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A few thin pages serve as a portal through the space we inhabit on Earth, yet this terrain is not free for all to traverse. The discovery of new places is a commodity in and of itself as travel has become, often times, a luxury for the privileged to enjoy and others to long for from a distance. I take for granted the simplicity in handing over my small, dark blue booklet, the gold words, “United States of America,” shimmering on the cover every time a customs officer turns the pages to find a blank one. Another stamp, another seamless transition from country to country. Finally landing back in the US after a trip and I walk easily to the line marked “U.S. Citizens,” passport firmly in my hand. Perhaps it’s in my head but when I catch the eye of a foreigner in the “Non-Citizens” line, I feel a sort of hierarchy forming, as if, even just in that moment, my personal worth has appreciated in value because I am in the correct section of the room.

The opposite occurs abroad when the meaning of the word “foreigner” becomes invested in my own traveling persona. While exploring Europe this summer, the possession of my United States passport labeled me as an obvious outsider in comparison to all of the red European Union passports in exchange at the airports and train stations. I envied the unity of cultures held intrinsically by each EU passport holder, their relaxed attitude towards international travel, and the importance that their cultures place on seeing the world. In comparison to Americans, I thought, they have so much more time to vacation in exotic locals and experience diverse societies. In this sense, their passport provided more opportunities because of its country of origin.

In having a passport, I feel as if I own my US citizenship. It would, however, be unfair to assume that the two thirds of Americans who do not hold passports have any less of a right to claim their belonging to our country. Friends in my small hometown would ask if they could visit me abroad and then follow the question with a quick comment about finally getting a passport of their own; it only occurred to me then to  consider that they wouldn’t have one to begin with. 

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