Random Acts of Citizenery

The guy who keeps clean the building in which I work will become a US Citizen tomorrow.

There are some signs up around the building inviting people to a short reception for him when he comes back to work on Thursday. Seeing the signs got me thinking: what does it take to become a US Citizen?

Quickly! To the World Wide Web!

Among a couple of other steps is the test. There are some sample questions on the Immigration Support site. Such as:

  • How many stars are there in our flag?
  • What color are the stars on our flag?
  • What do the stars on the flag mean?
  • How many stripes are there in the flag?
  • What date is the Day of Independence?
  • Independence from whom?
  • What country did we fight during the revolutionary war?
  • Who was the first president of the United States?
  • What do we call a change of the constitution?

Can you answer those? Does knowing the answers to those questions a US Citizen make? I think knowing the history of the country in which you live is important, but I am not sure how knowing there are 50 stars that represent each State will help me be a upstanding, positively-contributing citizen.

Perhaps there are questions on the test that ask about the person’s knowledge of a capitalist economy, getting something for yourself means taking something from someone else, rights of due process (that even extend to how we tend to run or day-to-day lives), and the challenge and meaning of being an active participant in the electoral process.

Thinking about those questions makes me realize that for most people in the US, just showing up is 95% of the job. And even that seems difficult to get people to do. As far as I can tell, roughly 40% of those who can show up for mid-term elections.

So when Jose shows up for work on Thursday, he will be contributing to the fabric of our society. Actually, he’s been doing that for a while. I suppose the real question Jose should be asked is, “What are you going to do to make this a better country?” Which of course we should all ask ourselves.

What am I doing? I am writing this. On election day. No where near a polling station. And with no intention to go near one. That’s right, I am failing to show up.

What are you doing?

As an aside: I found it odd that you can buy a study guide to become a US Citizen. Especially odd that the PDF, instant-download version is 10$ more than the mailed-to-you version which takes 7-10 days. What’s up with that?