Raised in Germany, I went to college in England and have lived in France and Italy. I first moved to America on a student visa when I was 23 years old. I will forever have a slight German twang wrapped up in the fake British accent I picked up back in college. And yet, the United States is the only country where I might, one day, be thought to belong. In the minds of an overwhelming majority of Americans, my oath of citizenship will suffice to make me their compatriot. To them, that fact may seem small, even self-evident. To me, it is an astounding gift.
This gift is now under attack—and I want to rally to its defense. With the benefit of hindsight, the election of Donald Trump, and of other far-right nationalists across the world, may mark the beginning of a historic shift away from the world we know. Perhaps the values expressed so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence are slowly losing their hold. Perhaps we are entering an age in which strongman leaders will disregard the rights of unpopular minorities and trample upon basic democratic norms. Perhaps those of us who still believe in freedom, in equality, and in fraternity are the Don Quixotes of the 21st century, valiantly fighting windmills in a battle we are sure to lose.
But I am a fervent believer in the multiethnic democracy this country has built, fragile and imperfect as it may be. And though I am painfully aware that this great achievement is now under serious attack, I am more resolved than ever to fight for it with everything I’ve got. As long as the kind of liberal democracy that is open to us all has not perished from the earth, it is incumbent on all of us to keep it alive. And for the foreseeable future, the most important battle ground in that historic struggle will be the United States.