Where are you from?


"Where are you from?"
"Chicago"
"No, where are you really from?"

<pause, while I explore my options>

  1. "Chicago. Really." <-- What I really believe. I mean, I've lived in Chicago longer than anywhere else in my life. Also, when I think "Home", I think "Chicago"
  2. "Chicago dumbass" <-- What I'd like to say, but won't
  3. "Chicago, but I lived in New York before I moved to Austin" <-- Its true, but kinda elides the point.
  4. "Where are we all really from when you get down to it..." <-- If I'm just cheesed off, and want to avoid this whole conversation
<decision made.  Go with -1->

"Chicago. Really".

<at this point one of a couple of things happens>
  1. "Oh." <-- Increasingly common these days.  Which is good.  Unless I'm talking to a RealAmerican™, in which case, in some very very rare circumstances, 
  2. "Were you born there?" <-- But even if this happens, it is immediately followed by
  3. "But your parents are from...?" <-- At this point, if I lie, and respond with "Chicago", they'll promptly come back with "But their parents were from India, right?".  Mind you, I could go with "Oh, they were from Germany", but that would just result in "And before that?" It really doesn't stop till it has been Established that somewhere back, one of my ancestors came from NotEurope™(or, more importantly, NotWhiteEuropean™
<Assuming -2- or -3- above, the result is invariably>

"Ah, so you're Indian"
"Well, no, I'm American"
"But you were born in India"
"Yeah, but naturalized back in 2000 y'know? Pretty much think of myself as American."

<At this point, the conversation has pretty much devolved. I'm just continuing through sheer cussedness.  So...>
  1. "Ok" <-- This pretty much doesn't happen. In fact, it has never happened.
  2. "Right, right. So you're Indian-American." <-- Sigh. Whatever. If you really insist. I mean, I'm not calling you a German-American, am I?  But even this is kinda ok, compared to 
  3. "Ah, I thought you were Indian, but wasn't sure."
And that is pretty much where this sequence tends to end.  I mean, the larger conversation does go on, especially because this is usually in some kind of business context, and its not like I really have much of a choice there.

But these questions

This is me, with my wife, who I dearly love.
I look pretty normal right?
Don't get into whatever the heck "normal" even means.
I pretty much dress, well, like most anybody else that you'd see in Chicago / NYC / Austin / wherever.
Which doesn't actually mean anything, other than that I'm not walking around in tribal wear
And yes, picture whatever the heck you want that to mean.  Like, for example, the folks to the right.
I've been told I don't have much of an accent (ok, I've actually been told that I don't have any accent, other than the usual "American English" one).  
In fact, about the only distinguishing characteristic that I do have is that, well, I'm not white.
And I'll just leave it at that.

The bottom line here is that "Where are you really from" was not appropriate 30 years ago, and is not appropriate today.
Mind you, back then people didn't know any better, but that didn't make it OK.
But today, it is really not appropriate. You should know better.  About the only reason to actually go there is that to you I am not one of you.  I am not American.  I am the Other.

I was naturalized 16 years ago, in a federal courtroom in Chicago.  The judge gave the 30 or so soon-to-be citizens a short speech about citizenship, about shared values, about America.  I still remember the welcome in his voice, the pride in his tone, and the assurance in his words,
I still remember my joy when I signed the certificate of naturalization - when I internalized the reality that I was in, I was one of You, I was an American, I was an American.
Most of all, I remember the judge's parting words - "As Americans, going forward, your single most important right is the right to vote. More than that, it is your duty. Vote. Make your voice heard. Vote."

And that brings me to this election.  Trump's entire campaign is based around making me, and people like me, the Other.  To take everything that I love and cherish about this country and make it something that is not mine.  Or even worse, make it something that, if I get to have any of, it is only because You are allowing me to do so. To take my achievements, such as they are, and turn them into something that I have taken from You.

Here's the thing though, this country is not his to take away from me.  These rights are not his to give to me.  For I am not the Other.  I am You.  I am this country.  I am America.  My love for this country is no less than Yours, my pride in this country is as valid as Yours, my vote is as powerful as Yours.

So yes, if you made it all the way here, in this coming election make sure that Trump loses.
Yes, I understand all about "protest votes" and the like, but every vote that isn't for Hillary Clinton is  a vote that could help Trump win.
For the future of this country that we live in, for the good of this nation that we love, for the future of our people, make sure that doesn't happen.

Vote for Hillary Clinton.
Not for Jill Stein, not for Gary Johnson, and certainly not for Trump.
Vote for Hillary Clinton.
Lets keep this our country.
Vote for Hillary Clinton.
I intend to do so myself.
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