- 11 Sep 08, 04:28 AM GMT
OK, so immigration is a serious issue in this election. I knew I needed to speak to someone born abroad about how they went about assimilating - this country having been, essentially, built by huddled masses yearning to be free.
But it was still a bit of a shock when I turned up for BBC World Service debate (which you can listen to here), and, out of the audience, a 86-year-old chap from Wimbledon, south London, with an unadulterated English accent, stood up to tell everyone how proud he was to be an American.
Basil Lewis wouldn't have it otherwise. He still felt affection for Britain, he told me when I caught up with him afterwards. And friends would often ask him how he could square his national identity with his manner of speech.
Yet America has been good to Basil since he left London in 1977 to escape high taxes and a "semi-socialist government". His career as a broker had flourished, his wife loved Los Angeles, and his three sons had become an attorney, a financial consultant and a Hollywood scriptwriter respectively.
"It's not my country right or wrong," he said. "But it's more often right than wrong."
Fiercely critical of illegal entrants to the republic ("my immigration to America was difficult, tortuous - and entirely legal. So I'm totally against them"), Basil must have thought about this more than most, I reasoned.
So what is it, I asked, that made him an American?
He shrugged. "I like the whole concept that everyone is equal. I like the capitalist system," he replied.
I know I'm an outsider. But there's got to be more to it than that, I thought.
Or is there? What do you think?
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