Geoff Cook: Why I Need a Citizen’s Voice

[This Engaged Citizen post by Geoff Cook originally appeared on October 16, 2008.
To Geoff and the five hundred other people becoming naturalized citizens this morning at Veterans Memorial Auditorium: Congratulations and welcome to America.]

In a strange twist of coincidence, Tuesday, October 14, I went to ICE in Providence to take my citizenship exam. The coincidence? Monday the 13th was the 18th anniversary of my arrival to work on a winter program at a “summer” camp. I would never have guessed then that I would still be here now!
So why am I becoming an American citizen? Let’s be honest: there really is nothing wrong with being English. The ladies certainly love the accent (will I lose that if I pass?), and it certainly helps with my eccentricities. But after 18 years, I need to belong.
America is truly a great place, if you forgive the amount of people who are unable to make a decent cup of tea, and the American people have very big hearts. It’s a shame you Americans sometimes forget that. If I were driving in front of you on I95 during the rush hour, you might kill me to be in my space, one car ahead, but if I came to you and told you I needed $10 for a meal, you’d find a $20, give it to me, and never expect it back.
I don’t believe the USA has such a bad rap around the world as the media portrays. Of course, some friction comes from America sometimes forgetting its place in history. I was reading in a local newspaper about one of the oldest single room school houses in America being relocated in Portsmouth, RI. It dates back to the 1700s! Old? I smile. My old school back in England dates back to 1558, and some of the original buildings still stand! (I suspect some of the teachers I had were hired by the first headmaster.)
Sometimes, it’s true, America acts like the overweight uncle who comes to the barbeque, breaks things, and makes the children cry. How nice it is, though, to have that uncle by your side. By nature, this is a peaceful country; don’t bother us, and we have no need to bother you. Always there to help in a crisis. Even when your enemies have an emergency, the USA has mobilized relief supplies and sent them to help those in distress.
So why Citizen Geoff? In a few short weeks this nation, my adopted home, will go to an election. I really need my voice to be heard. So many issues are at stake. Immigration, for one, with which I have first-hand knowledge. I’ve been through the system, and for that reason, I don’t see why illegal immigrants should get a fast track or amnesty. I played by the rules, it isn’t hard, and on a local level none of these immigration advocates have done anything for me. As for the governor’s executive order regarding eVerify, well, I felt no more or less fear than before the order was enacted.
Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac. Once again, the honest people, the working stiffs are getting stuck with the bill, ($700 billion) because the bleeding hearts wanted to help, insisting that everyone should be able to own a home. Why can’t people understand that there will be haves and have nots? It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but with hard work and some common sense it doesn’t take much to be a have. And how much have Dodd, Obama, Franks, and Reed skimmed off the housing industry? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the investigations into their culpability.
The direction of the country. I moved from a country with socialist values. I know my parents, who were both active union and Labour Party members, will be spinning in their grave, but the American system truly offers the opportunity to make your dreams come true. Away from my parents’ influence, I have finally had the chance to realize that Thatcherism was a good thing. Having seen the state of the British healthcare system, and how the U.S. government efficiently runs everything from Amtrak to the Post Office to Freddie Mac, I’m of the opinion that this country cannot afford government controlled health. It’s bad enough that the government has its fingers in the banking system.
The tentacles of state need to be removed from the lives of public citizens, and I hope my tiny voice will be part of the larger chorus. Change is a good thing, but I don’t want Barack’s type of change. See you in the voting booth!

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Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

Bravo, sir!
And welcome to citizenship, we’re glad to have you.
And thank you for providing some perspective – as flawed and troubled as this country may be, it is wonderful to read the opinion of one who can offer true perspective (thanks to having lived elsewhere) and who does not derive their livelihood from “blame America first.”

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

WELCOME ABOARD!!
Geoff-I remember you as a call-in during Arlene Violet’s show on Columbus Day 2001 when I was an in-studio guest for abour an hour and a half answering questions on immigration.
I recall you because you made a lot of sense and sounded like just who we need here.

leprechaun
leprechaun
12 years ago

WELCOME !!! WELCOME !!! WELCOME !!! and if you have any friends like yourself back in England please ask them to come and become part of this ” GREAT ” country . It’s “CITIZENS ” like you that make us the great country we are .

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Geoff Cook, You have had an unusual immigrant experience. You already knew the language of the country, which by the way you should learn is the United States of America. Check the name plate at the U.N. and you’ll see “United States” My Guatemalan, Dominican, Salvadoran friends are Americans, always have been, and you take their heritage away when you you refer to one country in this hemisphere as “America”. Let me spell it out for you, America is a hemisphere. We own the continental 48 and Alaska and Hawaii. Those entities comprise a country called “The United States”. Get it? I hope that your misunderstanding of the name does not invalidate your citizenship, and I hope you realize how insulting it is to many people of the American land mass when you refer to one country by the name of the entire hemisphere. You might also realize how priveledged you are to have gone to a school which was established in the 16th century as opposed to some of my Central and South American friends who were pulled from school by the 6th grade and who have difficulty reading and writing their native language, let alone having to deal with the enormous problems presented by English orthography – none of these situations applied to you. Your way to citizenship was paved and smoothe. One could accurately say that you were ushered to the head of the line because of the accidents of your birth. My guess is also that you are university trained and have a well paying job. If that is so, and I believe that it is, you slide easily into an upper middle class and enjoy benefits denied to the underclass. Your view of this society in no way corresponds to the view offered from the… Read more »

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Nice going OTL-I think you’ve pretty much discredited any further comments you make on others being hateful,bigoted,etc.
Would you penalize English-speaking immigrants?A lot of African and West Indian immigrants are English speakers and if they have an easier time because of it,good.
When I see a guy like Juan Garcia”immigrant leader”,who’s been here 29 years and still needs an interpreter,I see a person who really has no interest in being an AMERICAN.Yeah,I said it-go try to deport me.You are getting more ridiculous as time goes by.I know Obama is barely liberal enough for you,but are you worried he might lose?I see a lot of lefties getting panicky.Are they nervous?Maybe you’d feel more appreciated in some paradise like Venezuela.You and I know better,don’t we?

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

joe,
My grandparents emigrated from Italy in the 1880’s. They lived here for 50 years and never really mastered the English language. My maternal grandparents were fairly successful running a small Italian-American grocery store, lived quietly, and contributed several sons to the armed services during WWII. They did it all while speaking very little English.
My paternal grand father pushed a broom on the Lackawanna Railroad for 30 years, started out at ten cents an hour. Neither of them could speak a word of English, also sent several sons to fight in WWII.
I believe that all four were illegal immigrants, arriving here before Ellis Island was established. Got on the ship in Naples. Got off in Philadelphia and made their living quietly there. If you were around then you’d have been a Know-Nothing branding them as un-American.
You’re so G– D— angry that you can’t see or think straight. If you care to look you’ll see that the African and West Indian immigrants come here, many illiterate and most of them dirt poor. Very few had the start in life that Mr. Cook seems to have had. It would be nice if you stopped playing Priscilla Alden and let the man speak for himself.
Your U.S. amigo, a grand child of illegal immigrants, and a man who will never forget the struggles of the immigrants in a strange land and in a stranger culture. Viva Sacco. Viva Vanzetti.
OldTimeLefty

Geoff Cook
Geoff Cook
12 years ago

Dear friends, my thanks to the kind words received after my first post. I am quite flattered I was asked to send something in the first place, that it was embraced so warmly again, thank you! Dear OTL! You assume so much with so little! I am not going to air my laundry for your sake in this or any public arena, but this ‘advantage’ I’m supposed to have received is far from the truth. Nowhere in this process have I asked for special attention, my application was mailed in July 2007, and I am finally through the gate in October 2008. Perhaps my smooth (notice spelling) sailing through the process is because I havent tried to screw the system on my journey. There is nothing dubious in my history, no overstaying my visa, and I’ve worked hard without making demands on the welfare system. I am also very aware I am in the United States of America.. It will say that on my new passport as a reminder. I think if you ask, most of the Bloggers on this site call themselves American, ie of America. If you travelled away from the shores, you’ll find many people call the U.S. of A. simply America. We all know where we mean! I’ll assume if we met, you’d assume I was British.. Well I’m not, I am English, one of several countries which make up Britain, Great Britain, The United Kingdom and The British Commonwealth. See if you call someone British, they make actually be from Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, India or any number of countries of which Queen Elizabeth is Head of State! Finally, I was not intentionally insulting anyone when I said America. Just as I am sure you werent intentionally trying to insult me with the pip-pip nonsense… Read more »

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

OTL-I have to let you in on something-except for refugees,most Africans who come to the US as students,visitors,or immigrants are quite the opposite of dirt poor.Don’t you realize the air fare from any African country to the US is more than most people there earn in a year.Airlines don’t have time-payment plans and the State Dept.requires proof of support.
Secondly,I went to high school with a LOT of West Indians.Their parents weren’t “collecting’and most of them lived in better places than a lot of the Jewish kids like myself who came from a rundown neighborhood.Being one of only two Americans on the soccer(in 1962-3!)team,I got to know most of the immigrant students pretty well.Most of them were above average in intelligence,not the “ragged refuse of teemig shores”.
My family’s story isn’t much different than yours,except that at the turn of the 20th century,Ellis Island was there,so my grandparents had to be processed through the system.
This insane attitude of just ignoring immigratiom laws in the name of feeling like a humanitarian is unhealthy-it’s easy to ignore other laws too.Where would you like to see it end?
You sound angrier than me a lot of the time.And my anger is directed at people who make a show of giving a shit about illegal aliens,so they can use them as future political fodder.It’s not a new story,either.

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Why would I assume you were British? I’m quite sympathetic to the separatist movements in Wales and Scotland, and understand the math of 26+6 = 1.
Regarding the pip-pip, I do apologize. It was an unworthy, gratuitous remark.
Your reference to 16th century schools and school masters leads me to believe that the education that you brought here with you far exceeded that of most immigrants, English speaking or not. I have a few years experience teaching English as a Second Language, and have yet to have someone from the British Isles in one of my classes. I have had quite a few Jamaicans, and other English speaking West Indians in attendance.
OldTimeLefty

Geoff Cook
Geoff Cook
12 years ago

For those who may revisit some of these old threads.. It is with much pleasure I can announce my oath exam will be the morning of March 9th.. Rest assured I’ll be registered to vote by lunchtime!
Geoff

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Geof, you said, “Change is a good thing, but I don’t want Barack’s type of change. See you in the voting booth!”
How new are you? You can fit the entire RI Republican Senate contingent in the voting booth with you. If you do see in the voting booth, and I doubt that you do given your myopic political comments, you’ll see that a helluva lot of people wanted the change.
Dump royalty, and dump the Know Nothing Republicans and you are left with a choice between Democrats or true Leftists. Welcome to the United States.
OldTimeLefty

Roland
Roland
12 years ago

Geoff, I was at the ceremonies this morning. I have to say that I was surprised at myself for becoming so involved with the happiness and glow of those who were sworn in as citizens.
The smiles, the pride, the sense of being handed the keys to the nation for unlocking whatever door they needed to succeed in this country.
Congratulations to you and the other 580+ people who worked so hard on passing the citizenship obstacle course!

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Congratulations Geoff-it’s nice to know that intelligent and literate people are still allowed to come here as immigrants and follow the process through naturalization.
I’m about sick and tired of the “wretched refuse” line from Ms.Lazarus’ poem,which seems to often substitute for law.

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

“you’ll see that a helluva lot of people wanted the change.”
Less than 53% of the country. Not exactly a huge mandate.

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Patrick
53% of the country is a helluva lot of people.
OTL

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

53% of the country is a helluva lot of people.
OTL
Posted by OldTimeLefty at March 9, 2009 9:08 PM
So I guess the 57% Carcieri got against your Myrth Yorks was a BEYOND a helluva lot of people.
RI DESERVES THE WORST
LIZ ROBERTS FOR GOVERNOR

Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

OTL-
47% who did not vote for your savior is also a hulluva lot of people.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

NEWS FLASH:It’s a divided country and it’s going to be set in concrete that way.

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Patrick,
The best I can hope for politically is Barack Obama who will have to do until a real Lefty comes along.
“Saviour” is not in my religious or political vocabulary. It’s enirely your own invention. You wear it, not I.
OldTimeLefty

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

joe,
Of course the country is divided. That’s how we’ll procede – Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Read your Marx… We’ll slowly keep it going in the new and proper direction. I’ll take 53% to 47% for a start and roll from there. Ain’t democracy grand. It sure beats the Supreme Court appointing a head of state.
OldTimeLefty

Roland
Roland
12 years ago

OTL, did you ever hear about taking a start and rolling from there also means ‘downhill’?
In just the first 100 days, we’ve seen the Dow go from 8,000+ rolling ‘down’ to the shy side of 6,000.
There’s also other stuff that rolls downhill so you might want to find cover.

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Roland, You are best ignored, but, hoping against h(d)ope, I have to ask you if you ever heard of the law of inertia that says a body in motion tends to remain in motion. The down hill slide of the middle and lower classes has been going on since Ronald Reagen. This is from today’s’ NY Times: The seeds of today’s disaster were sown some 30 years ago. Looking at income patterns during that period, my former colleague at The Times, David Cay Johnston, noted that from 1980 (the year Ronald Reagan was elected) to 2005, the national economy, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled. (Because of population growth, the actual increase per capita was about 66 percent.) But the average income for the vast majority of Americans actually declined during those years. The standard of living for the average family improved not because incomes grew but because women entered the workplace in droves. As hard as it may be to believe, the peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973, when the average income per taxpayer, adjusted for inflation, was $33,000. That was nearly $4,000 higher, Mr. Johnston pointed out, than in 2005. Men have done particularly poorly. Men who are now in their 30s — the prime age for raising families — earn less money than members of their fathers’ generation did at the same age. The drop in the Dow represents the drag that Bush put on the economy so that a few of his friends and hangers on would benefit. It’s going to take many years to get over the doings of the Bushistas and their neocon buddies. The bright side of the downturn is that fewer and fewer people will look to the Republican Party for solutions. You… Read more »

OldTimeLefty
12 years ago

Need to clarify that the above quote from today’s NY Times should end with the words, “earn less money than members of their fathers’ generation did at the same age.”
The paragraph beginning with “The drop in the Dow represents the drag that Bush put on the economy” represents my own words. Problems with the blockquote command.
OldTimeLefty

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

OTL-Marx?I read that crap decades ago.Can you demonstrate where Marxism has ever worked over the long term without the imposition of oppression to facilitate a “system”which is counterintuitive to human nature?And if you think about it,those “Marxist” regimes turned out to be just banal dictatorships run by psychopaths and toadies.
People,given the choice ,don’t choose Marxism,or if they do,the infatuation is brief and ends badly.
Marxism doesn’t even work on a tiny scale.Whatever became of all those communes from our younger days?Maybe a few have survived because the aprticipants have been stoned for so long they still don’t realize the sixties are gone forever.

Geoff Cook
Geoff Cook
12 years ago

My thanks again to those who welcomed me with open arms to my new citizenship. There were just over 500 people from 60 countries represented at Monday’s ceremony! I hope those 500 will use the freedom they have to rise to the best they can be in spite of the obstructions the new administration is putting in place!
I have a new excitement and drive to fulfill my dreams, which is the inherent beauty of this mightly nation. It sure beats festering in a stagnant pool of irrelevance, angry at the world, waiting for the next handout as seems to afflict some…….

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