Very kind, thoughtful, emotional at times. Being introduced to US politics after 2016, I didn’t think he had a chance. Assholes always have a better chance of getting elected because they have no boundaries to stop them from deceiving people. Their rudeness is perceived as toughness. Their arrogance is perceived as greatness. Human beings tend to fall for these things. I know that from Turkey. If a person is too honest and isn’t exploiting the government resources, many people think he is an idiot. If a person is humble, people think he is not good enough. If they don’t shout and insult and brag, they don’t think he is tough. Not everyone of course but people who are rude, arrogant and corrupt will always support people who mirror their philosophy in life. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of your position and taking care of yourself according to many. As I always believed, every nation is lead by someone they deserve.
This time, the United States of America proved to the whole world that they deserve a better person. Well, to be fair, when you look at the popular vote, it was clear American people never deserved a corrupt, arrogant, rude, selfish leader but things happen sometimes.
In Turkey, our democracy wasn’t strong enough to notice or stop the erosion in just four years! We made the mistake of going for eight years over there and it turned into 20 years and became completely unstoppable. If you still have any doubts, let me tell you from experience, you have no idea how bad it could have gotten!
I’m so glad the United States re-calibrated itself with its strong institutions at the end of just four years and we are just starting the day on a beautiful winter morning which feels like Christmas!
Happy New Year everybody!