Tomorrow, Friday January 20th, will be the fifth anniversary of my swearing in as a citizen of these United States. The federal judge who administered the oath made it clear that this was, indeed, an oath of office: we were signing on for a lifetime of public service.
We sat lined up in a beige box room like a selection of crayons labelled “flesh tones,” a polyphony of accents, dialects, and demographics, and heard the voice of authority invite and instruct us, as those who had benefitted from the values of diversity and acceptance, to wield our new mandate to work for the equality, the dignity, liberty, and justice of each of our new neighbours.
Citizenship, he told us, is a legitimate vocation, and the only excuse we needed to fight injustice, and to defend those truths which we hold to be self-evident.
I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [and] I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Our work as citizens, he told us, is to make the country better. We were being admitted to that vocation in faith that we would actively serve one another, promote each other’s interests above and beyond our own. That we would respect the life and liberty of those whom we encountered, without prejudice or discrimination, on an equal foundation to the one which we ourselves now enjoyed as citizens. That we would offer our gifts and inspiration for the good of the commonwealth.
Our failure to do so, to live up to our high calling as citizens would bring him personal disappointment. Like a good teacher, or a beloved leader, he appealed to our our pride, our gratitude, and our puppyish eagerness to please.
By faith, I understand those values of service, of equal dignity and justice to stretch far beyond these borders; still, it is a privilege to have received the imprimatur of the federal government (and today’s president) in advocating, arguing as fiercely as may be necessary for them at home, always in the pursuit of peace, goodwill to all.
For a few weeks after the most recent general election, I posted daily on social media one positive action toward peace and justice each day, and ended each entry with the question, “What shall we do tomorrow?”
As I look forward to the anniversary of my swearing in, and I remember the oath that I made five years ago, the question is posed once more to I, me, and myself:
“What shall we do tomorrow?”