Just a few days ago, in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, I raised my right hand and — along with some 150 other immigrants from places like Bangladesh, China and the Dominican Republic — was sworn in as a U.S. citizen, something I'd been secretly longing to do for about 30 years.
I write "secretly" because growing up in a small border town in Canada, there was always something slightly shameful about that desire. Canadians, especially during the Reagan era of my adolescence, loved criticizing their benighted, warlike neighbor to the south (even while overlooking the ways the United States underwrote their comfortable standard of living).
And yet for many of us, the United States was also an object of desire. While proclaiming the superiority of our values, we gobbled up as much U.S. pop culture as we could. We would go to the United States to shop; for college, if we were lucky enough to get into to a top school there (and could find a way to pay for it); and for work, especially if we hoped to make it in a field like the media.
So when I finally moved south full time, in 1989, staking my future on the United States felt like a no-brainer. Though the U.S. economy was struggling, Canada's was worse, and with the Cold War ending, Washington's power and prestige seemed guaranteed to rise inexorably.