Thursday, March 24, 2016

Testing dictating

I'm just trying to test whether I can dictate a blog entry rather than actually type it out on my phone

Looks like it can work this way

Son of a bitch. Even splits the paragraph when I tell it to

Monday, March 14, 2016

Italian Citizenship: A Giant Leap

Tutti i Giusvallini, Sept. 23, 1923. 
 The group of Italian immigrants (including my
 paternal grandparents) who came to the U.S.
in the early 1900s from Giusvalla in Italy
and settled in northern Delaware.

Photo courtesy: Frank Rosaio
Well, I have managed to book an appointment with the Italian Consulate in Houston to present my claim to Italian citizenship. If you follow the way the Italian government handles these things, getting this appointment is itself no small feat. In fact, "word on the street," so to speak, was that Houston was not even booking citizenship appointments. So I am pretty thrilled about this. I was thinking this was going to be the most difficult step. And now it's done and confirmed.

The appointment is in late August. At that time, I will bring to the consulate all of the paperwork that documents my Italian lineage. Fortunately, I only have to go back two generations, and everything is pretty straightforward. Some people have a lot of problems with this -- three or four generations, unreliable documentation, name changes, lost documents, errors, etc. Mine seems much more uncomplicated.

After I chat with the consular official and give them the paperwork, then I wait. They check the lineage, and they also verify that neither my grandfather nor my father formally renounced their Italian citizenship before their respective sons were born. And when all that checks out -- anywhere from a few weeks to a few months -- they send me a letter and tell me I am officially recognized as an Italian citizen.

Then there is a bit more paperwork, the most important of which is obtaining an Italian/European Union passport. And then... a whole new world of opportunity opens up.

I am a member of a Facebook group for people who either have, or are pursuing, their dual U.S.-Italian citizenship. Someone in that group recently mentioned that to obtain in some way other than via bloodline the same rights and privileges that this Italian/EU citizenship gives us would cost $1.5 million or more in various European countries. Plus various types of residency requirements and gobs of other red tape. She said that those of us who can claim this by bloodline in Italy "have hit the genetic lottery."

I believe she is right. This is going to cost me maybe $1,000 when all is said and done. Yet I will gain the ability to travel, live, and work WITHOUT RESTRICTION in any of 28+ countries in the European Union, in addition to the United States.

That's what I call "having options."

Freedom of Speech and Donald Trump

I am no fan of Donald Trump. But the man has the right to express his opinion just as much as you do. So do the people who agree with him and support him.

If you disagree with Trump, fine. Organize a protest. Write letters to the editor. Post on social media. Speak out in public. You, too, have the right to express your opinion.

But charging the stage is not expressing your opinion. Picking fights with his supporters is not expressing your opinion. Trying to "shut down" his rallies is not expressing your opinion. It is assault, it is violence, it is the repression of ideas.

Or do you only believe in freedom of speech for the people who agree with you?

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."    - Evelyn Beatrice Hall

I am sure you've heard that quote. I suspect you think you believe in it. But do you?

Browsing Facebook, I am kind of surprised at some of the people I see applauding the thugs who are causing trouble at Trump rallies. "Let's shut 'em all down!" they say. Really? Shut 'em down? I thought I knew these people, but this is a side of them I wouldn't have expected. I thought they were smarter than that.

My wife once said that when people start posting about politics on Facebook, you find out who they really are -- and sometimes it's stuff you really don't want to know. You've always seen them as nice people. Then they let loose on Facebook, and you glimpse the real jerk behind the facade.

You would have remained much better friends had you not known...

So: Let's just role-play here for a minute. Let's say that you personally are giving a political speech. I disagree with what you are saying. I disagree vehemently and passionately with what are obviously your narrow-minded, idiotic remarks. So I jump up on the stage and try to tackle you. I want to shut you down.

At the same time, some of my friends (who also disagree with you vehemently and passionately, etc., etc.) start attacking your supporters in the audience.

How do you feel about that? What do you call me? How do you describe what I did to you?

Do you get it yet?

I remember when the American Nazi Party wanted to hold a march in Skokie, Illinois. No less an organization than the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- a group that finds Nazi principles abhorrent -- defended them in court. The Nazis, they said, had as much right as anyone else to express their opinions in a peaceful fashion.

The ACLU was right. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The First Amendment applies to everyone, whether you personally like what they are saying or not.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I don't particularly like a lot of what Donald Trump has to say. But I certainly think he has the right to say it. And I think anyone who would try to shut down or disrupt one of his rallies is, in essence, their own version of a Nazi.

What do you think? Should you perhaps take a long hard look in the mirror...?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Plodding Toward Citizenship

Well, the process leading to recognition of my Italian citizenship continues to move forward. (See this post for some background information, if you don't know what I'm talking about.) Last week I received a nice batch of documents (birth and marriage certificates) from the state of Delaware, which constitute a fairly decent percentage of all the documents I need. But I still need a few things from Pennsylvania, Texas, the federal government, and the town of Cassine in Italy. But it is moving forward.

My paternal grandfather's U.S. naturalization papers from 1924. Source:
You learn some interesting things while gathering up all this family historical stuff. For example, on my mother's birth certificate, her father listed his occupation as "Billiard Parlor." I never knew that. All the time I knew my maternal grandparents, they operated a little corner lunch counter. Never knew anything about a billiard parlor. This would have been in 1929.

Another thing you learn is how sloppy the official record-keeping was at that time (and may still be, for all I know). Again on my mother's birth certificate, they really mangled the names. They used my grandmother's maiden name as the family's last name, and the actual family last name as my mother's middle name.

Because of this, the people in Delaware had a lot of trouble actually locating this record for me in the first place. But a guy named Bruce at the Delaware Public Archives somehow tracked it down (Thank you, Bruce!!), then had it amended to reflect the actual facts of the situation.

I am a member of a Facebook group for people who have or are seeking recognition of their dual U.S.-Italian citizenship status, and mistakes like these seem to be quite commonplace. The records people find are riddled with errors. Maiden names are used as last names. Italian names are Anglicized, but inconsistently -- the Italian name used in some records, the English version in others. Names are misspelled, or sometimes changed completely. All kinds of mistakes.

This creates headaches for people like me, because the Italian consulates who examine these documents like all the i's dotted and all the t's crossed. How do they know that "Concettina Giliberto Rollo" on the (incorrect) birth certificate and "Concetta Mary Giliberto" on the (correct) marriage certificate are the same person? Obviously they don't. And they can't just take your word for it.

So it is a sometimes enjoyable, sometimes maddeningly frustrating process. I have actually been having better luck than a lot of people, so I am grateful for that. I only have to go back two generations, and I pretty much know where all the records are. It's just a matter of getting them collected and into the proper formats.

Some people have to go back to their great- or even great-great-grandparents. They may not even know who some of these people are, let alone how to find their birth, marriage, immigration, naturalization, and death records.  In some U.S. states, the only person who can request someone's birth certificate is that person themselves. Huh? What happens if that person is long dead?

So far, the most frustrating thing for me has been the wait. For example, I paid an agency of the U.S. government $20 last December to order an index search of their database. It is now just about three months later, and I still don't have a thing. Imagine ordering a product from a private company and not receiving it for three months! And this index search is only the first step. Once I receive that, then I use it to actually order the documents that I need. And wait another 3-4 months....

Fortunately, most of the state agencies I've dealt with have been fast, efficient, and very helpful. So things are moving along. With any luck, my citizenship will be recognized sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I'm learning a great deal, and I've met (online) a bunch of nice people with whom I share this entire experience.