I wouldn't call myself the most patriotic of Americans. Since Bush has been in office, I have to admit to being ashamed of being an American. Even before this dark and embarassing chapter in this nation's history, I've been ashamed of a great deal of what has been done in our country's name. Killing innocent civilians in Vietnam, looking the other way repeatedly when horrific crimes were being committed in Latin America, supporting dictatorial regimes, abusing and terrorizing people of every color, interning Japanese-Americans, violating civil rights, you name it...
When we were in SeaWorld in Florida in February, they made a big deal of recognizing those in the military--before the Shamu show, they asked all active and retired military to stand up and everyone applauded...I'm almost embarassed to say that it brought tears to my eyes! Not because I'm patriotic, but because I absolutely ache to imagine what it is like for people stationed in the Middle East or anywhere else to leave their families behind, and what it must be like for those families who don't know for sure that their loved ones will come home again. This war is just going on and on and on, with no hope of ending. It's almost as if we've all become used to it.
With that perspective, it has been very interesting to watch Mike go through the citizenship process. Last summer he decided to take the plunge and become a U.S. citizen, primarily because the price doubled and he wanted to get in before the price hike. The upcoming presidential election offered another compelling reason. He hasn't been able to vote in the UK for the past 5 years or so, because they allow expats to vote for only a limited number of years. Since we vote by mail in Oregon, I allow Mike to seal my ballot for me--so he's been voting only vicariously through me!
When we told our friends Lynn and Jolie last summer that Mike was planning to become a citizen before the price went up, Lynn offered to host a fundraising event to raise the extra money...so Mike could make a statement by waiting until we had a new president. (I can totally relate to that notion--sort of like why I wanted my kids to be baptized Lutheran instead of Catholic because of all of the disagreements I have with the Pope, and not wanting him to get any more members!) However, Jolie and I pointed out that we could actually use Mike's vote to elect that new president...which made Lynn rethink that idea.
The Department of Homeland Security has been indundated with passport applications since the price went up, so we weren't sure whether Mike would be able to vote in the primary...although I suppose that's one other advantage of Oregon's late primary.
Yesterday he went in for his interview and test, and as I knew he would, he passed with flying colors. I imagine that most naturalized American citizens would not be able to pass the test. Here is an example of a test. He had to answer six questions and then write a couple of sentences. At every juncture (paper and oral), there was a big emphasis on Mike's willingness to bear arms for his country! It's a good thing he's 45 years old and unlikely to be drafted!
Today at the swearing-in, Mike had to foreswear allegiance to any other country, take a vow, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and watch a few patriotic-type videos (including a message from George W. Bush talking about the importance of respecting other individuals' rights--HA!). The whole thing ended with a video of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," with images of the country...which made both of us think of right-wing conservatives!
We took Chris out of school this morning so he could attend. When Mike took him back to school, Chris introduced him to the school secretary as "The Newest American Citizen!"
Last night we went out to dinner to celebrate. Mike is very excited to register to vote--that's the next big milestone.