A wise man once told me: don’t quit the soccer club because you dislike the coach. He was talking about Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church. I’m thinking of Donald Trump and my US citizenship.
Throughout this election season from hell, I’ve promised myself to turn in my passport if Trump becomes president. Maybe it was an empty gesture since I thought he couldn’t win. But here we are.
I wouldn’t become stateless. I have a Dutch passport to get me into the US though I’ll have to stand in the longer line at border control. I’ll need a visa to visit my parents, my brothers, my childhood friends. The time I can stay will now be capped. Once I renounce, the step will be irrevocable. But these are mere inconveniences.
Relinquishing my US citizenship is like flaying myself alive. I’ll become sinew, nerves and bone. It’ll still be me but in pain for I am American in every fiber of my body. I believe in democracy, the rule of law and equal opportunity for all. I believe that a government has a duty of care towards its citizens and those citizens have a duty of loyalty toward their government.
But this is not my country anymore. I don’t recognize myself in the rhetoric, the verbal abuse aimed at whoever and whatever happens to be the target of the day. My immigrant parents raised me to treat others fairly, not just the people who look or think like me. They told me it was the American way.
Is it cowardly to run when the clubhouse catches fire? Maybe I should stick around to help rebuild. Not escape into my own echo chamber so I don’t have to listen to the noise of Trumpism.
For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to be an American. It’s not just President-elect Trump. It’s the plurality of my fellow citizens who collectively agreed to grant him that title. Cry my beloved country.
I cast my vote on November 8. This is not the outcome I want but that’s how elections work. I may need to vote again, this time with my feet.
A Dutch version of this article was published on 10 November 2016 on the OpEd page of NRC Handelsblad. Edited on 5 June 2017.