Returning to the United States a short while ago I received a stern talking to from an immigration officer. Why had I been in Paris longer than usual? I’ve lived in the US for nearly 25 years. I originally moved to be closer to my son, who was being educated nearby, and to my American wife’s relatives in Houston. We bought an old house in a small town about an hour from Austin. Built for his new bride by the only Confederate governor of Texas after he came back from the civil war, it’s rather eccentric. We fell in love with it immediately, planning to live there for at least as long as my son was in the US. What I hadn’t reckoned on, in moving from London to rural Texas, was that my immune system, developed to deal with the particulate-laden air of the city, would turn on me and deliver a pretty nasty autoimmune disease. I’d always said it was a serious mistake to leave the city.
My son returned to London. Linda’s sister moved away. By then I was receiving outpatient treatment and it was impractical to leave. However, I routinely returned to Europe to see my children and grandchildren. On this last trip I stayed a little longer because I was working on a variety of projects. Why, demanded the armed officer as I peered up from a wheelchair, had I not yet taken US citizenship? People, she continued grimly, might become suspicious of my motives for remaining British. She snapped my passport shut. ‘Better get that citizenship!’ She seemed unaware I can hold dual citizenship, but getting it is expensive, time-consuming and I’m terrible at tests. So I kept my mouth shut. This was another example of the rise of the officious little Trumps who now feel free to act and speak according to their petty prejudices. Once, when entering the States, I felt I really was breathing the air of freedom. Now, that air is polluted with intolerance and ignorance. Even my rejuvenated immune system isn’t up to dealing with them much longer.
This is an extract from Michael Moorcock’s Notebook, which appears in this week’s Spectator