Deserved

This morning I read that Lindsey Graham was questioning the 14th amendment.  Maybe being born here is not enough, he hinted.  I don’t know what it means to be a citizen of this country.  I just happened to be born here.  It’s for convenience that we have this born-on-American-soil rule.  For the convenience of the freed slaves, and for the convenience of the rest of us now.  There are just too many of us to sort out the deserving and the not deserving; however, lot of these argument about immigration rest on who deserves citizenship and who doesn’t.

I went down to pay taxes and register my new car yesterday, a patriotic act if ever there was one.  Everyone complains about the downtown DMV here in Kansas City, but I was in and out in less than an hour, and everyone was totally polite.  At the Jackson county courthouse, where I had to pick up my tax receipt, Andrew Jackson is throwing his horse against the wind and proclaiming to everyone that America is about to kick your ass, you whoever you are in our way.  Right across the street, in front of city hall, Abraham Lincoln has a kid sitting in his lap.  He is telling the kid, “My child, I am going to extend opportunity to you so that you can fufill your full potential.  Now please drink your milk bought above market value to sustain our nonsensical farming system, even though you are lactose intolerant.”

In the courthouse, twelve people were sitting and standing around.  One of them was an old man who was either completely uninterested in grooming, or an undercover FBI agent.  One woman had a baby cooing and gurgling a little.  They all looked like they had been sitting there for their entire lives.  But they were patient and no one grumbled.

At the DMV, one guy stood apart from everyone else, with his wallet and his fancy cell phone in his hand, next to his face, just to show he was not part of them in the plastic chairs.  A woman who might have been Fillipino had enough command of English to converse, but couldn’t quite get the meaning of “the last day to pay WITHOUT PENALTY.”  I think I understood how that was messing her up, though.  I mean, if you can pay with a penalty, it’s not really the last day, right?  I imagined the agony of trying to register my car in France, where I could speak like a first grader, or maybe Italy, where I am functionally illiterate.  “Vino rosso.  Cappucino.”

I went to a family reunion this summer, where fifty people were all kind and generous to me, fed me and inquired about my life and offered me stories of theirs.  Driving home across Kansas, I was struck by how undeserved those riches were.  I just happened to be born into a family with lots of friendly, easygoing people, the kind of people who would reach out to me just because we shared some DNA.  I have done nothing to deserve them, and all I can do is return their kindness, and try to spread the extra kindness around.

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