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When Am I Allowed To Be An American?

Date Written: October 3, 2017
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When am I allowed to be an American?
I was born in California
When the former governor was president
and drugs were everywhere,
from the streets to our dinner table
even though the grown-ups whispered in Spanish
about 8-balls and weights and measures
and never explained how we were supposed to be
Productive members of society without criminal records.
Was I allowed to be an American
when Mom and Mother spoke Spanish to each other
like I thought everyone else did at school?
Was it normal to not be taught how to shower or piss in a bathroom standing up without making a mess?
Was it normal for a family house to be raided by the SWAT team
and toss your house around like a Hollywood party that no one cleans up and they break your toys and security
like glass swans that no super glue can repair?
Is it American to move every year from home to home,
or to be homeless and scattered around countries and counties
like chaff in the wind?
Does everyone end up wondering why other people have
to define me as a “brown” person instead of American?
Why do they call me American in Mexico but Mexican in America?
Why does my skin mean nothing to the US Census but everything to a college application?
Why do people tell me to sing the songs from where I’m from and then get offended when I sing “Californication?”
Why am I less American because I vote independent?
Why is it that my wife and I are Americans but a mixed race couple to our neighbors?
So what if my last name ends in a vowel?
Does that make me less American?
I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance because
I belong to God first, family second, community third.
Wasn’t it invented by anti-communists anyway to curb communist conversion?
I do stand when it is pledged by the kids.
I cheer at the Super Bowl, even if the Raiders aren’t playing.
I vote my heart’s desire and my conscience.
I support my army even if I don’t support the cause.
I hate racism.
I hate bourgeois classifications and elitism.
I love apple pie, women’s rights, marriage equality, Jesus,
the Dodgers, financial aid for minorities in school, gun rights, equal pay,
sea salt caramel, Obamacare, tax reform, naturalization,
and the essence of the Common Core
all in the same breath, same mind, same thinking, and same heart.
I voted for Bush, Bush, McCain, Obama, Clinton,
and no on the Recall Davis ticket,
and I’m not ashamed of any of those choices.
I was born here.
I was raised here.
I cuss in Spanish and praise God in English.
I worked hard to get to this level of poverty.
I’ve applied for the Hispanic Scholarship three times
and they said I’m not Hispanic enough to get it.
To the guys in the back booth at the gig
I am not American enough to sing “City of New Orleans” because I’m too dark
yet my grammar is far better than theirs
and I speak more eloquently, loquaciously, ardently, voraciously.
I want to see the ballot offer a better choice for me.
Each time I see “Other” I write in “American”
Because that’s what I am.
Jefferson said so. Lincoln said so. Kennedy said so.
King said so. Chavez said so. Obama said so.
Marva said so. Mr. Rogers said so.
America, I belong to you.

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