By Khadga Bahadur Khatri , North Carolina
I am 84 now, and for the first time I will soon have a chance to learn what it means to participate in a real democracy. I cannot wait to cast my ballot as a US citizen, especially given my past. Years ago, I was forced out of Bhutan by an absolute regime that denied democracy to its citizens. There, I had worked closely with the third King, whom I served in the royal palace as a bodyguard.
Biding time and waiting for repatriation in refugee camps in Nepal, we were all pro-democracy. We desperately wanted to return home. That did not happen. We wanted to see Bhutan transformed into a real democracy. Our demands were never met. Rather we suffered miserably in the camps for over two decades. There are still people waiting there.
These days, Bhutan calls itself a democratic country. The prime minister of Bhutan recently wrote a letter to a U.S. Senator claiming that we never belonged to that land, and that we should not be called ‘Bhutanese’. He insists we are ‘terrorists’. Does that mean the royal palace back then had hired a terrorist (me, in this case) to protect the precious monarch and his family?
This only evidently speaks of the fact that the democracy—something the regime champions all the time—in Bhutan is spurious to rely on. By now we should understand that Bhutan is really good at deceiving the international communities. I’ve got evidences to support I was a genuine Bhutanese citizen, not a terrorist.
In 2007, the United States was very generous to offer us with the option of resettlement. Our resettlement in this great country not only gave us a new hope and a home, it also makes us experience what it feels to live in a real democracy. I’ve never had the opportunity to attend schools in my life. I don’t know how democracy is defined academically. All I know, based in my experience, is democracy comes with many duties and responsibilities. Freedom is not free from duties either.
The United States took one extra step and granted us citizenship. I became a naturalized citizen last year. Now that I am a citizen of this country, I strongly feel it’s my duty to take part in the democracy. Voting in the election is one way to fulfill that duty. I’ve been waiting long for this dream to come true. In my recent visit to Atlanta, Georgia, I interacted with many fellow Bhutanese. Some questioned me that one vote doesn’t make a lot of differences. I’ve a different opinion—one vote matters a lot when it comes to election. That’s why I can’t wait to vote this November.
If we all think that one vote doesn’t matter than there exists no real democracy. There will be no elections. Although a citizenship certificate is just a piece of paper, it comes with a lot of duties and responsibilities. People say the Republican nominee, so-called business mogul ‘Trump,’ is talking about banning refugees/immigrants from entering this country. The United States is a country of immigrants. It will take more than a year for Trump to figure out how politics works. I think Hillary gets it quicker than him. It will be so imprudent to elect a President who is so un-American. I cannot stay home, not cast my vote, and complain later if he unfortunately gets elected. I will rather cast my vote and make my say. I think those of you who’ve become naturalized citizen should do the same.
Hillary Clinton’s husband served as the President of this country. I’ve a trust that his experience will help Hillary to do a better job of running this country. I cannot wait to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Above all, whether or not Hillary wins is not as much important as my participation in the democratic process. I hope you’ll get registered to vote, like I did, and feel that real excitement on the day of election.
A former refugee from Bhutan and currently living in North Carolina, Khatri, who recently registered to vote, narrated his thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections to TP Mishra, of Bhutan News Service , who wrote this essay based on his actual narratives.