But even more important to me is the conviction—a libertarian conviction, I believe—that crossing national borders ought to differ little from crossing the imagined line between Iowa and Minnesota. That’s really why I’m so keen about being Canadian. I want my own boundaries to widen, as I’d like everyone’s boundaries to widen. Also, I can now put the Canadian flag on my backpack.
After dining with other lost Canadians the evening before I became a citizen, I found myself walking the not‐so‐mean streets of Ottawa alone an hour before midnight. So I wandered into the Royal Oak, an English pub on Bank Street. I persuaded some game locals, Austin and Rachelle, to share a toast and snap my picture in front of the Maple Leaf hanging behind the bar. Midnight! To gain a citizenship in one magical moment, without exertion or will, is to experience as an adult the national baptism that comes with birth. I felt exhilarated, if a bit of a fraud. Austin and Rachelle were exceedingly kind to me. We exchanged cell‐phone numbers. We agreed to connect on Facebook. We all understood that I am a thoroughgoing American, qualifying as Canadian through a weird technicality. But they were happy for me, happy to have me. Because they’re Canadians, I suppose.
My first full day as a citizen turned out to be overclimactically surreal. While arranging an interview with Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism, I had agreed in passing that his office could point reporters toward me, an example of a newfound Canadian. So the morning of the 17th, I discover that an article about the just‐effectuated bill from the Canadian Press wire service begins and ends with the case of Will Wilkinson. (For the first time, it is said that I have an “American” fiancée.) Through Twitter, I learn that a pundit friend in D.C. has received an e‐mail from the Canadian government that mentions me by name. I have become the exemplary lost Canadian. I’m vain enough to be tickled and Canadian enough to be mortified, as I tour the carefully curated office of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, with other lost Canadians, many of whom have waited decades for this day.
In the afternoon, I meet with Kenney to discuss the new law. An assistant photographs us shaking hands in front of a flag. The minister himself seems damn happy to have me.
At dinner after our first Canadian day, one of us, Dean Echenberg, a physician from California, produces his Canadian passport, which he has managed to secure on the first possible day. We pass it around the table and marvel. It is real.
I return to Iowa with a Maple Leaf pin on my backpack. I give my American fiancée her present: a ridiculous action figure of Macdonald, complete with reading table and book. He was a “father of confederation,” I explain. I tell her what the enthusiastic Parliament tour guide told me: “Sir John A. Macdonald was a dreamer.”