Nationality, Citizenship and Identity
We have these friends, a Russian-Italian couple living in Turkey, with a daughter the same age as our daughter. Naturally, we often talk about citizenship, residence permits and bureaucracy. Last time, it just occurred to me to ask “Alisa has double citizenship, right?”
“For now, yes,” Masha answered.
I was baffled. “What do you mean for now?”
“You see, Russia allows double citizenship if Russian is your primary citizenship,” explained Masha. “If Alisa had Russian citizenship first, she could have been Italian too. Because she was born in Italy, she was registered as an Italian first. So she cannot have both. Russia gave citizenship until 18. When she turns 18, she has to choose.”
???!!!@æ??ƒƒ∆¬´´≥~ç≈ƒ (In other words, WTF!)
It's like the government saying "I would have accepted you taking a second wife, but I won't accept to be the second wife myself. I have to be your first wife. Since you married someone else first, you have to get divorced if you want to marry me!"
Whichever Alisa chooses, she is going to be a Russian and an Italian, she is going to be an Italian and a Russian.: Whatever the “authorities” deem her to be. They won't be changing her genes, they won't be changing her mother and father tongues, they won't be changing her intertwined culture and way of seeing the world whatever it may be. (No authority in the world will be doing any of these things because these attributes are default for every single one of us, there's nothing to be done about it.) Just like the Indian girl who had to give up her Indian citizenship in order to go visit India. Oh, okay, let them have the last word to whom we may pledge alliance to. If they say it can only be one, let it be one. It's what's in our hearts, it's what we feel that counts.
Nationality is an identity. So much that we mostly define ourselves with our nationalities first when we are travelling. “Where are you from?” is the question.
Even in my first round-the-world tour, that is when I was so ignorant about a lot of things, I felt it was a senseless question to ask anyone. Or at least, “It shouldn't be the first question to ask,” I thought. So I started asking people “What are you doing here?” That seemed a much more reasonable question to ask a person travelling. To find out about his reasons, to learn what drew or threw him/her to where we were.
It's not to say where we come from is unimportant. Of course it is. I mean “It is important.” Where we were born and raised shapes our views of the world. And it's a good reference to have when interacting with a person. Our DNA, our language define our core identities too.
Citizenship, like nationality, is supposed to be an identity too. Something that you define yourself with. Or is it just for paying taxes and being bound by their laws on the side of the governments, and being able to visit or live in a place without paperwork on our side?
I may be forced to carry Turkish documents, Italian documents, I may be forced to pay taxes to the said governments, but if I feel alienated from both societies and feel at home somewhere else, feel I belong somewhere else, then what?
I feel like a transvestite when it comes to citizenship. I don't feel myself whichever cloth I put on. The way citizenship is defined today, I'd simply prefer to go naked. Even though I'd feel uncomfortable with that too, it is better than putting on what governments dictate or having to choose only one identity when I am capable of carrying so many other identities within myself.
They may confine me to one or two citizenships, I'd like to embrace many more. Not necessarily all humanity or all nationals, but as many as I feel comfortable with. I feel good when in Africa or South America, not so good in the Far East. I feel good among some people whose nationalities I do not identify myself with, bad among even my immediate blood family.
So why this stupid, idiotic classification of people? Why putting people in boxes they don't belong? Why trying to put dresses on people who do not want those dresses? Or taking away an essential layer of clothing from children born with two different fabrics?
People can wear 80 % cotton, 10 % wool and 10 % silk or any other type and percentage of fibre. So why can't we do that in citizenship? Or for example, why can't we be 100 % Malawian if we feel like it as people changing their profile colors on FB? Do we really have to have been born within certain boundaries to belong to a group?
You know there are people like that... Americans living in Cambodia for so long that they have become almost Cambodian, Turkish living in China who have become Chinese in every sense of the world relating to culture... They may not look like a Cambodian or a Chinese, they may not have citizenships either. What difference does it make?
Some people have difficulty answering the “Where are you from?” question. It's either because
i) their citizenship and nationality do not match,
ii) they have multiple nationalities and citizenships,
iii) or they have a much deeper affiliation to a group other than their citizenship or national country.
Wearing mixed fabrics is fine. I believe mixed citizenships is a very good thing. In the olden times, kings married women of a warring tribe to gain land and power. Mixed citizenships could prevent many wars too as it would be difficult for you to decide which side you are on. Of course, they're all trying to make you choose a side so that they can go on fighting and ruling you claiming they're going to be protecting you.
I said “It is what's in our hearts, what we feel, that counts,” and it is true. Safe that they make your life hell with their laws and rules and regulations!