I know there numerous issues more pressing than this, and I realize that life isn’t fair, but can we just pause for a moment to note how unfair it is that I can’t run for President? As an international adoptee (a “naturalized citizen”), I am one of the few groups of people who, despite having lived in the United States and been a United States citizen for as long as I can remember (since I was six months old, which, in eight days, will be 22 years), are legally and constitutionally barred from running for the office of the President of the United States.
Now, I don’t want to be the President. I think it’d be ridiculously stressful. I think I’d do an awful job. I don’t want to be part (let alone leader) of an institution that marginalizes and actively harms as many people as the U.S. government. I really don’t want to be a politician. And, let’s be honest, I’d never be elected — I’m too queer, too brown, too female, too feminist, too agnostic, too Korean, too “intellectual,” way too liberal, and I have far more radical leanings than mainstream America is comfortable with. And perhaps above all, I’m not willing to compromise who I am, and what I believe in, in order to get elected.
It’s not a matter of being President: it’s a matter of be able to run for President. It’s a matter of being told as a small child in class that, because we live in the United States, I can be anything I want to be when I grow up, even the President … and then realizing that, actually, no, I can’t be the President. I couldn’t even dream, even as a child, of one day being the President.
It’s a small, small thing. As I said earlier, there are many other problems that are far more harmful, and there are many worse ways in which people are marginalized and relegated to a second class citizen in the U.S. But this was really my first experience with being made to feel inferior based on membership of a social group to which I belong, and as such, the hurt has never quite gone away entirely.
The requirement that the one must be a natural-born citizen in order to run for President is completely antiquated. Back when the Constitution was written, it may have been necessary, as there was so very little information known about any of the presidential candidates. Now, however, with the internet, televised debates, countless newspapers, and all of the other ways that people learn about presidential candidates, it is entirely unnecessary. If a naturalized citizen were running for President, and ze was completely unqualified due to partiality to another country, people would find out.
The right to run for President is such a little thing, but it has a huge symbolic significance. It’s time for all United States citizens to be equal in the eyes of the law and to be treated as equals by our government. This is but one small step toward that goal.