I can avoid political discussion better than anyone in the universe. I don’t talk politics with my husband. I don’t talk politics with my best friend. I don’t talk politics with my parents or my sister or my in-laws or my mailman or my coworkers or text message polls or random strangers on the street. I once sat on the floor (I feel like I need to qualify that we were at a desk and chairs) during an acting session of the North Dakota state senate with my boss, a state senator, and still managed to not talk politics. It’s a gift.
But today I thought I’d add to the infinite universe of politalk because I wanted to tell you the story of how my husband, Kyle, voted for the first time as an American.
Kyle and I met when he was attending law school on a student visa at the University of North Dakota. After we got married, he took care of 90% of the work required to change from a visaed Canadian into a Green Carded Legal Alien. My job was to sign some forms, agree to all of the responsibilities required of sponsoring a human being into the United States, and attend a Green Card interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, otherwise known as USCIS.
The waiting room of the USCIS was a lot like “It’s a Small World” at Disney, if the ride took place at a government office park in Minneapolis, Minnesota and you needed to show your wedding album to board. As far as I could tell, the interviewees generally fell into one of three groups: 1) the couples like Kyle and me who were there to formalize our international lurrrve; 2) the movie-stereotyped Green Card marriages with a young, beautiful foreign wife and a “husband;” and 3) the relationships with complications, such as children or, in the case of the duo sitting next to us, arrests.
Their lawyer was going through some possible interview questions, all like this:
Lawyer: You had your driver’s license revoked, right?
Husband: Yes, a month ago.
Lawyer: So how did you get here today?
Husband: Oh, I drove.
Lawyer: [Deep sigh.]
When it was our turn, Kyle – who knew me well, even back then – took my hands and said in absolute earnest,
“Amanda, no joking around. Please.”
And, so, because we were in lurrrve, I gave real, grown-up answers (instead of the stream of banter that ran through my brain) when the interviewer asked if Kyle had been a member of the Communist Party (“We were STALIN our application”) or committed genocide (“Is there a numerical threshold for that”) or coerced me into our relationship (“We had Clamato, not coersion”), and a few weeks later, my Canadian had his Green Card in hand.
“Do you think you’ll get your citizenship?” I asked politely – because, with the concern of deportation behind us, I could have cared less.
“I don’t know,” he replied, pouring us Caesars in celebration.
While Kyle and I agree on lots of stuff (he liked that Stalin line, for example), we have a few areas where we exist on our own islands. Politics is one; while I avoid it like the plague, my dear husband absolutely lives for it. For 13 years, Kyle sat on the sideline as millions of Americans voted for local, state, and federal people and policies. And, every year, his lack of participation picked away at him like a scab destined to become a scar.
So, two years ago, as we sat in the living room, Kyle turned on the TV and said, “I think I’ll get my citizenship.”
And because I’m such a supportive, loving wife, I didn’t bother to look up from my phone as I said, “Sounds good.”
As opposed to the Green Card, and probably to Kyle’s relief, I had zero role in his citizenship process. I did run through the test book with him once – he wasn’t impressed that I didn’t know how many Amendments there were in the Constitution (27) – but it doesn’t really count because we were driving to Canada and the kids were sleeping and I didn’t have anything else to do.
In January of this year, Kyle got word that he would be naturalized as an American in a ceremony on March 16, 2020. To say my normally-subdued husband was excited to be an understatement. The first thing he did was order a pair of American flag boxers. The second thing he did was invite a bunch of his fellow politicos (and me) to a post-ceremony luncheon. The third thing that happened was that my mother called me and told me I needed to show some interest in this because I continued to be completely indifferent.
As COVID would have it, on the morning of March 16th his naturalization was pushed back indefinitely. For the first time, I cared. Because while we Americans are always voting for any such thing that can be put on a ballot, unlike “It’s a Small World,” if you don’t board the ride for a presidential election, you’re going to be waiting a long time for another seat – and I didn’t want Kyle and his American flag underpants to miss it.
After three months of constantly refreshing the USCIS website, Kyle and his fellow formerly-foreigners were finally naturalized in a quick ceremony in Fargo. No one was allowed in, and they cut out the usual fanfare. We got ice cream in celebration. He missed voting in the primaries by one day.
Finally, on November 3, 2020 – sixteen years after he moved to the United States – Kyle voted. To show that I still cared a tiny bit, I took the photo above.
Happy Election Day!