Holiday Tangent: Other Americans who have relinquished US Citizenship (not just me; I am in good company)
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on December 26th, 2013
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Hi Blog. I found this tasty website on TIME Magazine, showing that other famous Americans have chosen to relinquish their US citizenship.
Think singers Tina Turner and Maria Callas, film directors John Huston (AFRICAN QUEEN and MALTESE FALCON) and Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, actors Jet Li and Yul Brynner, performers Yehudi Menuhin and Josephine Baker, writers T.S. Eliot and Shere Hite, politicians Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian President) and Andreas Papandreaou (Greek PM), and businesspeople Earl Tupper (of Tupperware) and Eduardo Saverin (co-founder of Facebook — yes, the guy with the chicken problem in the movie SOCIAL NETWORK).
I found this even tastier Wikipedia entry giving stories of dozens of people who have not only given up their US legal status, but also even got it back after doing so (Liz Taylor!) or never clearly gave it up (Bobby Fischer, Grace Kelly, Jesse Ventura, and Boris Johnson — yes, that Boris Johnson, London Mayor!)
I could spend hours here (and have) reading the cases and following the links. Many of the stories are fascinating, such as:
- Activist against racial discrimination in America, seminal researcher of what would eventually become Critical Race Theory, and personal hero W.E.B. Du Bois took Ghanian citizenship (at age 95!) when, in a fit of clear asshollery, the US State Department refused to renew his US passport from abroad (he was in Ghana managing the Encyclopedia Africana project in 1961). He then lost American (he didn’t renounce) because US laws at the time forbade voluntary naturalization and swearing an oath of allegiance to other countries.
- Engineer family Mr. and Mrs. William Gorham, formerly of Gorham Engineering in San Francisco, naturalized into Japan (in 1941!) and became Gouhamu Katsundo. According to the entry, “Gorham, a native of San Francisco, moved to Japan with his wife and children in 1918, where he worked as an engineer for various predecessors of Nissan before transferring to Hitachi. He and his wife renounced U.S. citizenship to naturalize as Japanese citizens in May 1941, apparently to escape increasing wartime restrictions on foreigners. He worked on jet engines at Hitachi during the war, while his son moved to Washington, D.C. and joined the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.” That son Don, a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University in 1941, died in 2011.
- Python Terry Gilliam: “Gilliam was born in Minneapolis. In 1968, he obtained British citizenship, then held dual U.S. and British citizenship for the next 38 years. In January 2006 he renounced his U.S. citizenship, describing the George W. Bush administration as having created an environment “scarily similar to the Orwellian nightmare” of his 1985 film Brazil.”
- Doctor Ma Haide, formerly George Hatem, who helped eliminate leprosy and some forms of VD in China (died 1988). His entry: “Born in Buffalo, New York to Lebanese American parents in 1910, Hatem came to Shanghai in the 1930s to set up a medical practice. In 1949 he became the first foreigner to naturalize as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China.”
- Activist Garry Davis: “Davis was born in Bar Harbor, Maine. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Davis renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1948 in Paris in order to become a “citizen of the world”, and created the first “World Passport”.” Meaning he had the citizenship of NO country. That’s pretty brave.
- Private Dancer Tina Turner “was born in 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee, and rose to international fame as a singer. She began dating German music executive Erwin Bach in 1985, and moved to Zürich with him in 1994. Her application for Swiss citizenship was approved in April 2013, and she confirmed her relinquishment of U.S. citizenship to the U.S. Embassy in Bern in October 2013.” That’s only a few months ago, and what occasioned the TIME Magazine article mentioned above.
There are a few patterns: In the old days people renounced because of tax issues (which is why I believe there is still a stigma attached to doing it (e.g., “the yacht people”), as the US remains practically the only country that taxes its citizens abroad), marrying overseas royalty, running for political office overseas, and as a sign of political protest (e.g., becoming Canadian to avoid the Vietnam War draft). Nowadays we see more lifestyle choices (becoming a citizen of the land in which you live, such as Tina Turner turning Swiss), sports (being able to represent other countries in The Olympics), or occupational choices or opportunities.
The people who are associated with Japan include, of course, Donald Keene, but also James Abegglen (veteran of Iwo Jima, Economics Professor at Sophia University, and author of 1985’s KAISHA and 1958’s THE JAPANESE FACTORY; died 2007), Cathy Reed (ice skater), and Takamiyama Daigoro (Jesse Kuhaulua, sumo wrestler). There is no mention, however, of other sumo wrestlers who took Japanese citizenship, such as Konishiki, Akebono, or Musashimaru. One assumes they did not renounce (good for them; don’t).
My point is that the Americans are so convinced that American citizenship is so coveted and honored that one must be crazy to ever give it up (I personally have been called a “traitor” by an official at the US State Department for doing so). Not true. As one can see by that Wikipedia article, people have been doing it for as long as there have been formal citizenships to adopt or forsake. It’s a legal status like any other. And anyone who plans to live in the country, any country, for good I think should take it.
Further, countries should finally come to their senses that having multiple citizenships is not worrisome, and allow this to happen without forcing anyone to relinquish. Many are. Good for them. And good for us. I am in good company. Arudou Debito